Using Lunging to Assess Your Horse for Better Riding

Have you experienced a moment under saddle where you feel like something might be off? Maybe you ride alone often without someone to watch or you’re looking for a new perspective to see how your horse moves. This week we’re showing you how you can use lunging to asses your horse, including seeing any trouble your horse is having from the ground!

using lunging to assess horse

First, we’ll start with your building blocks. We recommend you use The Pyramid of Training as a lunging guide. Here’s how it can help you better your lunging.

Using the Pyramid of Training as a Lunging Guide

The Pyramid of Training is a training guide that organizes your horse’s levels of rhythm, relaxation, connection, impulsion, straightness, and collection. Having been created by the USDF, the Pyramid of Training is most commonly used in the Dressage world but it is a handy tool for all equestrians. If you want to use it, you can find the Pyramid of Training here.

You can use the Pyramid of Training to help create the lunging training plan you make for your horse so it acts as a guide. For example, as you’re creating your lunging training plan, you can add to each session a goal that helps you work towards a block on the Pyramid of Training.
Then you can add in exercises to practice, what equipment to set out that day (poles, cavaletti, etc), and small goals for each session. You’ll want to build up each block of the pyramid over time. So, you might spend a few months building up your young horse’s rhythm, for example.

Additionally, you can incorporate the Pyramid of Training with your well-rounded horses to strengthen their movement and coordination. A horse who lunges calmly on the lunge line might have a good understanding of the first level, relaxation.

using lunging to assess horse

He can benefit from starting to focus on the connection to his aids using the relaxation he has learned, moving him up the pyramid. That’s the benefit of the pyramid – each block builds off of the block before it.

First Plan Your Lunging, Now Assess Your Horse

First, the lunging process starts when you plan your lunging session. That’s where you set your goal. As you get your horse ready for lunging, think about what areas you’re looking to work through this session from your lunging plan. To better guide yourself in assessing your horse using lunging, you can ask yourself the following questions:

⤻ How was your horse last session?

⤻ What are your goals for this session?

⤻ Is there anything you are working on in your riding that you can see and work through on the ground?

These answers will help you start your lunging session off right because they begin to connect your lunging to your riding!

As you walk your horse out to the ring, look for confirmation issues or imbalances, for instance. Listen to the sound of your horse’s feet as he walks so you can measure. Does his tempo sound even? Do you hear stiffness? Is he uptight? Make mental notes on your way out so you can factor them into your goal.

As you send him out onto the circle, see how he reacts as he goes around to get a feel for where he’s at. For example, is there a certain spot where he spooks that he also does under saddle? What can you notice about how he goes along on the the circle that might point to issues you’re having under saddle? Take the sitting trot, for instance.

Using the Lunge to Perfect Your Sitting Trot

If you’re working through perfecting your sitting trot, ask your horse for the trot that you sit at on the lunge line. Do this so you can get a new perspective on your horse’s movement. For example, do you notice any imbalances? or hiccups? Most importantly, is he comfortable at this gait? A happy horse will give you a relaxed, swinging tail and snorts or blows of air. Finding the level where he is strongest from the ground allows you to better your cues because you’re starting from the ground up.

Using your horse’s comfort is to your advantage because he naturally relaxes. Once you find the gait that he works best at, you can use it to help him through difficult tasks. Does he consistently spook at the shovel leaning up against the fence? Under saddle, you can bring him to the nice working trot you found and move him through it, for instance. All thanks to you using lunging to assess your horse during your session!

Now you’ve used lunging to assess your horse’s movement on the ground. Next, you can make notes in your lunging training plan! Remember to start with a manageable goal and go from there. Stay tuned for more of our guides to better lunging!

Curious to Learn More?

Check out our Basic Course – The Art of Lunging!

Your self-study guide to learning the foundations and applications of lunging through discussion of equipment, methods, and long-term goals. Includes exclusive access to our How-To Library video guide.
We combined reading material and video examples to create a comprehensive self-study lunging course. All from your phone or computer!