Using Lunging to Assess Your Horse for Better Riding – Part 2!

This is a follow-up piece to our last how-to article. If you haven’t read that yet, you can do so here.

So you’ve done the work and taken the time to find the issues your horse is having on the lunge line. You’ve given your horse her lunging assessment. Maybe you learned that your horse needs more impulsion in the hind end. Or that she is falling over at the shoulder going left. Or that she is consistently spooking in the back corner of the arena. You’ve completed the first step of improving your horse’s musculature and fitness! Now, let’s look at what to do next.

Your Lunging Training Plan

Creating Your Plan

First, you’ll need to go back to your lunging training plan. If you haven’t created one yet, now is the perfect time!

an example lunging training plan

If you’re creating your lunging training plan for the first time, think about how much time each week you have and want to spend lunging. We recommend lunging at least once per week and not more than three times per week if you are doing strenuous sessions.

We like to prepare our horse’s lunging training plans for a month at a time. For the first week, we list out the time we’re lunging, for how long, the exercises to use, and of course the goal to focus on! It’s best to start small and set your horse up for success! We take notes for each session and update the future sessions accordingly. Once you start using your lunging training plan and see your horse meeting your goals, you’ll realize how much you didn’t know you needed it! 

Updating Your Plan

You can start by setting your goals with the issues you want to work on in mind. Whether you’re creating your lunging training plan for the first time or updating your current one, you can start by planning each week based on you and your horse’s individual goals. Your lunging training plan works because it is flexible and able to be modified. Each week should have a goal or desire that you want to work on. Be sure to set your pace and keep in mind that it will take time for your horse to build muscle or gain rhythm. Plan your sessions accordingly. It’s also helpful to set individual monthly goals and goals overtime so that you have a big picture idea of where you’d like your horse to be in 6 months or a year’s time. These can be listed somewhere in your lunging training plan. It’s important to see your long-term goals often so you are encouraged to work towards them!

Working Through Issues

Developing Relaxation

If your goal is to develop your horse’s relaxation on the lunge line, for example, our best advice is to start out slow. Relaxation in your horse looks like a free swinging tail, a relaxed back and haunches, snorting or blowing air, and stretching long and low to the ground. These all take time to learn and for your horse to feel comfortable with. If you’re unsure where to go next, you can begin by getting back to basics. Your goal of gaining relaxation with your horse should start on the walk out to the ring. Encourage your horse to look around or sniff where she wants. Praise her for her calmness, both on the way to the ring and in the ring. Anticipate, but don’t create situations that might arise. That means you should be aware of where your horse might spook or what might affect her, but you should maintain a calm demeanor and expect her not to react. Even as you walk out to the ring and before you start lunging, you can start to teach or develop cues that will encourage your horse to relax that you can transfer to use under saddle. For example, if your horse is stretching long and low, you can praise her and mark it with a word like “stretch”. When you’ve associated the word with the action, if you feel your horse is stiff or not bending the way you’d like under saddle, you can use this word to encourage her to relax.

If you take your time, praise your horse for her relaxation, and focus on your goals each session, you will be setting you and your horse up for successful lunging!

Building Muscle

If your goal is to build your horse’s muscle, we recommend starting slow just like you would with creating relaxation. In your lunging training plan, set reasonable goals to build your horse’s musculature. Add in the exercises you want to practice for each session and which muscles you’re looking to work on that week. There are many ways to build your horse’s muscle on the lunge line. For example, adding in trot poles to your horse’s workout will encourage them to keep a steady rhythm and will build up the muscles in their haunches. Using gait transitions throughout your horse’s workout not only helps them to focus, but encourages them to lift and use their long back muscle that creates their topline. Check out our article on how to build your horse’s topline. As your horse gains muscle, they’re going to be a bit off-balance or over-balanced! That’s okay and to be expected. There will be other issues that arise as you develop your horse’s musculature. That’s where your lunging training plan comes in and can be helpful to set new goals once you’ve hit your previous milestones.

Curious to Learn More?

We cover all of these issues and more in our Basic Course – The Art of Lunging! You will also receive clear and detailed instructions about how to create your lunging training plan and how to use it to improve your horse’s lunging. Over the course of 10 self-study modules, you will learn from our comprehensive guide to lunging including a how-to video library! Check it out today!