Lunging a Horse, Back to the Basics with Everything Horse
In this feature, we focus on the first steps of lunging a horse or pony. These simple ‘back to the basics’ tips will help you and your horse on the way to a productive training session.
Lunging a Horse
Lunging a horse can be very rewarding, it is also a good starting point for any young horse’s training. Another good reason to lunge your horse is to assess their way of going, or perhaps when time is limited and your horse needs to be stretched and worked.
Over-lunging, or lunging more than required, can put too much strain on the horse’s frame and can cause problems with bone development, tendons, and ligaments. A horse can easily get bored and when lunging unnecessarily, may encourage unwanted behaviour.
Some simple tips to keep in mind
- Keep sessions short. 15-20 minutes on the lunge rein can be equivalent to a 45-minute schooling session.
- Get the basics right first before trying anything else. You can do this by using some simple walk-halt exercises on a circle in the arena, with a lunge rein attached and the horse by your side. These simple steps make sure a young horse in particular is listening, respects you and is ready for the next step.
- To start, keep training aids simple, there’s no need to overcomplicate matters with unnecessary tack. The use of side reins and other training aids should only be added once the horse will halt, walk, trot and canter on the lunge willingly, in a relaxed manner.
- Work evenly on both reins, this is key to a horse’s balance, suppleness and muscle development
- Be aware your horse may fall in more on the right rein, this is due to mainly being led from the left as they may look to you for comfort or support. Keep the horse pushed out by angling the lunge whip towards the horse’s shoulder and reinforce with an ‘out you go’.
- Consistency and repetition are key; even if you only do a simple walk, trot and canter workout make sure you use the same amount of transitions on each rein.
- Voice commands; use a higher tone in your voice to go and a lower one to slow, lunging is an excellent way to teach your horse voice commands.
- Be mindful you need the horse to be tracking up. You can assess this by watching the hind hoof prints placement in relation to the front when in a walk. If the hoof treads on, or over the print the front has made, this indicates the horse is moving forwards correctly and not sloping along.
- When warming up, the horse may search for a contact, this is a good thing! As the horse is stretching forward, he/she is stretching back and neck muscles, and it also indicates acceptance of the bit.
- There’s a huge difference between a walk with impulsion and one that is hurried and tense. The word impulsion is given to a horse moving forward with energy, and not pace. The tracking up part (point 8) works well here as this can be used as a measurement of impulsion.
- Cool down, evenly on both reins. Allow your horse’s breathing to return to normal before calling it a day.
- End on a good note (said no trainer ever), if this isn’t achieved on the level you are trying to work at, come back down to something you know your horse is happy with. Reward and leave the arena happy and relaxed.
Any experience you have with your horse, whether it be spending time asking nothing of them, or when they are in from the field being groomed, tied up or trained, should be enjoyable and mutually rewarding.
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