Episode 72: Why lunging horses? Benefits and warnings.

Question: You referenced lunging in your podcast and videos. I was hoping you could talk more about it. Perhaps elaborate on how you go about it and what you’re looking for and feeling for from the horse?

Answer includes:

  • Why lunge at all?
  • Where it comes in useful.
  • How to use it to teach rhythm.
  • Why lunging has a bad reputation.
  • Why people struggle to learn to lunge (or avoid it).
  • How the line should feel in your hand…and more.

Show notes

[00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

[00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy and successfully train your own horses. Welcome to Season 7 of the podcast.

[00:00:34] The theme for this season is going to be Q&A and that means every episode will be me answering questions that listeners like you leave on my voicemail. So if you have a question that you’d like to have answered, please visit my Web site and look for the orange tab on the right hand side. This says voicemail for podcast. And when you click on it, it’s gonna give you the option to review it before you send it. So I’ve heard people say that they’ve, you know, recorded it and reviewed it and rerecorded it and you don’t have to leave your name. And if you’re nervous, you could maybe even, like, bribe a friend to leave your question. So I don’t know, around here, pizza works really well for bribes..so it’s just a thought. Doesn’t even have to be your voice. If you get somebody else. But I really like using the different voices on the podcast because I love what it adds to the podcast. And then after announcing that, I’d also like to briefly mentioned three other things at the beginning of this podcast. First, did you know that I’m actually hosting another podcast over on the Horse Radio Network? I just started hosting once a month on the dare I say that on the horse radio network, once a month now on their show. That’s called Dressage Radio.

[00:01:54] I’m actually doing the last week of the month Western dressage episode. So let me say that again. It’s the horse radio network and once a month on the weekly show Dressage Radio Podcast, once a month it’s going to be a Western dressage episode and two have been released already. If you’re not completely confused by now, congratulations. You followed me and I didn’t even follow me. But anyway, if you want to hear more about the topic of Western dressage, I’ll be doing that once a month on there. And additionally, on Facebook, I started a Western dressage with Stacy Westfall Facebook group last year, and there’s almost 4000 people in it right now. You’re welcome to join us there. There’s a lot of people that want to learn more. And then I’ll also be posting links to those episodes inside of that Facebook group and I’ll make sure that I put information up on the Web site when this episode comes out. So you can go look at the show notes for this episode and find links there, too. OK. That was my first one out of three. Now, secondly, I’m actually not planning on talking about the virus very much on the podcast. And I promise this is not in any way me ignoring the subject, but it’s mostly because I’m not an expert. And I think the best thing that I have to operate offer you during this time is an opportunity to focus fully on the horses.

[00:03:24] And, you know, since I’m not an expert, I don’t think you’re going to, you know, notice anything lacking. But if you do mention the lack of me mentioning it, then those would be my reasons. So that’s why, third, most of you know that I launched a new online course in February, The Complete Guide to Improving Steering and Teaching Neck Reining. And when I opened that course, I only made it available for 10 days back in February because I was still creating the course and I really wanted to serve the people that were in there. And it is complete. They were 100 percent of them were happy with it. That’s the feedback that I got. And I had it on scheduled to reopen the beginning of April. And I’m going to go ahead and go with that plan. So the course is now open for enrollment on my Web site. And I know that for some of you, you might pass on this chance because of the current situation. And I totally understand. And I will pump out awesome free content. Call in here, leave your questions, visit the Web site. I’ve got over a thousand blogs that I’ve written so far or write around a thousand eight way a thousand blog posts on my Web site that are all totally free and my YouTube channels out there.

[00:04:40] But I also know that I’ve got quite a few followers who suddenly have more riding time than they’ve had in years. So I have a large number of schoolteachers and other people that are suddenly not going to work on the same schedule that they were before. And I know a lot of you guys had budgeted for travel for clinics and different learning. So if you are looking for a plan, check out the course. The doors are going to open now they’re open and they’ll close on April 12 because of some of the things that I have planned to do with the students inside of the course. And fun fact, any of the founding members from the February launch will actually get access to all of the extras that to do with the April group and that’s how this is going to roll? Every time I open it up and do something, everyone who’s already in there gets to participate even more. And you can find more information about that on the home page of my Web site. And now in today’s podcast, we are going to take a deep dive into the subject of lunging. Let’s listen to the question that was called in.

[00:05:47]  “Hi Stacy is Jesse. First, I want to thank you so much for doing these podcasts. I thoroughly enjoyed them. My question is about lunging in your emails and podcasts. You referenced lunging and I was hoping you could talk more about what you were lunging. Looks like, perhaps elaborate on how you go about it and what you’re looking for and feeling for from the horse. I just want to say now, thank you so much. And I look forward to hearing about your take on lunging. Thank you.

