If you learnt to ride several decades ago, you’ll remember having a lesson on the lunge. Going around in circles at all paces, without stirrrups and raising your arms in the air. Feeling aching limbs as you dismount, but instantly finding an improvement in your position. Yep, that’s the one.
These days, riding on the lunge isn’t used so much, despite it being a valuable tool. Russell Guire from Centaur Biomechanics is keen to change this and encourages everyone to have a lunge lesson.
“There’s so many benefits to having lunge lessons,” he says. “It improves the rider’s seat, balance and stability in the saddle. By taking away the reins and stirrups — I like to call these your ‘stabilisers’ — you have to focus on using your core to maintain a better position.”
After warming up off the lunge and with our feet in both stirrups, slip your feet out of the stirrups and cross them over so that they sit just in front of your horse’s withers. Before you start any of these exercises, spend a few minutes in walk with your legs hanging loose. Feel the movement of your horse and that you’re sitting equally on both seat bones.
1 Knees away
This will improve your feel in the saddle and relax your knees. Note which side is easier and which side you find harder, as this will indicate the side you tend to grip with.
How to do it:
- Maintain your pelvis in a neutral position
- One leg at a time, lift your knee up, out and back down
- Repeat with your other leg
- Repeat five times before having a rest and letting your legs hang loose
2 Thigh burner
This mobilises your hips and engages your core. It’s quite difficult, so don’t do too much at once.
How to do it:
- Lift your knee up and away from the saddle.
- Rotate your knees, as if you’re pedalling a bike.
- Start with five rotations and then have a rest
- Repeat this exercise on the other side
Upper body workout
Tie your reins in a knot and let your arms hang down by your sides. For each of the following exercises, it’s not about how quickly you can do them. Think quality — do the exercises slowly and stay in control of the movement. The aim is for your body to remain in the correct position in the saddle as you do them.
3 Arms out to the side and rotate
This is a great way to work on improving your balance and using your seat. As you ride this exercise, make sure your arms remain level with your shoulders as you rotate each way.
How to do it:
- Lift both arms away from your body so that they’re parallel to the ground (ie, holding them away from your sides)
- Rotate from your waist to the left, then straighten
- Rotate to the right and straighten
- Repeat this half a dozen times before resting
Russell’s top tips
- Keep a lunge lesson to a maximum of 20 minutes in length
- Warm up off the lunge first
- You may want your horse to wear side-reins to encourage him to maintain a consistent outline. Once attached, your horse’s nose should be on the vertical — ask an instructor for help if you need it, because it’s important side-reins are used correctly
- Only try these exercises on a horse who lunges well and is fit enough for the session. Your horse has to be happy with you moving about in the saddle while being lunged, too
- Make sure the person lungeing you is experienced too, and able to give feedback on your position