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How to Teach a Horse to Lunge: 7 Steps!

Dean Eby

Lunging is a simple and effective technique that all riders should learn to perform. It’s good for rider and horse alike and allows for many benefits. This technique is incredibly useful for training, which is why it’s important to teach your horse how to lunge properly. If you’ve never taught this skill to a horse before, it’s not as difficult as you might expect. In this article, we’re going to cover all the essential information you need to successfully train your horse to lunge so that you and your horse can experience the many benefits of lunging.

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Why Lunge Your Horse?

a horse lunging

Lunging can offer a host of benefits for both horse and rider. For the horse, it’s an opportunity to warm up before training or being ridden. It’s also great to help in developing balance and rhythm. Plus, it can help the horse to improve its gaits.

For the rider, it’s a great chance to connect with your horse and improve your bond together. It’s also the perfect time to examine your horse’s gait and look for any possible injuries or inconsistencies that you need to be aware of.

Basic Training Principles

Before you start working on lunging with your horse, there are some basic training principles that you need to apply.

First, you’ll need to learn some serious patience. When you give a cue, you must ensure the horse complies. Releasing pressure from the cue before your horse performs the desired action is a quick way to teach your horse that it can beat you if it just waits long enough.

You’ll also have to be very consistent. Training your horse to lunge takes regular work and you can’t perform the training once every couple of weeks and expect it to take hold.

Every lesson should end on a positive note. You can’t stop when your horse isn’t responding how you want it to. You must end each lesson with a success.

Always use the same commands. When you’re lunge training, your commands are simple. Walk commands your horse to walk, trot tells them to trot, canter directs them to canter. Whoa or stand means stop. Just be sure to annunciate clearly so your horse understands you and always use the same words with the same inflections to convey your commands.

Necessary Equipment

Now that you understand the basic training principles you need to follow, you’re ready to start gathering the necessary equipment to begin training. You’ll need a few items for this.

You’ll need gloves with a good grip for your hands. For your horse, a halter and a lunge line are needed. A lunge whip is also necessary to cue your horse. And finally, you need a large, open space of at least 20 yards in diameter.

horse lunge training

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Teaching Your Horse to Lunge

7 Steps to Lunging
  • Step one: Start by putting the halter on your horse and attaching the lunge line. Don your gloves and hold the lunge whip by your side. Lead your horse to the training area.
  • Step two: Stand in the center of your training area and have your horse begin to start walking small circles around you slowly. If your horse pulls away or starts to become excited, immediately drop the lunge whip and say “stand” or “whoa” to your horse to communicate that they’re not giving you the desired action. You’re going to lightly tap on your horse with the lunge whip to communicate your desire for them to move forward. When they start moving, you stop tapping. If they stop moving, you start tapping again.
  • Step three: As your horse becomes more comfortable walking around you in a small circle, you can slowly start to give them more line. This will allow the circle to widen, and pretty soon your horse will be making a large circle around you. When the circle has stretched out to a diameter of about 20 yards and your horse is comfortable walking it without getting excited or pulling, it’s time to start using voice commands. Naturally, you can’t reach your horse at this distance to tap them with the whip, so they have to learn to respond to your voice and words.
  • Step four: Next, we’re going to introduce the trot command. This will signal your horse to begin trotting. Again, if they become excited or start to pull on the line, command your horse to stop using whoa or stand.
  • Step five: Once your horse is comfortable walking and trotting, you can introduce the canter.
  • Step six: If your horse is able to perform all three gaits on the lunge line, you can start switching between them, getting your horse more comfortable and familiar with your commands. Try switching between walk and canter, walk and trot, trot and canter, and do these transitions backward as well.
  • Step seven: Remember, it’s also important that your horse lunges both directions. Once they’re lunging properly in one direction, you’ll need to start having them go the opposite way. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get your horse to go the other direction. Gently tap on the horse’s shoulder with the whip to direct them while applying pressure on the lunge line.

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FAQ

What should I do if my horse refuses to move?

Exercise patience. Eventually, your horse will move. You have to remain patient enough to wait for them to do so. You can tap on your horse repeatedly with the whip. Soon, the horse will move just to escape the tapping. When this happens, you’ve won. But if you allow the horse to win and stay put, you’ll have a much harder time progressing with your training in the future.

How many times must you complete lunge training until the horse gets it?

This is going to differ between horses. Some horses will seem to intuitively understand and will pick up lunging very quickly. Other horses will have a harder time and take much longer. Some horses are very stubborn, which can also make training take a longer time. As a general rule, you’ll have to continue these training exercises until your horse lunges properly without mistake. You should be able to give vocal commands to your horse and have each of them obeyed instantly and accurately.

What if my horse moves the wrong way?

While you’re tapping on your horse with the whip, it’s an indication that you need them to do something. They’ll start trying different things in hopes of getting the tapping to cease. You need to continue the tapping until they perform the movement you want. If you want them to move forward, then don’t stop tapping until they do. Continue tapping through sideways and backward movements, only stopping when the horse finally moves the direction you want.

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Conclusion

Training your horse to do anything is an exercise in patience. You must be more patient than your horse if you want your training to be effective. Lunge training can provide many benefits for you and your horse, which is why it has been in use for so long. It will improve your bond with your horse and help them understand your commands while also offering a way for you to warm the horse up and look for any problematic movements that could indicate an underlying issue.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Dean Eby

An avid outdoorsman, Dean spends much of his time adventuring through the diverse terrain of the southwest United States with his closest companion, his dog, Gohan.  He gains experience on a full-time journey of exploration. For Dean, few passions lie closer to his heart than learning.  An apt researcher and reader, he loves to investigate interesting topics such as history, economics, relationships, pets, politics, and more.