[00:06:20] Thank you for the question, Jesse. And I’d like to give an overview of the subject. And then I want to use the Foursquare model to explain it even deeper. So lunging is kind of an interesting subject because if I had to guess in general, it kind of sort of has it leans towards having a bad reputation, not a terrible reputation. And it probably changes depending on the group that you’re in. But I think a lot of people have doubts about lunging and at least most of the doubts, the versions that I’ve heard center around the idea of what I’m going to call mindless lunging, which is kind of interesting on a side note, because you can actually do mindless riding. But most people don’t talk that much about that. But you can definitely do mindless lunging. And I think that’s what’s given the whole idea, kind of a little bit of a bad reputation. But anyway, let’s go ahead and make two extremes. Let’s use mindless lunging with the goal of exhausting the horse on one side of the teeter totter. And let’s put never lunging on the other side. This is not purely accurate, but this is just to get us started on the topic. And the reason I say it’s not purely accurate is because I’m not saying all horses need to be launched. But in the world of lunging, I’m going to say there’s mindless lunging all the way to the extreme of never lunging. So if you can imagine that those are the two extremes. Let’s also imagine that there could be a middle between those two.

[00:07:59] And on those arms that teeter totter, like I’ve told you before. If one of them is is plus ten and one is minus ten, then somewhere in the middle when we get around zero, that’s going to be the area that I want to move around in. So in elementary school, primarily, I find lunging to be very valuable. So elementary school can be horses that are just getting started. So I actually believe in preschool. So like we lings yearlings, they’re going to be a preschool. Elementary school is gonna be more that age for me. When the horses are being considered, they’re gonna start learning more things to head under saddle or they start to learn more advanced stuff. And for sure, horses in the early stages of being ridden are in elementary school. And then it moves up and I’m gonna say high school and college will an elementary school I find lunging to be very valuable and I will still lunge upper level horses, meaning high school and college level horses. A lot of times that has a different purpose sometimes with those upper level horses. I want to know that I can send them out there and have them walk and trot a few circles around me. Let’s just say walk two circles and trot five circles around me. I want to know I can send them out there and have them do that. And I want that to be really predictable, because if they end up getting sore for some reason and it can be some really small random reason, like a vague soreness that you notice while you’re working on whatever you’re working on and you notice the horse is slightly off.

[00:09:28] What is one of the first things I’ll ask you to do when you show up at the vet’s office? Can you lunge your horse? And you know, the vet’s office is one of the hardest places to lunge your horse because first of all, you’re there under less than ideal circumstances. And then there’s a lot of other horses there in less than ideal circumstances. And everybody’s a little bit nervous and you’re afraid of what’s going on. And then there’s all these people staring and your horses like, whoa! So if I’ve done my homework, well, I can show up in that situation. And my horse is like, we got this, even though it’s an upper level college level horse that hasn’t been lunged in a long time for the purpose that I’m going to mostly focus on in this episode, which is the elementary level. But what this tells you is that the elementary level serves as a super strong base. So I can go out there and take a horse that hasn’t been lunge in a very long time, because as we talk through this, there’ll be times when when we get to the point where the horse is so well-trained that it’s not asking the questions that I might be initially lunging so that I don’t have to answer when I’m riding them. So then I might just climb on without lunging or doing the different things. But let’s let me not get ahead of myself.

[00:10:40] But anyway, just because I haven’t done it a long time. If the horse really knows it well, I can just ask the horse and they’re like, oh yeah, totally got this. Like if I said, do you can you please recite the alphabet? Most of you would be able to do that with ease, even though you may not have done it for years. So one more thing before I go into the Foursquare model, and that would be the idea of lunging with no change of direction or very infrequent change of direction and in frequent changes of gait vs. lunging with frequent turns and frequent changes of gait. Kid you hear how inside of that, even as I phrase it and I’m going to say it again, can you hear how inside of that it’s almost another teeter totter inside of this idea. So we’ve got on one arm, one one side of this. I’m almost liking the idea of the scales as a visual sometimes, too, but I’m sticking with teeter totter. Just experimented with it on Yeah.. Give me feedback. So on one side of the teeter totter we could have lunging with no change of direction and very little change of gait on the other side. We could have lunging with fast turns. Lots of changes of gait. Now make a guess as to the side effect of both of those. Because that’s literally what you’re gonna be doing, so for me when I actually think about this, when I think about lunging with very little changing of direction versus a lot of fast turns.

[00:12:17] The first thing that comes to my mind is a cooking analogy. And the cooking analogy would be this. Well, when I go to the when I first of all, let’s go back to the parking lot with the vet for a minute. Which one do you want your horse doing? Lots of fast turns or little or no change of direction? Well, we need a base, and a base is going to be kind of boring, and a lot of times a boring base is like when you’re cooking and it’s like your main ingredient is like potato or your main ingredient is like chicken. It’s something that’s kind of boring. It’s not like, OK. The main base of this is jalapeño peppers. And then we’re going to add some salt. Like you’re not going to do all that spice. So a lot of times when I think about the fast turns or the fast changes that direction and I’m going to raise my hand over here, they can’t see like I identify as a reiner. And so a lot of times when you say you identify as a reiner, that means a horse that spins and slides and changes leads. And a lot of people associate fast, fast, fast, fast, fast. We do so much to balance out the spice that we do in there. We do so much boring base work to balance out the spice that when people come, they’re like, but when’s all the fun stuff? And you’re like, oh, this base is the fun stuff.

