Lunging a horse

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Working the horse on a lunge line or long reins is a good way to prepare unbroken horses for riding. It is also an excellent complement to the daily exercise of a trained horse.

If you have never lunged or long-reined a horse, ask someone with experience to help and instruct you. Incorrect training may do more harm than good. Other than an experienced assistant, it may also be good to watch one of the many DVDs on the subject that are available on the market.

When you lunge the horse, you are working it on a line in a circle around you. You should be placed at the centre of the circle, and your arms should frame the horse in a V-shape, with you at the bottom. In one hand you hold the line, which leads to the horse's mouth, and in the other you hold the whip, which is used to drive the hind legs forwards. You mainly give commands and regulate the tempo using your voice, the whip can be used to reinforce the driving or steering commands.

Before you start lunging, you need to warm up your horse by leading it around for the same amount of time that you would warm it up before a riding session. Once you start the lunge, you can continue warming up with a trot before adding any auxiliary reins, see the separate list of reins that you can use.

If you do decide to rein in the horse – do it in two steps. This is of particular importance in order to reduce the risk of panic when you are working with young, sensitive horses. The reason for using side or draw reins is to help the horse find the right shape and balance during the session. Change directions so that the horse spends an equal amount of time working on each side.

When you are working with long reins, you use two reins and is thus able to control both sides of the horse, which means that it is easier to frame the horse in long-reining than in lunging. You can work the horse on a straight or curved line, and work on sideways movement. However, long-reining requires more practice and sensitivity than lunging. The impact of the reins here is so much stronger than that of the lunge line, or that of the reins when you are riding. Before you long-rein the horse, you warm up in the same way as before lunging.

Remember to use as few commands as possible, and be consistent. Both lunging and long-reining should be done in non-slippery conditions.

Suggested equipment for lunging:

  • Boots or wraps on all four legs
  • Saddle or lunging roller
  • Lunge pad
  • Possibly a crupper
  • Bridle or cavesson
  • Lunge line
  • Auxiliary reins (see below)

Suggested equipment for long-reining:

  • Boots or wraps on all four legs
  • Long-reining roller
  • Lunge pad
  • Possibly a crupper
  • Bridle
  • Reins

Suggested handler equipment for lunging and long-reining:

  • Helmet
  • Gloves
  • Lunge whip

Suggested auxiliary reins and other lunging equipment:

  • Chambon
  • De Gogue
  • Training reins
  • Side reins Lunging rig that is intended to help the horse to step under and not place too much weight on the front legs.
  • Lunging aid, which replaces the lunging roller and auxiliary reins. Cotton cord that is placed around the back and between the front legs before being fastened in the bit rings.

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