Lunging is the process of exercising a horse in circles on a long line or rope. It is the first step to establishing clear communication with your horse.
Lunging a horse is a process that must be learned and practiced consistently in order to do so proficiently. However, when you have mastered the lunging method, it is a very handy tool to have in your repertoire. Let’s begin the process of lunging.
A horse can be free lunged in a round yard without equipment. However, familiarizing yourself with the equipment ahead of time is recommended. This allows you to learn proper use of the equipment before adding the complexity of maneuvering the horse.
The following equipment is required for lunging a horse.
- Lunge line-a long length rein made of flat webbing, usually 10m to 12m in length. Rope may also be used.
- Cavesson-similar to a halter, but it has rings attached for securing the lunge line.
- Lunge whip-a long whip, generally 2m in length with a long lash attached to help maintain a constant pace with the horse.
- Roller-similar to a surcingle that goes on the horse’s back and does up with a girth. Like the cavesson, it also has rings attached at various levels to allow the use of side reins.
- Side reins-reins that can be adjusted to varying lengths, depending on the size, shape and education level of the horse. Side reins usually have an elastic or rubber piece inserted in them to allow for some stretch. These reins have clips for joining them to the horse’s bit.
- Bridle (optional)-usually used if side reins are being used.
- Solid boots, helmet, and gloves (for yourself, of course)
Exercising Safety when Lunging a Horse
Your safety is of paramount importance when working with horses. It is vital that you remember the location of your lunge line at all times when lunging a horse.
Feet and hands tangled in the free end of the lunge line are frequent causes of accidents. Therefore, never wrap the lunge line around your hand or through the loop at the end. Fold the line over on itself in the palm of your hand so that it can be fed out and gathered in easily. Now, you are ready to start lunging a horse!
- The beginner handler should learn to lunge with a well educated, quiet horse and an instructor or other knowledgeable equestrian there to supervise. An educated horse will know voice commands. This will make the lunging process easier for you to learn.
- Access to a round yard or an enclosed square yard is recommended.
- Hold the lunge line in the hand in the direction the horse is travelling. If the horse is travelling left, the lunge line is in the left hand; the lunge whip in the other. The lunge line should be attached to the centre ring on the cavesson.
- The correct position for lunging a horse will form a triangle. You will be the apex of the triangle and the horse’s shoulders and hips will form the other two angles. You should be positioned approximately in line with the shoulders of the horse. The horse should travel along nicely when you are in this position.
- Begin the lunging process with you and the horse in the centre of the round yard.
- Lead the horse forward with your left hand while remaining in the centre of the circle. Simultaneously feed the lunge line and encourage the horse to walk forward with the whip.
- The whip is in an active position when it is parallel to the ground, pointing to the rump of the horse. Being active means you are encouraging the horse forward. The whip is in a passive position when the lash end of the whip is pointed towards the ground and angled slightly away from the rump of the horse. The whip should be in a passive position when you are asking the horse to slow down.
- Using voice commands, ask the horse to make transition upward once out on the circle. These voice commands should be brisk and lively for upwards, whereas a slower, diminishing tone is effective for downward transitions. For example, a brisk “WALK ON” encourages the horse to walk out, and a slower, quieter, “WA-A-LK” or “WA-A-LK -ING” is better for the downward transition.
- Body placement can also encourage transition. Stepping slightly towards the head of the horse encourages it to slow down, and stepping towards the rump of the horse encourages it to go forward.
- The horse should be asked to halt in order to change direction. You will gather the lunge rein, walk out to the horse, and lead it to change direction.
- Each horse owner has a unique way of lunging. If you are learning to lunge on a horse other than your own, ask to see the horse lunged so you know the appropriate voice commands and body placement for yourself.
- Be sure to have a watch. Use it to time each transition in each direction. The last thing you want to do is make your horse one sided. If you spend 5 minutes trotting to the left, you need to spend 5 minutes trotting to the right.
These are the basic principles of lunging a horse, and remember: Practice makes perfect! Happy lunging!
Last update on 2021-06-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API