[00:13:37] It’s what makes the spice possible. So that’s going to be echoed throughout here. But I wanted to make sure you had that pictured in your mind. The majority of the time, if you’re picturing this, it’s going to be lunging with essentially no change of direction. So just to get you visualizing this, if I went out to lunge Presto today, right now at the stage he’s at, I would have him walk two times around me on the lunge line. I would have him trot 10 times around me on the lunge line and lope 10 times around me on the lunge line. And so that’s all one direction he walked to. He tried at 10. He loped 10. Then I broke him down to the trot. Then I broke him down to the walk. Then I either had him halt. A lot of times. I’ll just have him halt out there, either on the circle or facing me. And then I’ll walk out and maybe I’ll whip around him. I’ll pet him. I want hope. He looks really bored and then I’ll go ahead and go the other direction. The reason that is an important visual for you to have in your mind is another thing to have in your mind while I’m talking through the Foursquare model, which I really I’m getting to. Is that you should be asking yourself this question the whole time you’re with your horse, especially when you’re lunging.

[00:14:52] Do I want to ride that? So if you go out and you lunge and the first five minutes is your horse, like looking like a crazy cutter, like looking like there’s a snake getting down, jumping back and forth and then. Have you ever seen a cutter when they’re cow fresh, that means they buck. So not only do they jump to follow the cow, but they’re also like buck and kick their heels up in there. And then like it’s just all kinds of body parts flying, all kinds of different directions. So their heads doing one thing in their their front ends, cutting one direction in their hind ends, pushing off. And if you froze the motion, it looks like they’re going in six different directions all at once. That’s not easy to ride. So when you’re lunging, I want you to think about creating what you want to be on. So when I visualize presto going out here, his walk shows me his big lumbering walk that he has right now. And I can judge whether or not he’s feeling kind of fresh, whether he tries to break into a trot before we get to the two times around. And then I ask him to trot and then I watch and I notice. How does he look? Is he looking sound? Does he look like he’s moving in? What’s fun to watch is that, sure enough, when he first starts out, his stride is shorter because his muscles aren’t warmed up. So I can watch his muscles warm up by how big steps he takes or not so that he’s usually kind of tight when he comes out and he starts loosening up.

[00:16:17] And so by the time he goes round there four times, five times, I’m starting to get the real consistent gait that he’s gonna have, which is also why I start lunging. I try to alternate every other day, so I’ll do clockwise as well. Start with on, say, Monday, counterclockwise on Tuesday, clockwise on Wednesday. And I go back and forth. And so that’s my goal, so that I’m not always starting on the same side because he does not lunge the same at the beginning because of those tight muscles. So I can tell when he’s doing his trot 10, I can watch him loosening up. I can watch how that goes through his whole body, what that does to his head, his neck, how his back moves. I can see all of that because the beauty of lunging is I’m not on him. So I can observe these physical changes that are going on literally just because he’s warming up. And if I were on him. Halt.

[00:17:11] Let’s roll over into the rider’s mind when we think about the rider’s mind. It’s like rider’s mind lunging. First question, why? Why lunge at all? That’s not hard for me to ask. Because I remember being a teenager reading an article about lunging and horse and rider and being like, why? Oh, OK. They made some good arguments.

[00:17:35] I’ll give it a try. And so I but up to that point, I thought it was just get on and ride. But what I didn’t see when I was just getting on and riding is I couldn’t see what I’m describing you that I now see with Presto. So like I would get on and my mare would feel what I’m going to say now, like tight. So those short steps tighter that maybe she’s fresh, maybe she’s anticipating what we’re about to do next. And so there’s a mentally anticipating kind of fresh, but there’s also like a body muscle type kind of a thing in for me and my experience of my horse when I was young. All of that all happened together. You just kind of like said a prayer climbed on and hope that the first ten minutes you didn’t get killed and then you’re like, OK, we got through that. Good to go. But it was kind of hold your breath moment, because everything I now look for when I’m watching my horses I didn’t even know was something I could even watch for. So let’s rewind again.

[00:18:33] So I’m out there and I’m having Presto lunge around me. His walk circle has told me something about his mental state of being. He’s probably been walking around a little bit because I just brought him in from the pasture or I let him from his stall over where I groomed him and saddle them. But we come out and he walks and it’s kind of not monumental.

