Manolo Mendez Dressage

Lungeing and In-hand Work to Build Confidence and Relaxation

Training in its purest form is not so much a strict method of training as a time-honoured philosophy of building a partnership based on mutual trust and respect between human and horse. True Classical Training is gentle and kind and takes into full account the needs of the horse as well as the aspirations of the trainer. Each horse is recognised as having intrinsic beauty and worth.  The overriding goal of true Classical Training is to realise individual potential in each horse – making the horse more beautiful, strong and supple – not less – with every passing year.

What is “long and low”? 

The concept of “long and low” is the crucial foundation stone for training.  It means encouraging the horse to work with his head in front of the vertical and his neck stretched and long.  This is a more natural posture for a horse and allows him to balance properly and to stretch and lift his back.  A correctly trained horse is never strapped into a round outline with a short neck and the head behind the vertical.  Over time, and with the correct training, he will develop the right muscles to carry himself, and to self-collect for advanced work.

The First In-hand Sessions with a Young and/or Green Horse

  1. Walk the horse around the arena in the headstall only – both sides.
  2. Introduce the horse to the cavesson and lunge-rein.
  3. Introduce the horse to the Bamboo. Touch him all over with it, particularly belly, flanks, legs and hooves.  Teach him not to be afraid.
  4. Teach the horse to walk forward and to halt in straight lines on both reins.
  5. Introduce a few steps of trot here and there, gradually building up to more steps.  Frequent transitions to walk and halt, and always reward.
  6. Use the bamboo to encourage a horse to lift his feet and bend his joints.
  7. Introduce a few steps of backing here and there on both sides.  Use the bamboo to encourage the horse to lift his feet and bend his joints.
  8. Introduce circle work in a simple way – not too many repetitions.  Break up circles with straight work.  Always do circles on both reins.
  9. Use the circle line to encourage a horse to develop a long, low posture and soft muscles and to develop three-track work.
  10. Introduce lungeing gradually on the circle line.  For a young horse, lungeing should consist of short periods of trotting broken up by lots of walking.

Tips for Training

  • Never start any horse in full work under the age of three to three and a half years. 
  • Reassure your horse with your voice and reward often with stroking or gentle pats.
  • Never uses any items of tack that strap a horse into a deep, round outline or shorten his neck or force him to work on or behind the vertical.
  • Use a bamboo cane with tact and as an encouragement, never as a punishment.
  • Never ask for more than 40-45 degrees of flexion when doing three-track work on the circle with a green horse.
  • Never do too much of the one exercise or the horse may get sore and/or bored.
  • Thirty minutes is ample time for the first training sessions with a green horse.
  • Never rush a young horse.  The aim of each training session is to get calmness and softness with every exercise, and to build solid foundations for more advanced work.
  • Encourage a long, low and soft outline at all times to a young or green horse.
  • When working the horse always look for soft bouncing muscles in the rump, flanks, shoulders and neck.  Look for good stifle action rather than hock action. 
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