Lunatic Lesson Pony

My friend C took her first official lesson on Bravo last week and although things started out rocky, they ended very well.

 

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I lunged him before her lesson and he was insane. Our trainer even left the arena for awhile because he was so ill-behaved on the lunge line. He bucked, squealed, bolted around and mostly ignored the small, unimpressed human clinging to his face via a kite string from the center of the arena. He’s completely forgotten how to lunge like a normal horse.

I am having to sort out some facilities issues at the moment as well as balancing training philosophy. I wouldn’t say I’m juggling these two very well and half of me still thinks waiting until spring to get going again is just fine for both of us. The main issue is that there are way too many horses at my barn. This has resulted in a dramatic increase in barn traffic which would be totally fine if everything else about the facility remained consistent. The horses are turned out everyday, rain or shine, and the paddocks are like an acre for 4-5 horses. Naturally, these paddocks are complete mud pits this time of year and we have had a very mild, wet winter. The horses mostly just stand around all day in mud halfway up their cannons and then come in to their stalls at night. The past several times I have taken Bravo into the indoor arena he has been a completely unruly fire-breathing dragon.

 

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Uh, I’m sorry, you want me to run around in this!?! 

 

I totally get it- but I don’t know what to do about it. There is one spot on the entire property with footing dry and safe enough to allow a horse to move and that is a 60×150 indoor arena shared by all boarders and haul-ins. This is frustrating when you are trying to train a young horse. I do not want him to keep bolting around and playing on the lunge line but there is no other option. The round pen and two outdoor arenas are completely waterlogged and unusable for the next 3 months and he may as well be standing in his stall all day for all the movement his turnout allows. It is against the barn rules to lunge when there are people riding and it is against the rules to turn your horse loose in the arena if anyone else is even on the property.

These rules and conditions seem to be literally only working against me because everyone else who is able to ride their trained horses rides whenever they please. I’m not particularly interested in climbing aboard an out of control, 17.1hh greenie, just to have to weave in and out of four other horses in the arena every night.

Thankfully my friend C is not as much of a weenie and despite being a full witness to Bravo’s lunge line antics, she still chose to go through with her lesson. They worked on steering and getting Bravo to balance himself better into turns. She rode him quite well and he did behave much better under saddle than he had on the lunge line. She is either really brave or really desperate because she asked to ride him again this week in her lesson.

 

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I’ve popped him on a calming supplement hoping that might take a little of the edge off, but I really don’t have a good fix for my current situation. For everyone’s sake I need to be able to give him an outlet for his energy without him picking up the notion that arena=always be crazy or lunge line=free for all.

Any ideas?

 

4 thoughts on “Lunatic Lesson Pony

  1. Ugh, winter mud is THE WORST. It’s such a catch 22, because the more you lunge him, the fitter he gets and the fitter he gets, the more he needs to be lunged. I don’t have any GREAT advice, but a few things you might try: (1) in-hand groundwork — this might help get his brain engaged and sometimes that wears a horse out just as well as physically wearing them out. (2) giving him a “time-limit” of being reckless on the lunge line and after that time is up, you enforce proper behavior more severely.

    Just some ideas — they’re not great, but maybe they’ll help!

    • Tracy, thanks for the commiseration and the suggestions! I am willing to try almost anything at this point. I think I will start with some in-hand groundwork since I do believe it can be a cure for most evils.

  2. I have always found horses to be better behaved under saddle than on the lunge, where they do often get the idea that it’s okay to be crazy. Having worked a young horse with broken brakes and steering around a crowded indoor, I know the challenge. I’d suggest communicating at the beginning of a ride your needs with other riders. Then ask what the best way for you to help stay out of their way would be. Maybe you can commandeer one half of the ring and try to stay on a circle for a much of your ride. I also wouldn’t underestimate the power of simply power walking under saddle to help dim some of the wild energy. Keep him forward, work on going into contact and stretching. If he isn’t moving much, that will definitely help work out the kinks without anyone getting hurt.

    • I SO appreciate the advice because I know you’ve been there and made it out the other side 🙂 I might try skipping the lunging as he is usually game for a nice swinging walk. Tonight I did some groundwork with him in the arena and then set him loose and he made me look like a liar by just placidly standing there and then following me around like a puppy. Good days and bad days…

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