Have you ever watched your horse race around the lunge line like they’ve never cantered a day in their life?
Your horse is great under saddle – her brain is there with you and she understands your seat cues.
So what happens when she gets out on the lunge line?
We often get this question in our masterclass: “My horse is trustworthy and calm under saddle, but when I send her out on the lunge line, she takes off and leaves me pulling and “skiing” around the arena. What do I do?”
Often when a horse races around the circle or looks like she is trying to lunge herself, she needs more guidance on the lunge line.
Your horse could be exhibiting this behavior for a number of reasons. They might not know what to do on the lunge line, they might be under muscled or out of balance, or they might have had a previous bad experience on the lunge line. All of these are fixable through proper lunging training!
Before you work with your horse on the lunge line, we recommend going back to the basics and showing her what to expect from a lunging session: calm, confident, and connected behavior.
Attach your horse to the lunge line like you normally would (ideally, with a cavesson). Begin by walking your horse to the middle of the circle. Then walk alongside her in a circle, standing next to her shoulder with your shoulders perpendicular. You want her to understand that she is only expected to walk calmly next to you. It should look like this:
Once she has quietly walked two laps with you, you can send her out onto the circle in a walk by herself.
Finally, you can ask her to trot on the smaller circle. If she is relaxed and calm, you can ask her for a bigger circle. She should end the session in a relaxed headspace, looking like this:
Another option we recommend looking at when you have a horse who likes to take off around the circle is her transitions. What are her transitions like under saddle? Is she balanced and steady? Does she skip into the canter from a trot? Are you only able to canter her from a trot?
If you answered yes to any of those, we highly recommend going back to the basics on the lunge line. Often when a horse is unable to balance around the circle, she’ll pick up her speed to make up for it.
Help this with transitions on the lunge line:
- Walk to trot
- Trot to canter
- Canter to trot
- Canter one lap, and back to trot, to reset the brain and build the muscle
- Using hills if you have them
We always recommend using a cavesson versus a halter because a cavesson allows your horse the balance to work from her nose verses from her inside shoulder. Using a cavesson can prevent some of these balance issues and allow your horse to develop proper muscle.
Lunging training is a cross-exercise to help develop muscles in your horse in addition to riding. When your horse is not able to balance themselves around the circle, she is telling you that she needs more balance. Allow her a bigger circle for one lap and then tighten her trot circle, but be sure she is operating in a relaxed mind.
We recommend developing a lunging training plan so you can track her progress. Imagine how well she will be able to balance on the lunge line in 4 weeks!