Imagine getting out onto the lunge line with a relaxed and happy horse. A horse who has self-carriage, rhythm, and bends around the circle. A horse who enjoys lunging and benefits from the cross-exercise to riding.
Does that seem impossible?
With proper lunging training, a scenario like the one above is absolutely possible for you and your horse!
One question we are often asked at Lungeing Training is, “how do I encourage my horse to bend around the circle?”
Having a horse who is able to bend around the circle is a horse who is developing or improving muscle in their neck, back, and hind end. We want to encourage bending so that your horse is using both his inside and outside muscles to create rhythm around the circle. This helps to give you a fluid and flexible horse.
But how do we get there?
The first thing we recommend for your lunging training session is to use a cavesson. If you’re not sure where to get one or why to use one, check out our recent blog post on this! We discourage using a halter especially when you’re trying to achieve bending around the circle. A cavesson distributes even pressure over the nose and throughout the face so you stop your horse from just turning his nose into the circle versus using his neck.
Just like in riding, we want to encourage your horse to fully bend. When we’re riding, a cue we can look for to achieve this is seeing your horse’s inside eye.
When you’re starting to ask your horse to bend, he’ll often stretch down and out too. That’s great! We want to encourage stretching, too, as this is crucial to your horse being able to sustain a full bend around the circle.
Start with your horse’s walk. As he’s on the lunge line, give a slight half-halt on your cavesson, and encourage him forward. Your horse will either start to bend or stretch down and out. Continue to encourage your horse forward into an upward movement, while gently holding pressure on the cavesson. When your horse gives into the bend, release the pressure on his nose. You can practice this at all three gaits once you feel your horse is strong enough to sustain this at the walk.
You can also use your whip as an extension of your arm, similar to how you’d use your inside leg while riding. Point the end of your whip at your horse’s shoulder as you encourage bend with slight pressure on the cavesson. This should help your horse to move his shoulder under him and turn his nose inward from the neck, causing a nice round bend around the circle.
It’s important to remember when we’re using lunging as a cross-exercise that it will take some time to build your horse’s musculature. As you’re teaching your horse to bend, be sure that you’re allowing breaks for rest as well. This is hard work!
Want an in-depth experience into lunging with your horse? Join us for our upcoming masterclass, starting August 23rd: The Art of Lunging.