How to Teach Your Horse to Balance on the Lunge Line

Does your horse often stumble on the lunge line or trip over their own feet under saddle? Do you find yourself constantly having to pick your horse’s head up? Riding and working this way can be frustrating for you, and your horse too!

Unbalanced horses often end up frustrated or unable to listen during a lunging session because they don’t have the muscle to do what is being asked of them! We can use lunging training to help find the problem, fix the problem, and create an overall balanced horse!

What does it mean to be unbalanced?

You are able to see and feel balance issues. Under saddle, an unbalanced horse will often trip over himself on the forehand. He might also hang onto the bit, especially as he’s moving through transitions.

On the lunge line, you might see your horse rush into and out of all transitions. He might rush into the canter. Once he’s there, he might not be able to hold the canter for a full lap or at all. You might see your horse mismatching his rhythm with his front and hind legs.

These are all signs that your horse could be unbalanced. If you see these signs in your horse, how do you fix it?

Setting your Balance Goal

Now that you’ve recognized your horse’s imbalance, it’s time to set a goal! First look at where your horse is unbalanced. On the forehand? In his hindquarters? In his shoulder? Once you have this, it’s important to set a manageable goal. Remember, strength training for your horse takes time to build muscle just like cross-training for us in the gym!

Setting Clear Communication

If your horse isn’t clear as to what you’re asking for on the lunge line, he won’t build the confidence to be able to do it! Remember to use all three of your lunging aids – your whip, voice, and body language – to communicate clearly with your horse. Your whip is always the forward driving aid and your body language should communicate the speed. With your voice, you can give clear commands and expectations for your horse.

Learn more about body language for lunging here.

Read more about teaching your horse lunging commands here.

Lunging Exercises to Gain Balance

Long Oval

A horse lunging on too-small of a circle (less than 40ft in diameter), often trips over himself and is unable to balance at more than the trot. Increase your circle size into a long oval, taking up more space on the circle than you had previously.

Short Laps

From here, you can ask your horse for a half-lap of the gait he is having trouble working on. If he is unbalanced at the canter, for example, ask him to canter just down the long side of the long oval you have created, then bring him back to trot. It’s important that he is able to canter just a few steps before you ask him back to the trot so that he builds his confidence on the lunge.

Trot Poles

You can add in trot poles, spaced evenly apart, down the long side of your circle as well. Trot poles help to even out your horse’s rhythm, evenly working the muscles in his haunches and hocks. Be sure as he is going through the trot poles that he is in a working pace and keeping a steady rhythm.

Isolating Each Muscle

For horses who are falling over at the shoulder, you can point your whip at your horse’s shoulder and lightly tap his shoulder with it, to ask him to move off of the inside track. This will help him to bring his shoulder under himself and lift from his back.

For horses who need to use their hocks and step more under themselves, you can do the same at the hip. Ask him to lift his hip in and under himself as he steps on the circle.

These exercises are best done at the trot. For more experienced lungers or for lungers who are looking for more advanced foot placement and self-carriage, these can be done on the canter circle as well.

Focus on Rhythm

A horse who’s footfall is out of rhythm isn’t going to gain the strength they need in their abdomen and hindquarters to have balance around the circle. If your horse is rushing into upwards transitions or out of downward transitions, start from the beginning. Get him into a forward-moving gait and ask him for an upward transition. Be sure that you’re not chasing him into the forward gait – instead, use your lunging aids of your whip and body language to encourage him forward. This should keep him in a steady rhythm as he moves up into the faster gait.

For downward transitions, you want to ask the same way – be sure that your horse is keeping a steady rhythm. You can do this by half-halting on the lunge line, using your voice to slow him down, and closing your shoulders to indicate you want a slower speed. As he moves into the downward transition, be sure he’s keeping a steady rhythm by keeping your whip behind him, just the same way as you’d use your leg under saddle.