Lunging and long reining are essential elements of your horse’s training and fitness routine, proving invaluable in the winter when time is short or if you can’t ride for a day or two. Whether you’ve been lunging and long reining for as long as you can remember or one of them is a new skill you’re honing and perfecting, here are some top tips from our team.
Improving your lunging technique
Have you ever had the ideal lunging position described to you as a triangle? Imagine you’re viewing a horse being lunged from above. The horse, handler, lunge line and whip should make a shape similar to an isosceles triangle (maybe Google that if you can’t remember the different triangles from your school days!). The handler is at the end of the pointy end of the triangle, the horse makes a (curved if they’re working with bend!) short side, and the lunge line and whip make up the two long sides.
The whip should be carried so that it points just behind the horse’s hindquarters. If the horse is being sluggish use a gentle ‘sweeping’ motion to push them forward with more impulsion. If they fall in on the circle towards you, move the whip so that it points towards where a roller or girth would go. If that doesn’t work, you can try pointing it at their shoulder instead to encourage them out onto the circle.
Remember to mirror the work you do with the horse on both reins, so working them on the same size circle for the same time to avoid them developing uneven muscle. Our lunge line is designed to help you lunge on precise circle sizes by having markers for 10m, 15m and 20m circles. They even take into account the arm length of the handler – how smart is that?
Improving control with long-reining
While many horse owners will happily lunge their horses, some find the idea of long reining a little scary. It certainly doesn’t need to be and is a fantastic tool to improve control, see your horse working from the ground and exercise horses who need straight lines only work during rehabilitation from injury. Here are some tips to get you started and keep you safe.
The kit you need
Long rein in a cavesson with a bit attached, or a bridle with the reins removed – the long reins will need to be attached to the bit rings. You will also need either a saddle with the stirrups let down (and tied to the girth) or a roller with large rings on the side to feed the long reins through to keep them high and away from the horse’s feet if they spook or run backwards.
Always start long reining in a school or enclosed space while you test your steering and brakes for the first time! Ask a helper with a lead rope clipped to the bit to lead to hold the horse whilst you thread the long reins through the stirrups or roller rings just in case they object to the feel of them running alongside their body. We recommend letting the horse get used to the feel of them around their shoulders and flanks before feeding them around their hindquarters. Keep a positive tone of voice and offer plenty of praise.
When you move behind the horse ready to move forward, keep your handler in place in case the horse spooks or runs off. Hold the long reins in the same way as you would reins when you are riding and keep your hands and forearms relaxed – they are still attached to your horse’s mouth, so you need to be forgiving and kind. The best place to stand is safely away from kicking distance but close enough that you have good contact with their mouth. Keep the handler there while you ask for turns, halts and change of pace, only asking them to move away once you’re confident you and your horse know what you are doing.
Great long reining can really improve your communication with your horse, allowing you to work on contact without your body position and balance influencing the signals. It’s well worth learning, so keep an eye out for more advanced long reining tips in the future!