[00:18:52] Hopefully he’s sound enough that that’s not monumental, but I can tell the level of freshness because of how he responds. Then I start trotting and I watch him physically change in the first five laps around and I’m not on him. And that’s a good thing because on some really green horses, like when they’re really early, maybe they haven’t been saddled that much. Maybe they get that big humpy bow when they’re back like they’ll do sometimes before they’re going to buck. I don’t want to ride that because remember, the question I’m going to keep saying is like, is that something you want to ride? And so why lunge at all? Number one lunging is an amazing place for you to learn to read your horses body language cause you’re detached from it. Your horse is 20 feet away from you on the end of the lunge line. You’re over here. They’re over there. Separate bubbles. You’re watching them. They look tight. You don’t have to think. Is my leg in the wrong position? Do I have the wrong amount of contact on their face? You can just be like, wow, he looks really tight. I’m glad I’m not on him. Then we can watch him kind of loosen up and melt and we can see that change. And then we can move up. We haven’t even got to the part where I him. So now I ask him to lope. All right. Now Presto is all gangly which basically means he’s just like 16 1 and he’s 4 years old and he looks like he’s all ligaments and bones and like he’s got enough flesh covering them.

[00:20:22] He’s not thin, but he doesn’t look athletic. And so I want to watch him learn how to balance. I want to watch him and see because at this point, I’ve lunged enough horses. I know what they’re going to feel like to ride. And I’m evaluating all of that. Prior me, when I was growing up, I just climbed on like I’d climb on and be like, wow, they feel like they’re going to buck at any moment. And the only option I have available to me is to ask them to walk, which. Doesn’t always go well. But here we go, it’s the only tool I have in the toolbox. So why lunge? Well, let me wrap this one up. Can you answer the questions that your horse might ask you when mounted? So if you think my horse might buck well, some people are comfortable answering that question when mounted. So some people will climb on and answer that. Now, I’ll fast forward. There will be a day and it’s going to come up for me with Presto in the next six months. So this is March. So I’m saying April, May, June, July, August, September. Oh, yeah. Easy. Probably in the next three months. But there’s gonna come a time.

[00:21:31] And I’ve already done it a few times where I don’t lunge in before I get on him. But when I do that I also really observe how he’s acting when I go to saddle him and when I go to lead him out. And it’s an educated guess depending on how he’s been riding and all that stuff. So there’s already a few days. I don’t. But when I get to the point where I really consistently don’t. And that’ll happen when the weather warms up and it’s a little bit hot. And he’s conveniently a little bit like, I don’t feel like doing that much. I’ll be climbing on him more consistently without lunging him because I’ll also be willing to answer the question. So if he has a little sass that I didn’t get out in the lunging, I’m basically saying I’m ready to deal with your sass. We’re at a level where I can do that. And that is a level I get to and that is a conversation that I’m willing to have. And that is what I was describing partially when I said I’m almost happy when they spook, because that brings up the question, even when I don’t want to be the one that brings it up, it starts to come up. But later on, it’s going to keep coming up. But if you’re dealing with horses that are fresh and so they head tossed or, you know, they’re known to bark or they’re known to do different things, maybe explore ways to handle that.

[00:22:37] When you’re on the ground, because later on when I get to the horses body, I’m going to explain some of the things that I do with my horses to help bridge that gap between, you know, how to handle them on the groundwork and bring that level up high enough that it changes the way that they ride. So if you have the control to stop something were happening and you can do it in kind of a pretty or elegant way and you can stay. It means you’re going to stay on top and you can you can control in kind of a pretty or elegant way. Feel free to skip lunging. But if you climb on and the first five minutes of riding your horse, his head’s up in the air, slightly tossing, sidestepping with his haunches swinging left and right. There’s a little scuttle. You’re not quite sure if it’s a walk or a jog and you think, I got this, I can stay on. If that becomes the habit that the first five minutes always looks like that shuttle shuffle you whatever that is, that’s going to become the habit. That’s your new norm. And in my world, I’m after prevent, prevent, prevent, prevent. I’d rather not get on and teach the horse. That’s an option when mounted. So that’s a piece of this.

[00:23:56] So even inside of lunging, I discourage things like bucking or kicking out at the handler. And the way that I do that largely is I’ll say I get in their way, which means like I can pull on the rope, literally don’t jump in front of them. Don’t. When I say get in their way, that does not mean literally get in the way. It means that if they’re going around you, usually if they’re bucking, that also implies that they’re going somewhere. So they’re kind of running and they start bucking. You can pull on their head and neck and that will generally pull them out of alignment because they really want to be straight from their pole to their tail when they’re bucking. So pull on them and they stop the bucking, at least for a moment release and then continue. You also have the tools like adding speed. There’s some different things you can do that will discourage that. And I don’t want to deal with that when I’m riding. So I’m going to figure out and learn techniques for dealing with it down here. Now let’s jump to the riders body. Why do people. Want to avoid lunging? One major thing with lunging is that it can be kind of complicated. So a lot of times if I say, do you lunge your horse, people will say, like, say, yes, I have a round pen, I lunge him. Now, I’m going to clarify that when I say lunging, I mean, on a lunge line, if I’m loosened around pen, I’m going to say round penning. Or lunging at liberty. But if I’m saying lunging as a general, I typically mean on a line without being in a round pen, because the round pen is gonna give you that control. It’s going to the horse can only just follow the wall.

