Lungeing can be included as part of a training programme to develop a horse’s fitness, way of going and confidence

 The ability to lunge a horse correctly with empathy, tact and feel can really help you understand a horse’s character and personality. Lungeing can be a playful exercise, allowing the horse to show off their paces and gain confidence in their movement and expression. Lungeing can also help to stretch and relax the horses’s muscles.

lungeing

5 Essential Pointers 

1) Use Positive Body Language  
Positive body language is the starting point for convincing a horse to work with you. A horse can read our energy and emotion. Horses have evolved to interpret subtle, nuanced behaviours. Projecting calm and confidence will further our cause. Horses are perceptive and intuitive as well as forgiving. 

2) Lunging Equipment 
To lunge safely, you must wear a hat, gloves and boots. The horse should be wearing a correctly fitted bridle, lunge cavesson, a roller or saddle with stirrups safely secured. Side reins (if used) should be of equal length and correctly fitted. You will need a lunge line, lunge whip and a safe area to lunge in. 

3) Communication 
As with riding, a horse will notice your position statement and your aiding system needs to be clear, consistent and simple. Your voice plays a key role in communicating with the horse on the lunge. The horse will pay close attention to the tone and timing of your requests. Remember that your lunge line acts as your rein aid, whilst your lunge whip and energy acts as a leg aid. 

4) Getting Started 
Make a note of the time as it is important to lunge equally on both reins to keep the session effective. Warm up slowly, give the horse time to settle to make sure you have their attention and focus. When lungeing, we are putting ourselves in a vulnerable position so be sensible and mindful of safety protocols and what is happening around you. 

5) Practice with Patience 
Lungeing is a skill and every horse is an individual, it can take a while to achieve consistent quality work. Make sure you vary the sessions on the lunge. Be patient with the horse, allowing time for the horse to understand your requests. Eventually, you will develop a shorthand for half halts and change of pace, as you develop the partnership you can almost lunge a horse with your thoughts.

These are examples of exercises I use with horses at all levels of training. Introduce new exercises progressively, so that the horse understands the question. Most of the exercises are similar to ones you may already be using in your ridden schooling sessions. It is always rewarding when your horse recognises them and anticipates the question. These are examples of exercises I use with horses at all levels of training. Introduce new exercises progressively, so that the horse understands the question. Most of the exercises are similar to ones you may already be using in your ridden schooling sessions. It is always rewarding when your horse recognises them and anticipates the question. 

15-1 This is essentially an exercise focusing on transitions between the paces; used to improve balance, rhythm, suppleness and response to aids. The goal is to achieve 15 steps of trot, then one stride of walk, with a return to trot. It is more about the quality of the pace before, during and after the transition, rather than the exact number of steps. 

The 15-1 exercise leads nicely into an almost walk and on into trot again exercise, which replicates and refines the half halt. By asking the horse to pay attention and listen to your requests, you are opening a line of communication that encourages the horse to focus, allowing you to then ask with quieter aids. This work prepares the horse to work on ‘on and back’ transitions in any pace, assisting in developing the horses self carriage. In time, the horse should willingly open and close the frame without losing their balance. 

It is possible to introduce lateral work on the lunge, once the horse understands to move away from your voice – try saying ‘over’ and gently point the lunge whip at their girth area and allow them to take more rein, increasing the circle. Make sure you are stepping towards the horse so that you are still directing them onto a circle. Once you have settled the horse and they are working in a relaxed rhythm on the original circle, you can ask the horse to spiral in again. The aim of this exercise is to encourage the horse to be balanced on a smaller circle, by taking a little more weight onto the hind legs. It is a challenging exercise and therefore you should not keep them on the smaller circle for more than one or two circuits. If the horse loses balance, then the circle is too small and should be increased. 

There are many different exercises you can incorporate into sessions with trot and canter poles. A challenge I enjoy is to practice lungeing on straight lines into circles, then onto a line again. As the handler you need to be able to move alongside the horse and be confident that you are still in a position to encourage them forwards. If you build a tunnel of poles, you can challenge yourself to set up the line the horse will travel on; directing the horse through the poles, as well as over them. When you are working a horse over poles, it can be handy to have a helper to adjust the poles to the correct distance. 

If you are new to lungeing, it is worth seeking professional guidance to learn how to safely use the equipment and how to work your horse correctly. The British Horse Society offers ‘The Challenge Awards’ programme, where you can learn and refine your horse knowledge, care and riding skills – talk to your local BHS Accredited Professional Coach to find out more. 

Photo Credit: Header Image Courtesy of The British Horse Society. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are not strictly those of The British Horse Society or NHT Magazine. It is always advised to seek your own professional advice.

alison kenward

By Alison Kenward, BHS APC Centre 10 Accredited Coach,  BD Judge & Recognised Coach