Lunging. No doubt you’ve seen and perhaps even used lunging to exercise a horse before riding, or even instead of riding. Lunging can be a very beneficial tool in your training box, depending on the way you use it.
If lunging is used to simply get a horse tired, allowing them to wildly gallop around in a tight circle, then you might want to consider what this is actually achieving beyond working off excess energy. As a trainer focusing on good manners and correct biomechanics, there is nothing more frustrating than working with a horse who has developed the habit of racing off as soon as you ask them to move off in the lunge and worse, spinning around and taking off the other way when you wish to change direction. Not only does this indicate poor horsemanship by the person who has trained this into the horse, it can risk injury to both horse and handler.
Lunging is Training, make the most of it!
If we consider the horses’ legs a little like tires on a car, the legs have limited “miles” in them. When we start to think in those terms, we might more carefully think about how to spend them; either as useless miles to simply make the horse tired; or using them constructively to contribute to the horses training.
Disciplined lunging can be used to teach horses vocal cues that can be transferred to assist when training in the saddle. Whether using sounds such as a cluck, whistle or kiss, or the actual words walk, trot, canter, whoa, with varying inflection and tone can be of benefit especially with younger horses just starting in their saddle training. Lunging can also be used to encourage them to work and develop their body correctly without interference from the rider, as well as provide an opportunity to study the mechanics of the particular horse being worked with.
There is plethora of training aids that can be utelized to assist in training on the lunge, however these should only be used by experienced and knowledgeable trainers who understand their application. Care must be taken when using lunging aids as, like anything used incorrectly, there is potential to do more harm than good. Lunging is a skill and discipline within itself and one that is well worth learning. There is far more to it than simply having a having a horse run around in circles on a long lead!
Jenni Fugate is a team member of The Equine Expert LLC, a multi-discipline equine expert witness and consulting firm offering legal expert witness and consulting services in court cases, legal matters, appraisals and business affairs. Jenni is an expert in Arabians, Teaching, Dressage and Biomechanics. She is a native of Australia and has been working with horses since she was a child. She now lives in Utah on her farm where she trains and teaches. For more information on Jenni, visit www.theequineexpert.com or you may contact Jenni at Jenni@theequineexpert.com.