[00:25:26] So then you question whether or not this the lunge line part of it’s even doing any work, which we’re gonna get to in a minute. But one of the reasons people really avoid this is because it’s kind of complicated. You’ve got the horse that might not be acting exactly the way you want it to. And you’ve got this really long rope. Let’s just say it’s like 20, 22, 24. It’s kind of longer. So you got to figure out how to reel it up and feed it out. And then you’ve got this lunge, lunge, whip or stick and string or whatever it is that you’re using and as an extension of your arm to communicate to the horse and change it.

[00:25:59] And it just kind of feels complicated. And that is the number one thing I see that people just kind of avoid doing it at all. And I would highly encourage you to figure it out because it has so many things to offer. Now, the other things with the riders body, even though you’re down on the ground here, is that with the riders body. So first of all, you got the complication of all the tools. So let’s just say, OK, you’ve figured out the tools.

[00:26:27] You’ve also got to figure out your body. This is where round pens are kind of fun because if you have just a round pen and you’re doing liberty lunging, so no ropes at all. You 100 percent have to figure out your body. Maybe you’re carrying like a stick and string or a lunge whip, but you’re figuring out your body without the ropes when you’re lunging with the lunge line. You’ve got to figure out the ropes and your body language. So, for example, with me, when I lunge, Presto, I don’t stand in one spot. When I lunge him, typically, my indoor, the big body of it, is 70 feet wide and 200 feet long. So a lot of times I’ll start lunging at one end of the arena and the walk circles might stay fairly stationary. But once I pick up the trot, I start wandering those lunge circles down the arena. And before I get to the to the loper or canter, a lot of times I’m already down to the other end of the arena and I’ll have him pick up the lope or the canter and I’ll come back down the length of the arena. And so I’m moving up and down the arena while I’m lunging. And what that does is it gets him paying attention to my body language. Am I stepping towards him? Am I stepping back away from him? How does that reflect in his body?

[00:27:33] In the other really cool thing that I want to mention is that that elusive contact that we talk about on the bit. So when you’re riding the horse and people are like, I keep hearing you talk about Western dressage and dressage and contact all these different things. But what is that? How heavy is it? Whatever a great place to feel and create contact is on the lunge line so you can actually teach these horses to keep a level of contact us. If you want the rope to not drag the ground, they’re going to have to be holding up the weight of the rope. So this is a really this is actually the same thing that I love about ground driving is that the weight of the rope becomes a bare minimum of contact. And that’s all the contact we’re asking for. This is never supposed to be a tug of war. So this is another thing you can learn by lunging.

[00:28:20] Ok. Let’s jump to the next quadrant. The horse’s mind and lunging when you start lunging horse. And if you really want to see this, you should go watch the Stacy’s video diary.

[00:28:31] Jack, I pulled up and I’m going to reference episode eleven in a minute. But that was like that was the first week when I was training him. And you can see a horse that has never been lunged and you can see all the questions he’s going to ask. And it’s hysterical because he has so much body language. And you can watch all of this training from the first time that I handle him all the way up through the year. You can see all these different episodes.

[00:28:56] But anyway, some of the things that you can watch him learning in those first six episodes are he’s like, why? Why lunge? He sounds exactly like the humans. Why? And then you can see him do well, what if I do this and why not?

[00:29:13] And are you sure? So like in that episode 11, I was asking him to lunge around me and go counterclockwise. And I pull on the rope and I start to add the pressure with the stick and string and you can actually see him back up and threatened arrear. This is very raw if you haven’t seen it like he drags me out of the screen multiple times in earlier episodes. So this is not edited to show like only the pretty stuff. Like it’s super fun because you get to see him ask why? What if I do this? Are you sure you’re really in control? What if I do this? You can see and make statements like nope, never done it. So he was great and we captured it all. So the horse’s mind, there’s a lot going on in there. Now, you’ll also hear that as I’m telling you, what’s going on with their mind, that I’m describing it with his body. And so that’s what we’re going to wrap up this last quadrant with, which is the horse’s body. So when we’re lunging, I’ve already mentioned one of. The things I really like about it is that there’s a soundness check element to it.

