You’ve either seen a trainer or been the trainer on the other end – either way, you’ve seen a horse at the end of the lunge line completely ignoring any aids from his trainer!
Have you ever been at a show, trying to lunge your horse’s sillies out, and he just won’t listen to anything you’re saying?! We’ve all been there at some point and it is so embarrassing! Your horse being able to listen and respond to your voice aids is not only important, it’s beneficial to create a safe and relaxing environment for you and your horse! While there isn’t a “magic fix” for a situation like this, we do have some helpful hints you can practice before you try to lunge again.
Before We Begin: A Note on Body Language
Body language is a tool that you must have in your lunging training plan if you don’t already. Through your body language, you are able to communicate to your horse what you’d like of him without having to use any other aids. This seamless communication not only allows your horse to move freely through the transitions you’re asking for, but also provides a clear picture of what you want your horse to do in that moment. Curious to learn more about body language? Check out Basic Body Language for Lunging.
Teaching the Halt
You want to be sure that your horse’s halt is solidified on the ground next to you before you ever put him out on the lunge line. Remember that your half-halting aids on the lunge line are for communicating with your horse – not for stopping him! The more you pull on the lunge line to slow your horse, the more he will resist and pull back.
Say you have a horse who does this – how do you fix it?
As simple as it sounds – walking! Start out by walking next to your horse, attached to the lunge line like you normally would, and then plant your feet, square your shoulders, and stand tall. Did your horse stop? If he hasn’t worked with body language on the ground before, probably not!
You can give a half-halt on the lunge line until he stops, and try again. When he stops when you stop, praise him. Once he has learned that you planting your feet and squaring your shoulders means “stop”, you can start to add your voice command. Be sure that you’re using the same command every time and that you praise after each successful attempt.
Watch how to do this:
Moving Out onto the Circle
Now, we’ll work on a command that gets your horse out onto the circle. What we want your horse to do is to move out from your space and onto the lunging circle calmly and respectfully. You can start to teach this command by walking your horse out onto the circle, encouraging him forward into a walk, and walking back into your position in the center. Remember to use your lunging aids – your voice, body language, and whip – to show your horse where you want him to go.
When your horse is out onto the circle, you can mark this with whatever command you’re planning to use: “walk on”, “move out”, etc. Remember to use praise and clear commands as you’re teaching your horse this command.
Teaching Your Horse Upward and Downward Movement
This is the most crucial step in tying the two above steps together. If your horse knows to go and to stop, he also needs to know what to do in between! We recommend that you use the sound or command that you use in the saddle to keep your communication clear.
Once your horse is walking out on the circle, use that sound with your body language and your whip to help your horse move forward. It’s important to start to pair these aids as you teach the command. Remember that each aid is important on it’s own, but together they are a trifecta of clear communication for your horse on the lunge line.
When you ask your horse to slow down on the lunge line, start with a half-half. When he slows, praise him. You can then try again and add your command, or noise, to mark that behavior. Remember to praise him when he does what you ask and that he needs time to understand what you’re asking.
Happy lunging to you and your horse! Want more information on lunging or have questions? Join Lungeing Training – Lunging, Long-Reining, Horse Cross-Training here.