Lunging is a simple and effective technique that all riders should learn to perform. It’s good for rider and horse alike and 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 cover all the essential information regarding lunging so you and your horse can experience its many benefits.
Why Lunge Your Horse?
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 also helps in developing balance and rhythm and improving their gaits.
For the rider, it’s a great chance to connect with the horse and improve their bond together. It’s also the perfect time to examine the horse’s gait and look for any possible injuries or inconsistencies.
Basic Training Principles
Before you start working on lunging with your horse, there are basic training principles that you need to apply.
First, you’ll need to be patient. When you give a cue, you must ensure that the horse complies. Releasing pressure from the cue before your horse performs the desired action is a quick way to teach your horse that they can beat you if they just wait long enough.
Second, you have to be 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.
Third, every lesson should end on a positive note. You can’t stop when your horse isn’t responding how you want them to. You must end each lesson with a win.
Finally, 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, and “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.
Now that you understand the basic training principles to follow, you can gather the necessary equipment to begin training. A few items are required for this.
You’ll need gloves with a good grip for your hands. For your horse, a halter and a lunge line are required. A lunge whip is also necessary to cue your horse. Finally, you need a large, open space of at least 20 yards in diameter.
The 7 Steps of How to Teach Your Horse to Lunge
1. Set Up the Equipment
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.
2. Have Your Horse Start Walking
Stand in the center of the training area, and have your horse 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 communicate that they’re not giving you the desired action. 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.
3. Extend the Lunge Line
As your horse becomes more comfortable walking around you in a small circle, you can slowly start to give them more line. This will enable the circle to widen, and 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.
4. Introduce Trotting
Next, you’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.
5. Introduce Cantering
Once your horse is comfortable walking and trotting, you can introduce the canter.
6. Switch Between Gaits
If your horse can 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, and trot and canter, and do these transitions backward too.
7. Go the Opposite Direction
Remember, it’s important that your horse can lunge in 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 do this. Gently tap on the horse’s shoulder with the whip to direct them while applying pressure on the lunge line.
What Should I Do If My Horse Refuses to Move?
Exercise patience. Eventually, your horse will move. You just have 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 quickly. Other horses will have a harder time and take longer. Some horses are stubborn, which can also make training take longer. 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 obeyed instantly and accurately.
What If My Horse Moves the Wrong Way?
When 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 that you want. If you want them to move forward, don’t stop tapping until they do. Continue tapping through sideways and backward movements, only stopping when the horse finally moves in the direction that you want.
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 up the horse and look for any problematic movements that could indicate an underlying issue.
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