[00:30:16] So I can watch that horse move around me and I can notice how they’re moving and I can learn their normal and I can be detached from that. Now there’s also a strength building aspect to it. So with Presto, a lot of his lunging and I’m going to get more specific with the number of times the stuff in a minute. But a lot of his lunging, especially last winter, was really focused on strengthening because he wasn’t very naturally coordinated. I took his lunging from the basic number that I’m going to talk about in a few minutes. And then I even started adding poles. So like one pull on the ground. So he’s doing his his two 10, 10 or his two, five, 10. And I’m gonna explain that in a minute. But he’s doing those over one pole and then I got to two poles and then I even got up to four poles with a little Presto who I’m calling not so coordinated, but you know what? He learned how to be coordinated and I never was on his back. I literally hadn’t even started to saddle him yet. And he was learning how to judge this and do this. And I’m not even on it.

[00:31:17] So we were learning strength training and he was learning how to rate the pole and learn where to step. And so I worked all the way up until I was doing like two, 10, 10 over four poles. And those four poles were about eight feet apart, which meant that he could walk over those easily. He was the right length for him to be able to trot over and to lope over. So trotting over, they actually could have been like it more like four foot sections. But by skipping that middle one and having them at eight foot sections, that meant that I could be a little lazy and not have to go out there and reset them so I could have him just do the walk, trot and canter over all four of them. Once they were four in a straight line like that, that meant that I did have to do that walking circle. I had to walk kind of a straight line so he could make it straight over the four. But anyway, lots of things. I was able to observe his rhythm without the interference of the rider so I can see the mind quieting down.

[00:32:10] And that’s what Episode Eleven will show you with Jack, especially if you jump around a watch like, say, episode 6 and then episode 11, you’ll see the the drastic change in that episode 11 is actually day six because I was there was so much content, I was splitting the different days up.

[00:32:30] So you see a lot in a very short amount of time, which is super cool, but you can see the rhythm without the interference of the rider. You can observe the relaxation and you start to see that and Jack and then you’ll see it in further episodes. It’s what I’m looking for. And Presto. It’s what I’ve got and Presto right now. And I’m basically just going out there and doing it. Presto right now as part of our comfort zone habit. Why? Because mentally and physically. Physically, it’s a check in. I could take it or leave it for that half the time right now, but I’m doing it for a mental habitual check in. It’s not boring. He’s not shut off. He’s paying attention to me walking up and down the arena. He’s paying attention to the given. Take the level of contact on my hand and he’s my hand. Contact is a lot like riding him. He’s he’s got this feel. He’s responding to my movement and I’m putting money in the bank. So when I haul him somewhere else, cause I do plan on hauling him somewhere else. And when I do that later in the summer, even if I just haul him in the trailer over to a different part of the park to ride him, I want to be able to unload him. And if I take him out to go lunge him, I wanted to go like, oh, I know this routine. And he’ll just relax because of the routine. And that’s what I’m doing is I’m putting money in the bank so that later on when I need to when I show up, whether it’s a horse show or trail ride or somewhere new, that if he’s up, I can say, remember this? And he’ll go, yes. And it’s muscle memory for him as much. It is his physical memory and that muscle memory. If you’ve been trying to work on yours, you know, it takes a while to change. Same deal for them.

[00:34:12] Ok.

[00:34:14] Now let’s break into some more topics a little bit away from the Foursquare model, but just kind of more general. So horses in preschool for me, that’s like weanling and yearlings. When somebody sends me and I get weanlings and yearlings in so that I can halt or break them, teach them how to tie, lead, do different things. What I’m going to do and I usually only keep those guys for about two weeks, maybe three. And that’s just so if I keep them any longer, it’s not because I do any more with them. I just do more repetitions of the same thing. And I will in a couple weeks, I will teach those little weanlings or yearlings, either one. To be able to walk five times around me on a lunge line, trot five times around me on a landline.

[00:34:55] Halt stand while I whip around them and then do the same thing the other way. And then I will have taught them to. If I jog off and I bump into the end of that lines, that means I jogged off and they they didn’t follow me immediately. And I bumped on that line that they learn instead of stopping and pulling back, which babies don’t normally do. That’s an older horse thing. Some of them just don’t come forward. And so I bump into that line when they got it to the point where they trot right off. Then I start tying them up. So then they go out and they do their little routine.

[00:35:26] Walk five, trot five. Stand when whipping, walk five, trot five, stand one whipping. Go get tied in the stall. That’s it.

[00:35:37] I don’t want to do anything fancy and I don’t canter them and I’m not doing a lot with them because I don’t need to do a lot of trot circles and they’re the babies don’t need that much physical work right now. Now, when I move up to elementary school, which is going to be either you can lump it by the older ages like that or a lot of times I’m just gonna say it’s gonna be a horse getting started under saddle. A lot of times I start with my base goal being walk to trot five, lope two. And so when people show up at a clinic, their horses are being ridden. That’s gonna be one of the really common ones. I’ll do. Let me see you walk to trot five, lope two, and you’re going to see a lot of questions from that horse about rhythm.

[00:36:20] It’s very rare that the horses come through and just got a fall into that rhythm and they’re like, oh, yeah, totally got this. I want a horse that mentally and physically is like, got this. So the base one for me on those elementary level horses walk to trot five.

