LEARNING TO LUNGE (Part 1) - An invaluable tool in your horse's training

If you've got a young horse you want to lunge, or are keen to learn how to lunge yourself, find out how from Jane Bowen who has used lungeing with great success on many horses.

The lungeing technique is an invaluable tool in a horse's training and development,  whatever their age or ability. When practised correctly the benefits become apparent very quickly alongside other variations to your horse's training programme.
The horse on a lunge does not have the restrictions of being saddled and ridden and therefore will find stretching, flexing and balance much easier. It is a wonderful way to develop a bond with your horse, making him listen to you and concentrate fully, which over time will make your horse more attentive and obedient when ridden.

What will you need?

For the trainer:

Hard hat, protective footwear and good quality gloves, as lunge lines can burn your hands if the horse suddenly pulls away.

maybelungeheadshotFor the horse:

* A bridle without the noseband and a well fitting head collar.
* A saddle or lunge roller preferably, however not essential.
* Brushing and over reach boots are advised, however not essential.
* Lunge cavesson (as shown in the picture to right) or bit coupling. Some horses do not feel comfortable in cavessons and therefore a coupling from the bit sometimes works better.
* Lunge Line and a lunge whip.
* A space which is no smaller than 20m diameter and preferably not in an open area as it tends to encourage the horse to drift away from you and can become a battle.
* If an arena is available start off in a corner so that the two sides can help maintain a circle - easier for you, easier for the horse.

How do you start?

Stage 1

The first time you and your horse try lungeing you both should establish some ground rules. Do not just walk to an area and hope your horse knows what to do as he will not and will only just want to run away from you, which starts an immediate battle.

Lead your horse around the chosen area, quietly walking slightly behind his jaw line. On your instruction to 'Walk on' allow him to take the lead (this may take a few attempts), then walk forward with him. Never drag him or raise your voice, keep a strong, clear tone and repetition of the exercise will reward you.

When your instruction is to stand, keeping in the same position, clearly say 'Stand' and at the same time you stand still. Do not fuss him at this stage, just be sure he stands still, and stays in halt for a few seconds, initially to maintain his concentration, then ask him to walk on again.

Practise these transitions on both reins so that the horse will become used to working from both sides. These early steps are the foundation bricks for the rest of the training and your relationship, which is why they are vitally important for both horse and trainer and should not be hurried.

maybelooselungeStage 2

Before you begin, check the cavesson or headcollar are securely fastened to avoid any slipping towards the eye when lungeing. Check the roller or girth is tight and tidy the lunge line into a loose loop,  ensuring it is not wrapped around any fingers or feet.

Show the lunge whip to your horse to make sure he has no fear of it.

The horse now has to be encouraged to walk forward away from you. DO NOT step backwards at this vital stage, stand your ground and invite the horse to move away from you. The lunge whip may help here, by gently touching the shoulder.

Very slowly the circle will grow, don't try to get too big too soon - I prefer to change the rein as soon as a circle is achieved so that right from this stage the horse becomes balanced on both reins. The idea  is to get the horse out on the arc  and to form a triangle, the trainer stands facing the belly of the horse, lunge line to horse's head and the other side of the triangle is the lunge whip, at similar height to the lunge line, pointing towards the tail.

You must maintain this position to encourage the horse forward, if you become level or in front of the horse's eye he will stop and possibly turn in, which can become a problem. The first session may not progress any further than getting the horse away on his own, and staying out on the arc on both reins in walk and for the stand transitions. Give your horse time to properly master each small stage, never rush a session.

 Once you have mastered these early stages , then only progress to part 2 Lunging Improving outline