Now that winter is knocking at our door, it is a good time to look at some exercises we can do when the weather is too nasty to ride.
Lunging your horse (sending him around you on a rope) is an excellent way to take a little energy out of a fresh horse. It also is a great way to access your horse’s attitude before a ride. Lunging is also a good training method to get your horse attentive to your cues, responsive, and listening to you. Lunging provides you an opportunity to see with your own two eyes, how your horse moves and teach you how to read his body language. Here are a few tips to make lunging easy and effective as a training tool.
Equipment you need: Many lunge lines you buy are flat pieces of rope. These flat lunge lines tangle easily and become a knot before you know it. A 5/8 inch round (lead rope diameter), twenty –five foot in length, equipped with a brass snap is a much easier rope to lunge with. This round rope slides easily through your gloved hand (always wear gloves when you handle ropes to prevent rope burns) and has a good weight to it. A one-piece lunge whip is easier to use than a two-piece that fits together at the middle of the shaft. When you are first learning to lunge your horse, it can be difficult to handle the lunge line in one hand and work the whip in the other. To make this task easier, practice with the whip alone. Place a bucket twenty feet away from you as your target and practice flicking the whip at it. Practice with both left and right hands so you are proficient at both. To lunge you may use a lunging caveson, web halter or a rope halter.
Steps: Today I will explain using a rope halter with the lunge line.
Place your halter on your horse’s head. Adjust it so the cheek piece (that goes around the nose) fits right below the check bone. You don’t want it so low that it will interfere with the horse’s breathing or too high so it sits above the cheek.
Attach your lunge line in the bottom ring of the rope halter, under the horse’s chin.
Point your lunge line in the direction you want your horse to move. Hold it in your right hand for the horse to go right. Hold it in your left hand for the horse to go left. To lunge your horse to the right (clockwise), hold the lunge line in your right hand. Lift your right hand and point in the direction (right) that you want your horse to go. Use a verbal command like walk to start the movement. Always stay behind the driveline when you lunge or round pen your horse. The driveline is the slope of the shoulder. If your body gets in front of the driveline, your horse will stop and face you. Staying behind your horse’s driveline with your body allows you to get forward momentum by driving the hindquarters forward. (A good visual aid to help you is to tie a piece of twine around your horse’s neck. It makes the driveline more visible.
To change directions, change your tools. To lunge left, place the lunge line in the left hand and lunge whip in your right. If your horse moves in toward you as you change directions, check to make sure you
Your lunge whip hand (the left-hand lunging to the right) provides the momentum and dictates the speed of your horse. There are five phases of pressure that you apply. The first and least amount of pressure is verbal, you ask your horse to walk, trot or canter. If there is no response from your horse, increase the pressure to the second level, by moving the whip from behind you to a position behind him where he can see it. If there is no response to this, increase the pressure to the third level by flicking the whip on the ground behind your horse. If your horse still ignores you, tap him on the hocks with the whip until he moves forward. The fifth level of pressure is the most important. That is to remove the pressure once the horse responds by positioning the whip behind you. Many times, I see people chasing their horse round and round with the whip. That is not our goal here. Our goal is to get our horse to respond to our commands and then to release the pressure. That’s his reward and his incentive to repeat the behavior.
are behind the driveline. If you are and his shoulder is drifting in, swing the whip at his shoulder until he moves out and makes the circle larger.
Just like the alpha mare, whoever makes the others feet move is in charge. So if you find your horse lunging you and standing in the middle of the arena that’s a problem. Draw a small box in the sand of the arena and try to keep your feet inside the box. Remember the goal is to move your horse’s feet not yours.
With all the ice we have this year free lunging your horse before you ride can help let out his excess energy in a safe manner.