Lunging is one of those rare things to do with horses that has a pretty low ‘barrier to entry’. Getting started is pretty easy and ‘do-able’ for most riders. All that is needed is a few essentials and most riders can get started and off to the races with their horse.
This is fantastic news because lunging, in my opinion, is something most horse and rider combinations can only benefit from including in their training routine. This is regardless of experience, training, age, discipline, goals, etc. It is also something that many riders can use to build their own confidence.
Lunging is unique in that you don’t have to be a great rider. Yet, your lunging can have a sizable positive difference on your horse’s training.
So, all that being said, there are a few things that I feel are essential for lunging. This is lunging in a way that will help you to positively impact your conversation when you do get into the saddle. Lunging for Riding. Not just lunging for lunging sakes.
1. A Small ‘Flatish’ Area to Lunge In
The first thing you need is somewhere to actually lunge your horse. This does not have to be a lunging arena or round pen. It can be anywhere that you have a ‘flattish’ piece of land that you can mark off and use. It can be the corner of a field. Or the end of a larger arena.
Your horse’s safety is paramount. Make sure that there are no rocks, stones, holes, poached parts. Lunging in 12 inches of mud is not enjoyable for anyone involved, horse or rider. Many riders think that they must only work their horse in a dedicated arena with especially tailored equestrian surface. This is simply not true. In fact, many horses that only work in these ‘optimal’ conditions, struggle when they get out and into the real world.
Please don’t allow the lack of a lunging arena to prevent you from using this versatile tool with your horse. Trust me, your horse is more than able to navigate a few ups and downs.
He will cope just fine when working over less than perfectly manicured surfaces. However, what I do suggest is taking the time to erect a temporary fence or barrier around your lunging area. It helps when you initially begin to set boundaries. I also find it helps to keep both horse and rider a little more focused. Again, not essential, but I do suggest putting one up if you have not lunged before.
2. A Good Quality Lunge Line
A lunge line or lunge rope is essential if you want to lunge your horse in a way that will compliment your riding. Remember, I am talking specifically about Lunging for Riding here. I realize that many riders, maybe you as well, practice loose lunging or free lunging. This is not what I am referring to when I speak about lunging.
Just like when you are in the saddle, your contact on the lunge is an essential part of the overall communication and conversation. The lunge line is your contact when you are lunging.
I am going to suggest splashing out and buying a good quality lunge line. It is a personal pet peeve of mine when someone hands me a flimsy line to work with. They blow in the wind. Knotting up is a regular occurrence. Really, they are just a pain to work with!
Lunging, just like riding, should be enjoyable for all involved. Investing in a good quality lunge line will definitely improve the overall experience for you.
3. A Lunging Whip
Now, I know from past experience that many riders are against the use of a lunge whip. You might be one of those riders. If so, please hear me out with this… The lunging whip is not for hitting or whipping the horse. It is not to hurt or inflict any sort of pain, whether that be physical or emotional, on the horse.
Your lunging whip is used the way that you use your legs in the saddle. It is part of a balance of aids. It works with your other aids in order for you to be crystal clear when you ‘converse’ with your horse.
Just like your legs when you are riding, your lunge whip is merely part of a bigger, ongoing, conversation. You would never kick your horse’s sides to the point where he is bleeding or bruised. Well, the same goes for your lunge whip. It is not overused.
Your lunging whip is used with your body position in order to either convey ‘forward’, ‘neutral’ or ‘whoa’ to your horse. Your seat is used with your legs to do the same from in the saddle.
4. Your Attitude or Mindset
The final piece to the puzzle to get you up and running with your lunging. One of the fantastic things about working with your hose on the lunge is the fact that you have this different perspective. You are still using your aids to communicate with your horse. However, you are doing it from the perspective a trainer or coach would have. This allows you to see so much more.
Now you can begin to see how powerful one or two lunging sessions a week could be. They have the potential to move your riding, and your horse’s overall development, forward.
The other thing that working on the lunge allows you to see is where you are perhaps negatively influencing your horse from the saddle. When we lunge, we take the rider out of the equation. No more shuffling, shifting, rubbing, bracing, banging, slouching or any of the other things we as riders do, often unbeknownst to ourselves, that influence our horses.
Lunging allows your horse to get on with the important work of figuring things out, without any outside interference from a well meaning rider.
Getting Started This Week
So, I’ve told you what I feel are the absolute essentials for successful lunging with your horse. Do you need more ‘bells and whistles’ further down the line? Sure, if you want to add them on, you can. Things like boots for your horse’s legs are always a good idea. I’m going to assume you are already using boots and bandages in your day to day riding. If so, keep doing what you would normally do when you ride.
A helmet and gloves are also a must when it comes to lunging a horse. Again, I am going to assume you have both of those already. Use them, just as you would when you are mounted up and in the saddle.
Finally, remember that when it comes to training or coaching, the coach or trainer must meet the horse and rider where they are right now. Their current physical, mental and emotional capabilities and perspectives. To really successfully lunge your horse, you must meet him where he is right now. Working on the lunge is just like riding, it takes time to develop and get right. Allow for that.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on lunging and how you get on with your horse. You can join my free group HERE and let me know inside.
If you are interested in taking your conversation on the lunge a little further, check out my Lunging for Riding digital program. It is fully online, meaning you can do this from anywhere in the world. The program will give you four weeks of step by step guidance on working this way with your horse. 4 exercises a week that will move your horse forwards on the lunge.
The best part is that you do not have to have any experience of working your hosre on the lunge in order to begin using this program. I will give you step by step guidance to help you begin to feel confident and excited about lunging your horse.
Resources to help with this topic:-
- Lunging for Riding; How 10 minutes a couple of times a week can make all the difference to your riding
- Why Your Position is Vital while Lunging
- 4 Things You’re Doing Wrong when Lunging
- Free Equestrian Fitness Challenge
- Join the free Facebook group HERE
- The Daily Strides Podcast on iTunes
- Daily Strides Podcast on Google Play
- The Daily Strides Podcast on Stitcher Radio
- Join Daily Strides Premium