Longing is often over looked in riding instruction programs.  Until recently longing riders was not normally taught to American instructors.  With USDF instructor prep classes, the teaching of longing the rider has been given more attention.

It’s not my intention to teach how to lunge, either the horse or the rider, in this post. Rather I want  to show you why longing the rider is an important part of any instructor’s tool bag and is also an important part of any rider’s seat development.

It’s well known that riders that enter the Spanish Riding School in Vienna are often worked on the lunge line, with out reins or stirrups for up to two years. This method permanently imbeds an educated independent seat as well as independent hands and legs to the riders.  Because the riders start this way they carry with them an elegant and effective seat through their entire riding lives.Obviously things are handled a little differently in the US.  We don’t have a central school and few riders are willing to be lunged for 2 years, but riders can still benefit from regular lunging lessons whether they are in a series or periodically.

The two most important requirements of lunge lessons are an excellent instructor and an excellent lunging horse.  When you find one or the either you’re fortunate, but when you’ve found both be sure to buy up as many lesson slots as possible because this will be money well spent. If you are an excellent lunging instructor with wonderful lunging mounts, I’d encourage you to exploit this part of your ability both with students and student instructors.Lunge Lessons

Being lunged on a good horse by a good instructor is one of the safest learning atmospheres that a student can experience.  The horse knows his job and is controlled by a person who knows their job.  The instructor will regulate pace, rhythm, size of circle, and transitions leaving the rider the opportunity to concentrate fully on herself. This is the best environment for any level of rider to pay attention to detail.  Because of the safe environment, lunging is also a great way to start beginners and to help rider’s who have confidence issues.

Since the instructor is literally feet away from the student she can work on the student’s whole seat from the bottoms of the feet to the top of the head longitudinally and laterally, allowing the rider to be in better balance and to move more harmoniously with the horse, developing rider awareness.

Most lunging lessons involve “exercises”. Valuable exercises for the seat are all those that work toward suppling, alignment, and good posture because without these three things it’s impossible to have a good seat.  Consequently even exercises that have eliminating stiffness  as their main goal are valuable toward developing a good seat.  Most of the exercises that are done off of the lunge line are suitable for lunging the rider; including neck stretches, arm circles, shoulder shrugs, toe touches, scissors, and sitting with knees up like a jockey in order to feel seat bones.  Most instructors agree that legs away is one of their favorite seat developing exercises because it helps to stretch the tight hip area, a major stumbling block in developing a good seat.

Because the rider doesn’t use the reins during lunging, it’s easier to develop the idea that we don’t stop the horse with the reins. A good instructor will teach students how to stop the horse with their seat, once they’re  capable of using  seat correctly. Students also learn how various pelvis movements and pressure with either seat bone effect the way the horse moves and travels.

Expect to spend plenty of time on the lunge line without your stirrups.  Riding without stirrups is one of the best methods for developing your seat.  Having the opportunity to sit the trot, on a controlled and balanced lunging horse,  while not using stirrups gives students a taste of the feeling that they will strive for  on their own, off the line.sojourner_morrell_spanish_riding_school_longe_660

Students that wish to develop and effective and elegant seat would  give themselves a gift by searching out an excellent lunging instructor with horses that are well trained.    They should expect lunging lessons to be short, perhaps 20-30 minutes, because lunging a horse for a long period of time is strenuous on the animal.  This might be a reason that good lunging lessons are hard to find. Students should also expect lunging lessons to cost at least as much as private lessons, perhaps more if they are used to having lessons on their own horse, since a specialized animal is required.  It would be wise to ask if you may watch part of a lunging lesson before you book lessons with an instructor.  It is very important that lunging lesson be taught by an excellent instructor with an excellent lunging horse.  I can’t repeat this often enough.  Lunge lessons on erratic horses or given by instructors who are inexperienced at lunging riders on horses can be unsatisfying and dangerous.

Thank you for reading “The Riding Instructor”

Barbara Ellin Fox

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Barbara Ellin Fox TheRidingInstructor
  • On the line is how I have staryed my step-daughter. She is very timid and unsure of herself on a 15 hand mare, my horse Country who is a babysitter horse; great with kids. I have bought her a Saddle Club DVD in hopes of giving inspiration and am teaching her how to balance and have independent parts. I could elaborate on these exercises that I call, dog, frog, and eagle, and air plane, which I hope are self explanitory.

    Does anyone have anything they use that may help a 9 year old rider? I want her to have fun and to be safe. I’m glad she is showing an interest in my passion but it scares the s*** out of me because she is so small.

    • Dear Sarah

      Instructing someone you are related to can be difficult. We hear all the time that we shouldn’t teach our own children, usually because of the communication barriers that are automatically in place in certain types of relationships. But the other half of that is that when you teach your own, you feel the impact of fears, disappointments, even falls etc in a different way than you do with riders that are not related to you. When it’s your family member – we try to absorb the disappointments, scary things and tough things for them, and often become over protective. Our goal in wanting them to be successful and safe can become the hindrance. I know this because I’ve been the instructor for both of my daughters who are grown now and periodically work with my granddaughter, who is also 9 and not the most bold child. I have the advantage of teaching Emma on a size appropriate pony who is solid. I like that the pony is a size that she does not feel intimidated but even so, she was not ready to move forward much until this year at 9.

      It sounds like you are on the right path working on balance and independent parts. I would add exercises that would strengthen her legs- standing in the stirrups to stretch down, even holding a paper under her leg, lifting herself up a little off the saddle with out stirrups at a halt and walk. I would also do a lot of work on controlling the horse’s direction- on a lead line at a walk. Set up cones to weave or a clover leaf pattern or a poles pattern. Hang pool toys around the arena and have her ride to them and maneuver the horse to pick them up. Lay out a fun obstacle course with turns and stops, circles to stand in, things to step over. Do it all at a walk relinquishing a longer lead line as you progress so that she is actually doing the steering and Country is not just following you. Giving a rider strength and control – even if it’s just at a walk- will help their confidence.

      Also you might be surprised at how bold your step daughter will become if you can find a riding friend for her, another child her age that she can become barn buddies with. I love the Saddle Club series for kids but two 9 year old girls who love horses and animals will do a lot more to inspire each other than a movie will. Plus then you can let them have a movie/pop-corn time and get a lot more mileage from the video.

      Keep up the good work! Can anyone add a few more ideas for Sarah?

  • I LOVE lung line lesson both giving and taking them. I feel so much better after I have stretched my back, legs , arms and hips. feels like yoga on a horse!

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