Basic Lunging

Lunge your horse its a basic skill!

By Kwase Hjulstrom

It may seem pretty redundant to write about lunging a horse, Let’s face it there are lots of articles in cyber space on it. But just like with Ground Work, it's one of those mandatory skills as a horse rider, that you will need to master.
Now, I will just add my perspective! As well as have you noticed that a lot of horse folk don’t lunge regularly? (unless they have an unruly horse that has excess energy? Or hasn't been under saddle for a while? I don't know why?) hopefully my overview will energize you to get back out there and to not forget this Basic technique!

Lunging your horse should be a basic exercise in your horse’s repertoire, and standard practice. Since your horses birth (if it had a good trainer) it's likely when the horse was young (about 3yrs or so) he/she will have started lunging for at least 5-10 mins a day to get them started. We lunge to establish a connection between horse and rider, to control the horses speed, and to exercise them without a rider on their back.  In order to lunge you need a round pen (preferably), a lunge lead, a lunge whip and your voice in order to teach your commands. (Without a lunge lead you could free-lunge but its best for beginners to use a lead)
For this one-on-one between you and your horse, there are quite a few skills you can teach while together. You teach your horse the Walk /Trot /Cantor, Stop, back up, you could put them in a surcingle and assist them in building a frame. All of these lessons establishes who is the “alpha” in your relationship which is a prerequisite for obedience and all of these exercises can be accomplished in your round pen… on your lunging circle.

The above video is an example of how NOT to lunge your horse! (Unless of course you have a short lead and in order to create a larger circle you are implementing a "walking circle" )While I make a good attempt…(this video was taken when I was a newbie) There are quite a few things I am doing wrong let me list them…

  1. I should be standing “fixed” in the center of the ring, behind the horses back-end creating a bit of a triangle with my whip/ the lunge lead/ and horse
  2. The lunge lead shouldn’t dangle it should be looped to release and extend if you wish to open your circle.
  3. My triangle is bit off…If you get to far ahead of the horse, like up near the horses head he will probably slow if not stop. You want to remember to be driving the horse in the direction that you are looking and pointing.

For every skill you teach your horse, its always best to finish your training on a good note (a correctly completed task) if you give up, or stop because your horse is being uncooperative you may inadvertently teach him what’s called “bad manners” which more than likely he will repeat and you will not want!

For more information on lunging .. click here to see Clare Long’s advise on “Lunging over Cavelletties”