Let’s Get Started: The Assessment

Most of us have lunged a horse in some way before. But have you started your lunging training plan with an Assessment?

The Assessment is the first thing you should do for every horse you want to lunge. Completing the assessment allows you to check your horse for lameness or injuries, check her form and mental state, and to make sure she is in the right space to work with the lunging training plan you created. 

Start out by making sure you have a safe arena with solid footing. You can either lunge your horse with a cavesson and a lunge line, or you can free lunge your horse in a round pen.  

Next, decide how you’re going to set up your filming area. You can either place your phone or camera on the ledge of the ring, on a nearby bench, on a tripod, etc. If you choose to hold your phone and lunge your horse, be sure to hold your phone in your right hand if you’re lunging on the left lead. 

Observe how your horse balances itself and ask the following questions:

  • What is the confirmation of your horse’s neck like?
  • How does your horse balance itself in walk, trot and canter?
  • Is each gait rhythmical?
  • Does it hollow its back?
  • Is your horse stiff?
  • Is it strong?
  • Powerful?
  • Spooky or unflappable?
  • Is it accepting the bit?
  • How has it developed in its hindquarters, back, belly, loins, and neck?

Here are good signs that you should look for:

  • A relaxed, swinging tail
  • Snorting or blowing 
  • Your horse’s step under himself for each direction
  • A relaxed, swinging hind end
  • A good rhythm

Take your horse’s conformation into account. What is his neck and back shaped like? Is he more prone to reaching or falling on the forehand becuase of his breed? It’s important during the  assessment to understand your horse’s bigger picture, instead of focusing on wrong or right. If your horse is slow or short stepping, go two steps back in The Pyramid of Training and encourage your horse forward.  You’ll want to ask for a stronger trot and shorter trot transitions. 

You can also use Lauffer reins to encourage your horse to lengthen his stride. Focus on making your lunging circle smaller & wider, while focusing your whip on your horse’s inside haunches.  

Check out our Assessment video of Moe who is being lunged the first time after a couple months of winter break.

Accumulating this knowledge about a particular horse enables you to make sensible decisions about lunging it to its best advantage.

The General Lunging Session

When lunging, as with riding, it’s important to remember that the horse should be asked to go forward into all transitions, both upward and downward. In addition to a horse’s normal work, you can lunge him 2-3 times a week. Avoid putting stress on your horse’s legs by keeping your lunging sessions between 30 and 40 minutes.

Every horse starts with a warm-up period. From there, you should lunge your horse forward while they become loose and supple. You can then begin lunging basics, taught in a later lesson, and from there take it to balanced lunging.