Training

Lungeing Part 1: The Basics

The weather is terrible. You're recovering from an injury. Or maybe you're bored with riding around and around the same old arena. What do y

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By: Donna Marie West |

Try lungeing him. Lungeing means having your horse travel around you on a circle at the end of a long line, and it has many uses:

* starting a young horse’s training or retraining a spoiled horse

* improving condition and muscle tone

* improving suppleness, balance and movement

* improving obedience to your voice and body language

* detecting lameness

* taking the edge off a “fresh” horse before riding him

Find a safe, quiet location to lunge your horse: a round pen, or a corner of the paddock, outdoor ring or indoor arena.

Place cavalettis or hay bales along the open side to block it off, if necessary (see diagram). Make sure the footing is good, and that there are no jumps, barrels or other objects in your way.

Dress appropriately: gloves to protect your hands from rope burns, solid shoes or riding boots, and a helmet if your horse tends to kick out. Leave your spurs in the tackroom, as they might trip you up. Finally, use the proper equipment:

* a snugly-fitting halter or a lungeing cavesson (a halter with rings on the sides and front of its padded noseband), an English snaffle bridle or a Western bosal bridle

*  splint boots or polo bandages and bell boots to protect your horse’s legs

* a soft, heavy cotton or nylon lunge line (usually 7–10 metres in length), with a swivel snap at one end

* a lungeing whip

To lunge with a halter, attach the clip of the lunge line to the near-side (left) ring. If you lunge with a cavesson, clip the lunge line to either the front ring or the side ring nearest you. If you use a bridle, remove the reins altogether or twist them and pass them through the throatlatch so they don’t get caught up in your horse’s front legs. Pass the lunge line through the near bit ring and over your horse’s head, and clip it to the far side bit ring. To lunge with a bosal bridle, attach the lunge line to the heel-knot of the bosal.

Begin lungeing to the left. Hold the lunge line like a sword or a rein in your left hand. Be careful not to let it drag on the ground; hold the extra length of line neatly looped in your right hand. Do not wrap the excess around your hand – you must be able to let go if you have to! Hold the lungeing whip in a neutral position (pointing toward the ground) in your right hand, as well.

Send your horse out onto a circle by walking with him and gradually stepping back. His body, the lunge line and the whip should form a triangle (see diagram). Position yourself at the point of the triangle at about the level of his shoulder. Turn your body slightly in the same direction he is going, stepping on the spot or in a small circle. Don’t walk too much, or your horse will end up lungeing you!

Keep your horse on approximately a 15-metre circle – small enough to allow you some control, but large enough not to stress his legs. Control him with contact on the lunge line, your whip, body language and your voice. The usual voice commands are “walk”, “trot” or “jog”, “caaaan-ter” and “whoa”.

Use an upward tone for an upward transition. If your horse doesn’t respond, take a step toward his hindquarters. Make a clucking or kissing sound and repeat your command. Don’t hit your horse with the whip, as this may frighten him and cause him to bolt or kick out. Instead, roll the whip in circular motions behind him, flick it or lightly crack it.

Use a downward tone for a downward transition. If your horse doesn’t respond, give a couple of light tugs on the lunge line and repeat your command. It may help to shorten up the lunge line slightly.

To ask for a halt, stand still, give a light tug on the lunge line and say “whoa” or “ho”. It may help to move toward your horse’s chest, facing slightly backward. If he doesn’t obey you, gradually make the circle smaller and insist that he halt by giving a sharp tug on the lunge line.

To change direction, halt your horse on the circle. Reverse the whip so that the handle points to the front and pull it up under your arm. Walk toward your horse, looping the lunge line in your hand as you go. Switch the lunge line and whip in your hands, turn your horse around, attach the lunge line to the other side of the halter or bridle if necessary, and send him back out on the circle.

Keep sessions short (15 – 30 minutes). Allow your horse to warm up and cool down at the walk. Don’t canter until he is calm and obedient at the trot.

Like everything else to do with horses, lungeing is more difficult than it looks. Practice in the presence of your coach or other experienced horseperson. Don’t allow your horse to gallop or buck like a maniac around you. If he tends to play up, turn him loose for a while before you begin. Correct him when he doesn’t listen, and praise him when he does. He must understand that this is work time, not playtime.

Once you have the basics down, lungeing will become an interesting and enjoyable option to riding for both you and your horse.