Today I will discuss an extremely important part of any lesson program: Lungeline lessons!
Lunge line lessons are beneficial to riders of any level. Riders can rely on the consistency of a solid horse, and focus on their position, balance, and confidence, without having to focus on steering, pace control, or planning their path. It is important to prepare your horses for the lunge line lessons. This can be done fairly easily but the length of time depends on the horse. Some horses will never be consistent lunge-line lesson horses, and that's OK! It is a difficult job.
I am very blessed to have two horses who actually appreciate lunge line lessons. I say they appreciate them because it is clear that the horse understands me, the instructor much more clearly than a student learning how to balance and steer! So they find comfort in knowing they can ignore the rider almost completely, and not have to think about which mistakes to ignore. Riders of all levels make mistakes, and lesson horses have to decipher which mistakes to ignore, and which extra movements actually mean something.
Before a rider is trotting on the rail or over poles and jumps, I like to give them several lunge line lessons, to get their balance and confidence ready to ride independently. If the lunge line lessons are done correctly, riders are engaged and challenged, but end the ride feeling good about their improvements. It may be physically difficult, but the strength and confidence-building they learn will help them in their riding journey in great ways!
With adult riders, I find that they want specific instructions, with extremely detailed descriptions, details as to why we do things a certain way, and physical adjustments to their position to help them feel when something is correct.
With children riders, I find that they benefit most when they are challenged in FUN ways. So I like to incorporate dance moves, silly games, silly songs, or perhaps gentle pressure of saying "I wonder if you could do XYZ... what do you think? Is that too hard?" and the child will give you your answer. If they are not feeling confident, you can back off of the pushing. But if they're feeling confident, you can push them. For example "WOW I didn't think you'd be able to hold your two-point position for 2 whole circles! I wonder if you can hold it for 3!?" or "It is so nice how your stirrups didn't need adjusting that WHOLE time! I wonder if you can keep them in the right spot if I added a pole!?" Kids are usually very communicative and usually will answer honestly.
In this video clip, you will see a beginner child rider. This rider is not confident trotting on her own yet. She wants to be able to, but then she will sometimes freeze up when having to remember everything she has to do correctly to keep a trot going around the whole arena. So I tried to keep the exercises light and fun! I started with arms out, then did hands on top of your helmet, then I asked if she knew how to do the macarena! She smiled and said YES. This took the pressure off of her to do everything perfectly, and instead, she had to focus her mind on the dance moves. This automatically helped her find her own balance in the stirrups! She had such a great time! She loves these lunge line lessons. This rider is just beginning to learn her posting diagonals and spends most of the lesson on the wrong diagonal. However, it was clear that she needed to spend a large amount of time building her balance and confidence, not be haggled about small details like diagonals. She cannot yet feel when she is on the left or right diagonal, so working on this would involve her having to look down, which would likely interrupt her work on finding her strength, balance, and confidence.
For an even less confident beginner, I would have them ride my slower lunge line horse and do a little bit more work at the walk. Still with arms out, then arms up, then taking feet out of stirrups and replacing them, and perhaps reaching down to touch toes while walking.