How to lunge a horse properly
To lunge a horse properly means that your horse moves around you in a controlled manner in a circle on the end of a special lunge line. During the lunge session you’re leading your horse in a circle around a small enclosure. Lunging (or longeing) is a very useful exercise and can help you and your horse to improve your horse’s balance and slow gates such as walk and trot.
It is possible to lunge a horse with a regular bit harness or with special heavy cavesson bridle which is specially designed and efficient bitless bridle for gymnastic groundwork and riding.
1. Find an enclosed pasture or a ring about 47-48 ft which would be ideal size for lunging.
If possible try to work with your horse in an enclosed space like a riding arena or a small pasture. Remember that no matter how careful you are accidents can always happen. A horse must feel that it is in an enclosed space but not too narrow. Begin to work with your horse using your lunge line and your lunge whip.
2. Prepare the lunging gear.
You will need a lunge whip and a lunge line.
Make sure the halter reasonably fits your horse. It should be not too tight or too loose.
Lunge line should be with a chain on the end to offer full control.
Always wear gloves. This is a step you cannot skip. Horses are huge animals and thus unpredictable. If your horse does something unexpected you can easily get rope burn. Sometimes you can get rope burn even when wearing gloves. So be careful.
It is very important to secure the horse’s reins. You need to loop the reins over each other again and again. Then take the throatlatch and put it between the reins and then secure it. This way the reins follow the horse’s neck line and the reins won’t slip and fall.
If you’re lunging a horse with the bridle the USEF rulebook says that we should attach the lunge line like this:
You go around the horse’s bit on the inside and then you go under their chin.
Then attach the lunge line to the other side of the bit.
This way it affects both sides of the bit so your horse won’t go in too big of a circle and stay on the appropriate geometry.
If you’re lunging a horse with the halter, run the chain on the end of a lunge line through the square opening on the one side of the halter over the horse’s nose, bring it through the other side, same square opening and attach it back to itself. This way if your horse wants to run and buck you have control of her and you don’t have to do anything when you want to change directions.
Make sure you use a lunge whip, don’t use your short whip because it doesn’t have a lash. The lunge whip with the lash will help you to keep a horse in a big enough circle.
Hold your lunge line like this:
This is the safest way to ensure that your fingers won’t get tangled. You want to make sure that you stay as organized as possible with your lunge line. This way you can prevent accidents like getting wrapped up or even breaking the fingers.
Pick up your lunge line and decide which direction you’re going to go in. If a horse is going to the left which is the way I’ll usually start, the lunge line needs to be in your left hand and the lunge whip needs to be in your right hand.
You need to reel out the lunge line and follow along with her.
If you want to change directions, stop the horse with voice command. The chain on the end of the lunge line helps to pull her back. Simply pull her to you and head her the opposite direction. Put your lunge line in the right hand and pick up your lunge whip in the left hand along the way. That way you create a ‘pie section’ with your whip and your lunge line so the horse knows to go forward. I usually walk at her hip so the horse knows to go forward.
Horses are herd animals so you should get behind them and push them forward with your body language.
Be sure your lunge line never touches the ground. Keep your horse from stepping on it and try not to tangle in it yourself.
Lunging your horse is a great way to build muscles, to check for lameness and see what kind of mood your horse is in.
Stopping the lunging
If you want to stop lunging, first of all, drop your whip, pull back the lunge line on her and reel her to you. Give her a pat if she was a good girl (or a good boy).