As a rider, it is important to always look for ways to keep your schooling work interesting; for you and your horse. One of the ways you can do this is by working on different lunging exercises. And they don’t have to be ‘fancy’ or complex.
In fact, there are a few basic exercises you can begin working on introducing, or refining today that will help you to really begin utilizing lunging as a training tool for you and your horse.
Now, just like riding, it is important that before you dive into ‘working’ your horse, you take the time to warm up correctly. I enjoy walking my horse (leading my horse) the ‘long way round’ to the arena I will be working in. I use the 5 or so minutes to do a little groundwork on the way.
And bonus points if the groundwork sets up, introduces, or relates to what you will actually be working on when lunging your horse. It is the perfect way to start the conversation.
Lunging Exercise 1 – Responsiveness
The first exercise you can do will help to increase responsiveness in both you and your horse. Many riders can ‘miss’ more subtle cues from their horse because they are simply not looking for them. And by intentionally focusing on responsiveness as what you want to improve, you also ‘fine-tune’ what you’re noticing in your horse.
Notice what combination of aids is most effective to ask your horse to go forwards. Also, how much pressure is necessary to ask the specific question before you get an immediate and timely response?
From here, begin working on refining it all. Begin expecting your horse to respond to ‘lighter’ or more subtle aids. This will require consistency and focus from you. And it will require concentration and willingness from your horse.
Lunging Exercise 2 – Accuracy
As the level of responsiveness increases, you can then begin working on improving accuracy and again, this is for you and your horse. Increasing accuracy is a lunging exercise that really requires both the horse and the rider (the lunger) to concentrate on what is happening.
Increasing accuracy also requires both horse and rider to work together. It requires teamwork and there is a shared responsibility to help improve it.
Your horse will learn to wait for and then respond to your aids. The ‘waiting for’ part can be a challenge for many horses initially, however, it is essential to increase accuracy. This will also force you to become even more clear and intentional with your aids
Improving accuracy as a lunging exercise also requires you to work on and improve your timing. A key part of the answer depends on if the horse can respond at that moment…
So, instead of simply asking questions, you must begin to pay attention to ‘when’ you’re asking the question. You will begin to time your ‘ask’ with the part of the stride where your horse can actually respond to you. This will take time. And it will require that you have first worked on and improved responsiveness.
Lunging Exercise 3 – Halt on the Track
The third lunging exercise that will really transform your lunging sessions with your horse is the ability to halt on the track. This means that your horse does not turn into you, walk towards you, fall in from the circle, or fall out of the circle. And this often takes quite a bit of work initially! Especially if your horse has been allowed or trained (same thing really) to do any of the above!
Once you have established the halt, you can begin working on the quality of each and every halt.
The better the halt, the more energy it will contain inside of it. This can initially feel mentally uncomfortable for your horse and he will probably want to step out of it. However, by increasing his capacity here to ‘hold’ the energy inside of the halt, you are growing his comfort zone. This will allow for bigger questions in his overall training.
Developing Your Lunging Technique
I love lunging and I am all about using this tool as a way to continue to train and work with our horses, even when time or space is short. And just like riding, lunging takes time to develop and improve. It requires coordination from you. And it requires a knowledge of the aids you can use to communicate with your horse.
Lunging is NOT simply running in circles; it is an active way of schooling and training your horse. And using lunging exercises intentionally will help you to make the most of this tool.
If you are unsure of where to start, make sure you check out the links below this article for more information and past Daily Strides Podcast episodes on lunging your horse.
- FREE TRAINING:- 3 Days to Successfully Getting Started on the Lunge
- Using Lunging to Help Your Horse Build Responsibility
- Train Your Horse in 20 Minutes or Less
- 4 Essentials for Getting Started with Lunging for Riding
- Handling Your Lunge Line to Avoid Tangles and Enhance Contact
- 4 Things You’re Doing Wrong When Lunging
- Improving Your Riding Coordination and Aids While Lunging