Don't get me wrong, I don't think lunging is creul, or useless or without purpose, but I am hyper sensitive to both the size of the circle and the amount of time I spend with a horse on the end of a lunge line.
My preferred solution to this problem is to teach horses how to be super comfortable free lunging, so that i can send them down the long side, open up the circle a little more, and in general let them balance themselves better.
Free lunging isn't always possible since I need the ring to myself to do it, but our barn isn't too busy (especially in the middle of the day) so S has been experimenting with free lunging Pia in order to get a few more bucks out and make sure she gets plenty of "room to play" while she's turned out.
I hadn't witnessed P free lunging until this weekend when I rolled myself out there on Saturday only slightly loopy from DayQuil. I wasn't sure if I would be riding or not, so I grabbed P, groomed her, booted her up and took her to the ring. unhooked her and preparing to chase her around the ring to get her bucks out. Instead, what I got was a nice little mare who put herself on a 25-ish meter circle and lunged PERFECTLY even though she was totally detached.
She would stop and change direction every once in a while, but for the most part she worked perfectly on a nice big circle, and every once in a while I would push her down the long side just to make her straighten out. She'd go, loop around and then circle up again around me. what a cutie. I started playing with transitions just to see how well she was listening, and she was right with me. Walk, trot, canter, trot, halt, trot? She nailed 'em. She broke into the canter a bit especially on the "downhill" side of the ring, but that's ok.
(Halting on the "lunge." I could see her little brain trying to decide
if she was supposed to be listening to me or not...)
I was so impressed! and when I asked her to halt and called her to me, she just came right into the center, totally calm, not all hyped up even though she had been charging around. What a good mare!
(Cute mare comes when called)
Anyway, she was so great that I had to get on and play around a little, even if my sense of balance was totally wacko. Our ride was fine. Nothing spectacular, nothing bad. P was stuck behind my leg a little, and whenever I tried to send her forward she did this half trot/half canter thing that was fairly obnoxious and hard to prevent without bringing her totally back.
But we did poles, and transitions, and a little bit more canter work, no big arguments, no fusses. So I'll call that a good ride.
Sunday, I felt a little worse so I just went out and free lunged again. No ride. But she did get fluffed and buffed and a little bit of a mane trim to keep us looking tidy. She had dropped a little weight her first week at the barn, which was probably a combo of stress, hay she didn't love and getting ridden 6 days a week by an excited new owner, but she has PACKED it back on. She looks great. Might actually have to cut her rice bran down a little to keep us from getting chubby, but I'm glad that it didn't take long to get the weight back. I'm a little obsessive when it comes to keep horses at weight so I think I notice small changes before most people and adjust feed accordingly, but what's wrong with that?
I tried my best to get a cute clip of Pia lunging herself, but it was a little difficult to watch the horse, use the whip and attempt to film with a steady hand. Just a slight warning that this might make you dizzy :)