[00:36:38] Lope five. Well, actually, sorry, tried to walk to trot five loped too. Then I move up to walk to trot five low five.

[00:36:53] Unless they’re like Presto, and they were really having a lot of balance problems at the lope, which sometimes you will get you’ll get horses with either a physical weakness or because they’re young like Presto was or a physical weakness for a different reason. Then I would just encourage you to increase your trotting.

[00:37:08] So it might be walk two, trot 10. And then, lope, you couldn’t you can mix this up. But when I say mix it up, I mean that I’m going to do this for, you know, two, three weeks straight. Easy before I change it. I find that when there are around the walk to trot 10, lope 10, that is where I see it when they get into that and they accept it. Mentally, I really start to see good rhythm and acceptance, rhythm and relaxation when they accept the walk to trot 10, lope 10.

[00:37:48] Right now, Presto, we tend to do walk two, trot fifteen, lope fifteen.

[00:37:58] And if that sounds like a lot, I would encourage you to set up a video camera videotape, how long it takes your horse to actually go around you at a walk trot or a lope, and then let’s just ignore the walk, because really they could walk super slow or they can walk on. But the trot in the lope is what freaks most people out. And I want you to time it, because what I did when I was recording this was I was like, man, it sounds like a lot when I say that. I know people when they come here and I’m trying to get them to keep their horse going. A lot of the horses are like, yeah, man. No, I’m done at six and you can’t make me. Which is again, that’s another question slash statement that a lot of horses make or they’ll go like six times around them. They’ll duck and go the other direction. They they fling a lot of questions at people. But here’s the deal. If you watch episode eleven of Stacy’s Video Diary, Jack, I timed it and it was taking Jack 10 seconds to trot a circle. So even his biggest circle was 12 seconds. So if I if he’s taking 12 seconds for him to go around there, which, you know, it’s only a twenty or twenty four foot line, he’s not that far away for me.

[00:39:14] You know, it’s it’s taking like 15 seconds to go in a circle around there. So fifteen circles, which is the maximum that I just told you that sounded like, whoa, that’s a lot. That’s three minutes. You should really set up a video camera. Just your phone will work and record it because it will feel like an eternity when you’re working on it. And then you’ll look up and be like, are you kidding me? That was three minutes. But here’s the interesting thing. That’s gonna be the same experience you have when you’re loping. Remember those questions? It’s like when Bob was on the podcast and he wanted to improve his lope. And my husband said, get to point the point where you can low price fifteen minutes. And Bob was like, holy cow. I had no idea how long. Five minutes was. And it was a visibly massive change when his horse could look for a lot longer. I’m telling you, that’s the same thing you can actually achieve down here on the ground. As long as your horse doesn’t have physical limitations and reasons. You know, check with your vet if you think you have a soundness problem that could be aggravated by turns or circles. I get to start a lot of young horses and that’s not one of the problems we run into a lot.

[00:40:21] And by the time my horses have that foundation on them, that it sticks with them, it sticks with them very long into their life, like one of the first horses that we trained that Jesse had primarily trained. When we first were married, I was pregnant and pregnant and pregnant. And one of the first horses he really train when it got retired from being a reining horse. It ended up being the number one horse at a local therapy riding place because that horse’s foundation, even as she got older, even as she developed arthritis, even very, very late. She was the number one horse there because all of her early training carried over and carried her on and served her well. And they loved her. So you’re giving them a gift when you do this, when they’re young. But if you’ve got older horses that might have soundness issues, talk to your vet, then we have to get more creative. But other ways to handle this. But anyway, in less than 12 to 15 minutes, I can go both directions with Presto observed soundness, observe, rhythm, relaxation. And I just want to get this welded into his mind. So later on when I need to withdraw on it, when I go to a new place that he’s like, OK, got it. Now contrast that with the people who gave lunging a bad reputation.

[00:41:38] And I’ve seen these people at horse shows lunging for hours. And literally when one of my first jobs, when I was in college, I was sent to work at the Quarter Horse Congress. And one of my jobs was to stand there and lunge horses around and around and around and around and around. And I’m telling you, it’s spoiled my view of what lunging was back then, because remember, I came from Maine and I was like, I almost got run down by, like, my bull fighting version of a lunging horse when I tried to use an article that I read and train my horse. And I was like, yeah, no, lunging doesn’t work for me. Then I see this version of lunging where it’s like mindless lunging for hours, literally, like just keeping them going. Well, that’s also not something I’m encouraging at all. So I’m doing all of mine. I’m achieving it in a short amount of time, a maximum 15 minutes. And so more advanced lunging for me does not involve a lot of it doesn’t involve going a lot longer. What it’s gonna do is like so with Willow right now, if I take her out to lunch hour, I expect to be to send her out like I would Presto. But I also start to do a little bit more of a dance when my body meaning I’ll step back and invite her to come in around me a little bit more like a liberty horse.

