Saturday 5th July, 2014
Lungeing is an excellent tool to include in your horses exercise regime to build and maintain fitness and it is particularly useful for horses who cannot be ridden due to horse or rider injury. Lungeing can not only increase strength and condition, but also improve your horse’s flexibility and gait as from the ground you can identify and correct sloppy transitions and unbalanced movement. It can be a great alternative to the usual schooling routine and provide enough variety to help keep your horse more focussed and alert, which in return should result in much more productive and responsive training.
To lunge your horse you will need a lunge line, a lunge whip, a lunge cavesson or your horse’s usual bridle, and the aim is to create a triangle with you at the top and your horse at the base, flanked by the lunge line on one side and a lunge whip on the other.
Start with leading your horse in an anticlockwise circle, with the lunge line clipped on the right hand bit ring, threaded up over the poll and through the left hand bit ring if using your bridle. Gradually lengthen the lunge line while using your voice and lunge whip to gently push your horse out and around you in a circular motion. The lunge whip should be used purely as a guide to keep the horses back end in line and encourage upward transitions by raising the whip from the ground upwards or gently twirling it behind the horse’s quarters.
You should carefully consider where you plan to lunge your horse and ideally try to use an enclosed area such as a ménage or small paddock so that your horse is contained should he spook and become loose. Also consider the surface you are lungeing on as sand covered ménages can have a greater pull on the horse’s limbs, so ensure that your horse is thoroughly warmed up and cooled down before and after intensive lunge work. Avoid training your horse in his turn out field or near loose horses where possible as this could prove hugely distracting for him, resulting in a far less productive training session.
Always wear gloves when lungeing to ensure that you do not receive any lunge line burns should your horse spook or misbehave and never put your wrist through the loops as if your horse bolts you face the possibility of being dragged. The lunge line itself can be the biggest danger to you both while lungeing, so try to ensure that you keep your lunge line taut and don’t have excess slack that your horse could trip up over. Also keep your left over lunge line in tidy loops, not strewn around your feet which could pose a trip hazard to you, and always wear a hard hat when lungeing to protect yourself in the event of a horse charging and knocking you to the ground.
Lunge aids can be appropriate for more focussed training and outline correction, but should always be used with expert advice. Aids such as a chambon or side reins can encourage head strong horses to relax forward and drop their head, rounding their back and stretching their top line encouraging a nice rounded outline.