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 Lunging... Execution and Training by Redhawk
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Trail Boss (Moderator)

6117 Posts

Posted - 11/04/2007 :  06:35:47 AM  Show Profile  Visit Hook's Homepage Send Hook a Private Message
Originally Posted - 10/09/2006 : 12:16:19 reposted from the beginning Rider Board

For the purpose of instruction, I will assume your horse already knows how to lunge. Training a horse to lunge is slightly different, and Iíll get to that in a bit. Outfit your horse with a good-fitting halter, a lunge line (I prefer a 20 foot line.), and a lunge whip (A whip with a long lash on it that is usually longer than the actual whip.). Start by carrying the lunge line in very large loops in your hand or "butterfly" it like in a figure 8 type pattern and hold it that way. NEVER wrap the line around your hand or let it drag on the ground where your feet could become entangled in the line. If your horse happened to spook, you could be dragged.

We will begin by lunging the horse to the left, since most horses work easier to the left than to the right, but they should be worked equally in both directions. This will put the left side of the horse toward you once the horse is working on the end of the line. Once you have led him into a small arena or a round pen, face his left side and hold the line in your left hand. Tug on the line up close to his halter with your right hand to urge him to move away from you. I use a clucking sound to move my horses out onto the lunge line. It's the same cue I use to load them into the trailer. They know it means to go forward when I don't move with them.

If he refuses to move forward, stand facing his side and tap him either with the end of the lunge line or a lunge whip on his rear with your right hand. Feed out the line as he walks away from you. If he's still reluctant to leave you, keep the lunge short and step to one side so you are standing across from the horseís rear more than his head. Do not walk up onto his rear or behind him. That would be a prime location to get kicked if the horse was inclined to do so. This is why a lunge whip works well for this. You can touch him without putting yourself within kicking range. Try walking in a circle with you walking a smaller circle than the horse. Then slowly let him get farther away from you as you let out more line and continue walking your smaller circle inside his larger one. Keep him going as I've outlined above and try to stay more in one spot as he gets closer to the end of the line, and he should be more willing to work for you.

Remember; when you are standing in the middle of the circle, step to the side so you are more even and across from his hips to move him forward. Moving toward his head will slow him down or make him stop. Sometimes, it'll even make him reverse depending on how close you are to him and how far you are ahead of him. Tense or excited body posture should urge your horse to go faster. Relaxed or limp type of body posture should slow him down.

This is also the way to control his speed and what gait he is in. Your body position will tell him how fast to go. If he doesn't want to go to a faster gait, raise your arms and use a verbal cue to urge him faster. Once he's into the faster gait, lower your arms, relax, and let him work. If he slows down, urge him on. When changing to a slower gait, and light tug on the line and walking more across from his head or shoulder should slow him down enough to change gaits.

Once the horse is responding well to walk/trot/canter, reverse, and whoa see if you can slow or speed up any one gait. All 3 gaits have 3 different speeds... slow, normal, and extended. These can all be controlled by your position to the horse and how tense or relaxed your body is.

Then, you can start having fun once your horse can do all these things on the lunge line and on cue. Mix up the routine and keep the horse guessing just what you may ask him to do next. Some things Iíve done with my own horse are to stop, reverse, and then stop, again, before allowing him to move on. And I've done just the opposite. I've had my horse at a hand gallop and asked him to reverse without actually stopping. The result was a beautiful rollback in the opposite direction. Try going from a trot to a walk, canter to trot, stop and reverse at the trot or a canter. It's fun, and some horses really get into the game.

A word of warning: Please, be careful at the faster gaits if you are lunging in a more open area. If your horse takes it in his head to run in a straight line instead of on the circle, he will drag you if you don't let go. And by all means if he does that, just let him go. Once he stops, you can bring him back and start over. If you continue to have problems in this regard, put a chain under his chin to give you something a little more severe to control him. Just start slowly, gradually and don't get into too big of a rush at the faster gaits.

Now, to teach a horse to lunge, outfit your horse with a good-fitting halter and a lead rope about 10 to 12 feet in length. I'd also do this in an enclosed area such as a small arena or a round pen. I will assume your horse is at least a 2 year old and knows how to listen to you when you are working him with a halter and lead. He should know how to stop, walk, turn, and possibly trot quietly beside you when asked for it. Any horse should know these things before learning to lunge. If you can't control him when you are standing by his shoulder, he definitely will not obey you on the end of a 20 foot lunge line. Control is vital in this respect.

Lead the horse beside you, gradually let out the lead, and still keep control of him. Once the horse is on the end of the lead line with his attention focused on you, stand directly across from his head. Without getting any closer to him, face the horse and take one step to the side toward his rear. Some horses will go immediately forward at this point. If so, let him circle quietly around you at a walk. If he doesn't move when stepping toward his rear, lightly tap him with a lunge whip and verbally urge him forward.

(Remember to use the same precautions I outlined earlier to keep you out of kicking range, and the horse should be desensitized so the whip is only an extension of your arm and not something to be feared.)

You will have to experiment to find out how far you must step forward or backward to slow the horse down, make him stop, or turn in the opposite direction. I also use verbal cues such as whoa (full stop and donít move), easy (slow down but keep moving), and hup (reverse). Always try and stay in the center of the circle you have created, let him turn around you, and keep facing him. Step either to the left or right for cueing him to do these things. If he doesn't, go back to leading him at the shoulder and asking him to stop, turn, walk, etc. Then try it at the end of the lead, again.

Your next step is to exchange the lunge line for the lead rope. Urge your horse forward on about 10 or 12 feet of line. Use the lunge whip if he's a bit reluctant to move out and try the same exercises that you did with the lead rope at a nice calm walk. At anytime the horse is not paying attention or seems confused, back up and review the steps I outlined above. If he can walk quietly and stop & turn when you ask him at this length, give him more line. Once heís working well at the walk on the end of the line, I'd ask for a trot. Use exactly the same body cues at the trot as you did for the walk.

All these steps take patience and will not be done in one day. Take it slow, and if the horse gets out of control or doesn't understand what you are asking him to do, back up a step or two and review. This will help you regain control and let the horse have time to understand what is being asked of him to do.

Eventually, you should be able to control him on a 20 foot diameter circle at all 3 gaits. Once you have achieved this level, then you can start using verbal cues and your body posture to speed these gaits up or slow them down. You can start asking for transitions and reversing at different gaits. This is what makes lunging fun and exciting, but it all starts with having a horse that will listen to you when you are just leading them around by the halter and lead.

"God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses"
--Robert Browning

One can get in a car and see what MAN has made, one must get on a horse to see what GOD has made.

Edited by - Red Hawk on 10/10/2006 11:13:45

Edited by - Hook on 11/04/2007 06:39:51 AM
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