When we think about lunging training for our horses, the first thing that comes to mind is usually that our horse is going on a circle and we, or a trainer, are standing in the middle of that circle. We make the horse move with the whip, but what are we doing with our body?
Horses are naturally herd-bound animals. When they are in the wild, there is an alpha mare who leads the herd. The herd learns that wherever she goes, they will follow and be safe. This is the position we want to be in with our horses. We want them to know that when they follow us at their own will, they will be safe.
We’ll start teaching your horse to respond to your body language by practicing with stopping the horse at a walk. Think about what auditory cue you want to give your horse. It’s important to pair an auditory cue with your body language so that your horse knows what’s expected of him.
You can carry a short whip to help teach your horse. Start by having your horse in a halter. We prefer a rope halter so that you can clearly establish cues with your horse. You can attach a lead rope as well. Stand beside your horse and ask them to walk. After a few steps, stop and plant your feet. How does your horse respond? Does he walk on a couple steps, continue walking, or slow down? If he continues walking without any notice to you stopping, give the halter a halt until he stops.
If he slows down as you stop, reward him with a pat or praise! This is the action that you want. Remember to use your auditory cue as you stop your feet. Try walking him and stopping your feet again, and as you stop, turn your body towards your horse, closing your outside shoulder. We are now incorporating your body language and your movement as you ask your horse to stop his feet, too.
You can keep walking and stopping with your horse until you feel that he understands this. When you start your lunging training, you will be able to use this to cue your horse on the lunge line.