[00:42:53] And that’s what she she does liberty at work now. And so in my more advancing work. I will start to do more turns. But as soon as it starts to be a problem, I’m gonna add less turns. But before I do that, I forgot, almost forgot. One other thing that you can do with lunging that’s super cool as you can actually work on two things that people miss all the time emotional control while in motion and popping out of leads. So when my horse is lunging and pressed those already doing this and he’s clearly still in elementary school, I don’t think he’s going to graduate from that until later this summer sometime. And so he’s an elementary school and I’m already working on the emotional control in motion and popping out a lead. What that means is I’m not even thinking about doing it. A lot of inside turns with him. I’m not doing inside turns with him really at all because I’m stopping him and whipping around him or whatever and then sending him the other way. So it’s not a fluid turn, but the emotional control I’m talking about is not just the whipping around him when he’s standing still. It’s that he is loping around me.

[00:44:01] And when he gets so he I said he’s going to like lope. At this point, he’s either going to lope ten or fifteen. So let’s pretend it’s going to be 15. So he’s going to lope around me about eight laps and then I’m going to add speed and I’m going to walk a bigger circle because he’s a big horse. And between the length of the rope and me walking, I can get his circle to be about the width of my arena, which is about 70 feet wide. Because I’m walking a little bit of that circle with him. So I’m maybe I’m walking a 10 foot circle and he’s on, you know, that twenty two or twenty four foot long line. And I’m sending him out there. It’s getting pretty big. Well, I can run a large, fast or large, medium circle in there if a reining horse. I’m going to start doing that a little bit on the lunge line. And what that’s gonna do is that’s gonna teach him how to engage adds speed, basically trigger that possibility of being excited, something I don’t actually want to experience on his back right now at all. But he can experience how to get wound up and come back down. And I’m not on him. And this emotional control that happens at speed is different than the emotional control of when he’s standing all four feet still and I whip around him.

[00:45:10] They’re both emotional control, but they’re two distinct different realms. And I don’t think enough people address the realm of emotional control in motion. So a lot of times I’m sending them around and I’ll kicked dirt towards him. I’ll be like, go, dude, go. And then the thing that bothers people about that a lot of times is they start running well. They don’t know how to balance. So do you know what they do? They pop out a lead. A lot of times in the hind end, they’ll pop out a lead slip out of lead in the hind end. And then a lot of times they might follow it with slipping out a lead in in the front to another on the counter canter. And I just go, oh, let’s fix this by stepping on the gas. I kick some more dirt on him and I step out there and I’m like, go. And a lot of times I’ll step up and they’ll step back into that correct lead. So basically they’re doing a flying lead change and learning how to balance themselves. This is the kind of stuff I’m doing when I want to start advancing that horse. So right now, {resto, he can get up to a pretty good clip around me on that lunge line and stay in lead, which he wasn’t doing a few months ago.

[00:46:06] He would pretty consistently pop out to lead. Now he knows through his own balance and exploration how to stay in lead when he gets that speed. And then what’s supercool is I’ve chased him up and had him go, but he also knows the end is coming. So I stopped chasing him. You know, he does comes right down. So I’m building that recovery, that emotional and physical like spike up and come back down. I’m building that in right now on the ground. And I would never want to do that on his back right now because he doesn’t have enough balance, coordination or training to do any of that. That is an awesome bridge building exercise right there. Again, you’re trying to keep creating, even in your lunging a horse that when you ask this question, would you want to ride the horse, that you’d say yes. So I don’t need to watch. I don’t need to ride him while he pops out a lead. He can figure this out down here. And even while he’s doing that, it still doesn’t look that bad. When you do add turns, make sure that they’re not ducking and diving because a lot of times when people start adding turns real early, the horses use it against you, they start going like, oh, what about this?

[00:47:15] It basically adds another level of questions and it’s something that I do personally when I add more liberty work. But liberty work would be a whole nother podcast if you’d like to ask a question. You know where to call. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you in the next episode.

[00:47:36] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcasts, please visit Stacy Westfall dot com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac- Episode 11: lunging, teaching lope cues, teaching voice cues


  1. Gretchen Ruffin on April 6, 2020 at 3:41 am

    Hi! Loved this podcast!
    When you’re working on line, is your horse in a halter or bridle?
    Mostly saddled or not?
    Thanks so much for these podcasts.
    Very very helpful!

    • Stacy Westfall on April 7, 2020 at 2:57 pm

      All of the above. At the stage Presto is at, he is saddled and bridled because I’m about to mount up.
      Earlier he might have been just in a halter, no saddle.
      I have plans to create a groundwork course…but right now I’m busy working on a Goal Setting & Problem Solving online course!
      Keep listening and feel free to call in and leave a question for the podcast.
      The more specific your question, the more direct my answer can be!

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