Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hot & Dry

Today, we lunged our mare, Goldie.  We took her to our top pasture, which hasn't had horses in it for about a year.  Despite its disuse, the drought has clobbered it, just like every other piece of grassland in the region.  The dust was ridiculous, even from where Beep and I watched.

Lunging a horse basically entails putting them on a long leash (lungeline) and having them circle around you at different speeds.  Walk, trot, canter.  The horse is controlled mainly by the person's body position and voice. 

Lunging is done for different reasons, but in this case it was for conditioning.  Girl needed some exercise in a bad way.

Usually, you start horses with a nice warmup on the lungeline, easing them into a faster gait only after their muscles are warm and limbered up.

Goldie elected to start at a mach 10 canter.  She laughed in the face of 100 degree heat.

Whoa, girl.

A quick trade of baby for horse, and I'm the one on the end of the lungeline. 

Trot, Goldie.

Yeah, ok.  Canter.  Whatever.  (Did I mention I'm a horse whisperer?)

This mare is waaaayyyyy too energetic. 

There we go.  She's settling, and trotting.  See how her right front leg and left hind leg are reaching forward at the same time?  That's a trot.  It's a contralateral gait, meaning diagonal legs move at the same time.

While Goldie's trotting, can we have a moment of silence for our pasture?  You know, the one where once there was grass, and flowers, and not just a dry desert of dust?

Back to Goldie, who has reversed and is now going to the right.  Trotting.

...And cantering!  Notice how my pictures show the lungeline delineating one side of a triangle.  Like in the next photo, where Goldie's gotten yet another wind and is once again cantering (heatstrokemuch?) the blue line is the right side of a piece of pie.

The rule of thumb when lunging a horse is to keep yourself at the tip of the piece of pie.  Skew the triangle to one side or the other, and you're actually asking the horse to change pace.  Step closer to the right, toward the head, and you're kinda blocking the horse's forward progress, however subtly.  The horse will slow, dive further out on a bigger circle, or even stop.  All because you unbalanced the piece of pie.  Step further to the left, toward the tail, and you're pushing the horse forward.  The horse will likely speed up.

In Goldie's case, she was happy to canter around a few more minutes. 

Finally, dripping with sweat, she agreed to stop and call it a day. 

Easy, girl.  No need to wear yourself out like that in this heat.

I'm glad she eventually noticed how hot it was, and that I was becoming slightly uncomfortable. 

Out of consideration for me, she then allowed me to walk her back to the barn and give her a cool bath.  She's good like that.

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