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An introduction to Lungeing Horses

Posted by Sean Fowden on

LUNGEING an Introduction

 

This article is designed to provide a general introduction to lungeing a horse that has already been ‘broken in’ to improve his way of going

Lungeing can play a very important part in the education or rehabilitation for a horse at any age.

One of his1 first experiences in training will probably have been on the lunge rein or long reining. He can learn to establish his natural rhythm on a circle, and become supple and balanced without having to cope with a rider's weight.

Even once they are working with a rider and saddle, lungeing exercises are useful for warming a horse up before being ridden by allowing the horse’s muscles the opportunity to stretch without the restriction of a rider.

A bit like the routines that sports people use, footballers, runners, swimmers and anyone who takes their sport seriously, ‘riders’ too can benefit from a warm up regime, but that’s for another day

This warm up should not be restricted to young horses, older ones also feel the benefit of doing warm up exercises on the lunge rather than being ridden straight away. Horses with ‘cold backs’, or who tend to be tense and over responsive, are quite often better for 15 minutes warming up on a lunge rein.

Of course, it is not always possible to lunge your horse at a competition, because of restricted room, but there should not be any excuse not to do so when you are at home.

Lungeing is also great for horses that have problems with contact (unsteady contact, incorrect bend, resistance in the neck) it is often easier to get such horses to step up to the bridle on the lunge.

Horses with a sensitive or weak back or those who become very tense in their back muscles can benefit immensely from lungeing exercises.

Lungeing also examines how successful or effective (or not) your schooling under saddle has been. You can quickly see how the horse carries himself and moves without a jockey to hamper him.
You do not need any fancy equipment, an ordinary head collar will suffice for this exercise.

You can quickly see if the horse is stretching down and swinging his back in a relaxed manner, what the German’s would call ‘lossgelassenheit’.

This state of relaxation and looseness on the lunge or under saddle, is very important as the basis of all training, without achieving this, you are always going to struggle to improve the horse’s way of going.

Lungeing is also useful for horses that are, coming back from an injury, especially if it has been in the saddle area.
Also if you are yourself injured or suffering from illness that prevents you from riding, lungeing can be used to exercise and school your horse until you are able to ride again.

 

However, if you really want to improve your horse’s way of going by using lungeing techniques you are going to need a few pieces of equipment.


Which of course, you can purchase from us at www.deboiz.co.uk

Optional Equipment List

  1. Headcollar (halter for our USA friends) leather or webbing.
    This can be used to introduce or re-introduce your horse to lungeing

    

 

  1. A lunge line with a swivel fitting
  2. Lungeing Headcollar or Cavesson

The extra rings on the noseband provide optional positions for attaching the lunge line.

  1. Roller Girth
          
  1. Bungee Reins


These are manufactured from 7mm or ¼ inch ‘bungee’ elastic with an adjustable lock so that you can set them at the correct length to use with your horse.
They apply gentle pressure to the ‘poll, which is relaxed as the horse stretches his neck down, encouraging him to swing his back.

  1. John Whittaker Training System

This training system helps develop neck and back muscles. It encourages the horse to work in an outline, which teaches him to move his weight and power to his hind legs, lightening the forehand. and self-carriage.

  1. Lunge Whip


Used to encourage the horse to go forward and for other signals.

  1. Brushing Boots

     

Don’t panic, you do not need everything on this list straight away and some of the items maybe never, I will explain as we go along.                                                                  

Part One

Lungeing on a Headcollar, or if you are from the USA a Halter

This can be done quite simply, only basic equipment is required,

Head collar leather or webbing,              

 

Lunge Rein with Swivel Clip

  

A Lunge Whip

 

 Brushing Boots

      

PLEASE NOTE

If your horse has not been lunged before, or you aren’t confident or think you may

have a bit of a problem, enlist the help of an assistant. 

If you are square on to the horse, like the photo above, or your left side is turned in to the horse,

he could read this as a blocking position and stop.

Like everything it needs practice, so carry out a couple of circuits with your assistant leading the horse, if all goes well, ask the assistant to let go of the rein, but they should continue to walk at the horse’s shoulder to build up his confidence.

