After the line rolling up instruction, Karin used two horses to demonstrate proper lunging techniques: Avenir the Great White Horse and Oskar the Invisible Horse.
Avenir, the beloved mainstay of Karin’s team A Vaulting Connection, recently recovered from a serious medical condition and it was great to see the big guy back in action.
It was great to see Oskar too. I think I’m the only one that actually can. Which may or may not have something to do with my recent fall.
Karin often uses the undemanding Oskar as a “visual” aid to help riders plan ahead. In this case, Oskar served as a target for the lunge whip. In other words, you deploy the whip one length behind the vaulting horse. Pretending Oskar is there helps with this.
Following the demonstration, Karin marched out the little horses so that we could practice some actual hands-on lunging. Present were Romeo, Snoopy and Peanut: The Little Rascals of Legacy Stables.
I got Snoopy. Actually, Snoopy was handed off to me by Allison from Chicago Vaulting.
“He’s having a little attitude problem right now,” Allison warned.
Of all of Karin’s horses, Snoopy is the one I’ve interacted with the least. Just an occasional nod and “Hi, how ya doin’,” as I brush pass him in the pasture on my way to fetch another horse.
Snoopy has a stellar reputation working with the smaller kids. They hang all over him and such, and he seems to eat it (but not them!) up. I couldn’t imagine how this little guy’s attitude problem could be much of a problem.
But as I let out the line and attempted to get Snoopy to go in a proper circle, he just kept going crooked all over the place and our “circle” got progressively smaller until he was actually chasing me around. I didn’t like that.
Christoph noticed I was having a difficult time, so he stepped in and offered some pointers. Drive the horse from behind was the main thing.
I tried to drive Snoopy from behind using a miniature version of Oskar. But the result was pretty much the same, so I put a stop to the exercise before the little horse caught up with me again.
Christoph took over and had more success, but in the end he simply said that Snoopy was “hard” and none of this was my fault. I’m thinking of putting that last part on a t-shirt.
I handed the line to Pete and he took a turn with Snoopy and – I presume – Little Oskar. Pete did really well with Snoopy and you could actually see something akin to a real circle. Although we noticed that Snoopy mysteriously acted up at the same part of the circle on every pass. I had a good view of this, because I was standing right by that part of the circle.
Next, Karin brought out my old buddy Caspian, so that we could all get a turn lunging an experienced vaulting horse.
This was pretty awesome. And pretty humbling – at the end of that line was a tremendous amount of power. Karin showed me how to use the line to cue the horse’s movement by gently squeezing my fingers and with subtle twists of the wrist. The main thing was to relax the arms and keep your wrist and elbow joints supple so that you’re not yanking on the horse. It’s a lot like riding in that they feel everything you do.
And just like riding, you combine your voice and body language with what you’re doing with the line. There is a definite art to this.
Add a vaulter (or two or three) bouncing around up there and you begin to realize how important the lunger is in this sport. It is a huge responsibility.
After everybody got a turn with Caspian, Karin turned him loose in the arena to give him an opportunity to roll around in the dirt. Instead, he did a couple of laps around the arena and then made a beeline for the door.
It was time to punch out