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Lunging Your Horse

Lunging a horse
Lunging a horse

Lunging can be a daunting task. What is the purpose of it and why should you know how to do it? I'll cover the basics of lunging today and why it's important to know.

Lunging can be a very useful training and exercising tool. I love groundwork and think it's so important that all horses know it and are able to respond well on the ground before bringing them under saddle.

You can lunge a horse for many reasons. Training, exercise, to evaluate lameness, to get sillies out before a ride, just to name a few. I use lunging to do all of the above. All of my horses are voice command trained as well. It helps on the ground and under saddle. They all know "walk, trot, canter and hoe" along with ques to speed up or slow down on the lunge line.

I've been to shows before and have seen horses tearing around at break neck speeds on the lunge line. I'd be lying if I said my horses never did this. They have torn around when they are spunky for whatever reason. But it is never my intention to put them on the lunge line to tear around. I believe horses can and should have a job while on the lunge line.

To begin a horse who has never lunged, it helps to have another person. One person stands in the middle with the lunge line and whip while another leads the horse around in a circle around the person in the center. The person leading can gradually begin to space themselves out from the horse when the horse figures out what is going on.

General rules of lunging: The lunge line should never touch the ground. The horse could get tangled in it. It can act as a rein of sort to communicate with the horse.

The whip should be held in the opposite hand of the lunge line hand. The tip of the whip should always be facing the ground unless it is needed. When using it to aid in your voice, you raise it in the air behind the horse, then use it to make a sound if there is still no response. At no point should the whip touch the horse.

The lunger should stand still in the center of the ring and pivot on their leg.

The horse travels in a circle around the lunger. The lunger's body language should be pointed at the center of the horse, making them the tip of a triangle between the rope and whip.

To speed up the horse, the lunger should change their body language to face the hindquarters.

To slow down, the lunger should face the shoulder of the horse.

The horse should never come in at the person lunging. Many horses are trained to step into the circle. This can be very dangerous to have the horse coming at you. I teach my horses to stay put unless I ask them to come forward. That way they stand there, and I go to them and have them switch directions.

While the horse is lunging, it's important to vary their speeds and the size of the circle to not bore the horse. You also don't want to lunge a horse that has joint issues, and surely not put them on a small circle. Be cognizant of the horse. Young horses whose joints have not fully formed should not be on the lunge line either.

Once you have mastered lunging the horse on the circle, you can walk around with them and vary their lunging experience. Add in ground poles and small cavalettis.

Lunging should be fun. If you are getting bored with it, chances are your horse is too. But, that is also the way with most horse interactions. Keep them light and fun.

Want to learn more about lunging? Sign up for a "Demystifying Lunging" class! Check out the availability at in the "classes" drop down.

Blog written by Crystal Pollard. Crystal is a life-long horse woman, having worked with and owned horses for nearly 30 years. She is also a Master Certified Reiki practitioner, specializing in horses.

Crystal teaches riding and trains horses out of Watertown, MN. She incorporates mindfulness and horsemanship into her Dressage and jumping lessons to create well balanced horses and equestrians.

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