If this also goes well for a couple of circles, your assistant can leave you in the middle and move out of the circle, but not disappear, in case you need to go back a step for reinforcement of the training.

After about 5 minutes, ask the horse to halt by turning your body to the right and giving your halt command, “Whoa, Halt, Stop” (using your assistant initially if necessary).

 

Then ask the horse to “Come In” (repeat this command so he learns it) and collect the rein in loops over your left hand as he moves towards you.
When you have the horse in front of you, give him a reward, a piece of carrot etc., you know the drill.

Don’t forget a sweetie for your assistant either!

Quietly change the rein into your right hand and whip into the left and then carry out the same exercise on the right rein.

So ask your assistant to lead the horse out as before, except this time to the right and follow the same routine.

When finished bring the horse in to you by calling halt, whoa, halt or whatever you use and then ask him to ‘Come In’ again for his reward.

  • You have probably worked it out by now, but I will say it anyway. As with any form of training, if there is a problem with any of these steps, go back one step and repeat until perfected, then you are sure that the horse can move up a level.

Practice makes perfect.

Unassisted

Start as already described by leading your horse to the lungeing area, so the lunge rein will be coiled aver your left hand.

When you are ready, place yourself at what will be the centre of the lungeing circle.

Quietly move the whip in to your right hand, the lunge rein is already in your left hand and the horse will be on your right so it is natural and simpler to start on the left rein.

I would like to point out here that the whip should never, ever be used as a punishment. If you resort to using it as a punishment, not only will you have failed personally, but the horse will be unlikely to respond to the signals of the whip that we are going to teach him and to which, we want him to respond positively.

Horses are very sensitive to body language and your body position.
As ‘flight’ animals they are always looking for signs of aggression.
So it is helpful if you assume a posture that will help you drive the horse forward on the circle.

The traditional method is to form a triangle with your horse as the base, you as the point and your arms as the sides this means that your feet are staying more or less in the same place in relation to the horse’s body.

Instead of standing square on to him, on the Left Rein position yourself with your left shoulder pulled slightly away from the horse’s head and your right hip angled towards the horse’s right hip, (See Photo Above) your whip should be pointing at the horse’s shoulder. (Opposite on Right Rein)
This will help to push him forward .
 
As the horse circles, you step around staying on the same spot to maintain this position in relation to the horse.

If you are square on, or your left side is turned in to the horse, he could read this as a blocking position and stop.

Instead of encouraging the horse straight out to the extremity of the lunge rein, start by asking him to “walk on” pushing him away from you, by pointing the whip at his shoulder, until you could still just touch him with the extremity of the lunge whip.

Once he has moved out, the whip should be moved to point at his quarters and moved in a circling motion to drive him forward.

As you become more confident, you can push the horse out on the lunge rein by pointing the whip at his shoulder again and then resuming to point the whip at his quarters to drive him forward.

If his response is slow, a quick flick of the whip is usually sufficient to encourage him to put an inch to his step.

If he starts to pull away too much, leaning on the rein, point the whip at his quarters to push them out thereby turning the front end in, but you must maintain your feet and body position so that your belly button is pointing at his shoulder.

If you want him to stop, do so by turning your belly button more towards his girth as you continue walking, this will indicate by your movement across his track that you want him to stop and reinforcing with the voice command of your choice, stop whoa, halt.

Initially you may also need to shorten the lunge rein a loop at a time bringing him back towards you and decreasing the circle until he settles and follows your command.

Repeat all of this until he is obedient at walk, it may take a few days, all horses are different just like people.

When you are happy with his work at walk on a fully extended line.

If you are not making progress, do not despair or lose your temper, stay relaxed and calm and find an assistant to give you a hand.

  • You have probably worked it out by now, but I will say it anyway. As with any form of training, if there is a problem with any of these steps, go back one step and repeat until perfected, then you are sure that the horse can move up a level.

Practice makes perfect.

HERE ENDETH THE FIRST LESSON

Good luck from all here at de Boiz and have fun with your horse

This is the first of a series of guides we are producing for lungeing, we don’t claim to be experts, these articles are written from what we have been taught or learnt through our (Too Many Years) experience from our horses, who manage to come up with something we had never seen before, everyday!

Judith, Francesca and Sean


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