Whether you have a young horse who you haven’t backed yet or you’re brand-new to the art of lunging, it’s important to make sure you’re starting out on the right foot (or hoof!)
Usually when we think of lunging, we think of a halter and a long lunge line. While those are great tools, there is so much more you need to know to get started.
The first thing we recommend is using a cavesson for your horse. This will help you to communicate effectively with your horse without pulling on his mouth or risking pulling the bit through the other side. We also recommend using a 30+ft lunge line as well as a surcingle, and later down the road, a pair of sliding side reins.
So, you have all the right gear and you and your horse are ready to go. What’s next?
Start off with Body Language
Body language cues are incredibly important while lunging. You want to be sure that you’re using all of your lunging aids as efficiently as possible. Your horse should know when to stop, move forward, or move out on the lunge line with your body language.
Teach your Horse How to Walk
It sounds simple, right? But if your horse has never been on a lunge line before, attaching a long line to their nose and asking them to move out isn’t going to get you very far (or, if your horse takes off around the arena, maybe it will!) Start off by walking next to your horse as you hold the lunge line in your other hand. You want your horse to learn how to move on the circle. As your horse gets more confident, you can send him out for a walk in a small circle. Slowly increase your circle size as he starts to get the hang of it.
Don’t Move Too Fast
It’s important to remember that lunging is a great cross-training exercise – in that it uses muscles you wouldn’t normally use while riding. Just like you’re sore after going to the gym, your horse gets tired, too! Keep your lunging sessions to about 20 minutes when you’re first starting out and be sure that there is a warm-up and a cool-down included.
While you’re building your horse’s muscle, you can use transitions as you go. Start with an upward transition to a trot and use your whip and your voice to be sure he’s keeping a steady rhythm. Once he’s given you a lap of a good working trot, you can ask him to move downward into the walk. Be sure he’s keeping a steady rhythm as you ask him to move through the transitions. This will not only help his topline, but his brain as well to start to understand the work you’re doing.
That’s our beginner guide to lunging training! Want to learn more about how to lunge, exercises to practice, and how to develop a lunging training plan? Join our masterclass and learn The Art of Lunging!