If you’re a regular reader of our blog or follow our social media, you will know that there are lots of great reasons to include lunging in your horse’s training routine. It’s an excellent tool in the winter when the days are short and bridleways are muddy, and you just need to keep them ticking over. Lunging is also an excellent way to cross-train fit competition horses at any time of year, giving them a chance to use their topline without the weight of a rider on board. Careful lunging is a useful tool for rehabilitation and bringing horses back into work after a break.
But what if things don’t go smoothly? There are several common issues you might come across when you’re lunging a horse or pony, and they can be frustrating when you want to use lunging to progress your training aims. If you’ve ruled out any physical discomfort which could be at the root cause of your issues, why not try some of our top tips to tackle four of the most common lunging problems:
- Horses who rush on the lunge
If your horse finds their lunging sessions exciting you might find they play, buck and rush on the lunge. While it can be nice to see them let off some steam, you need to avoid the risk of injury and make sure your horse is using themselves correctly. Use your voice in a soothing tone to ask them to “steeeaa-dyyy” while using a half-halt in the same way you would when riding to gradually calm the horse and force it to find its rhythm and balance.
- Horses who fall in on the circle
Horses who fall in are frustrating to lunge, as it’s tough to get them to bend properly and stick to a rhythm. If you’ve ruled out any physical issues, particularly if they fall in only on one rein, there are a couple of techniques you can try. Firstly, smoothly but deliberately move the lunge whip from pointing behind the horse’s tail, as you would during ‘normal’ lunging, and instead point it at their girth area. This should encourage the horse to stay out on its circle. You can also try stepping towards the horse if it persists in falling in and moving the whip to point at their shoulder.
- Horses who are lazy on the lunge
If your horse finds lunging rather dull and you struggle to get them moving forward, you won’t get them tracking up or working through their topline properly. Use your voice to encourage them to put a little more energy into it and move the lunge line in a sweeping motion behind them. Remember to include plenty of transitions in lunging sessions to keep it interesting for the horse and consider introducing pole work too.
- Horses who struggle to take the contact
It can be hard to effectively lunge your horse if they won’t take up the contact from your hand. They don’t fall in, they don’t rush, they’re not lazy but they either feel wooden or just not quite there. Try vibrating the lunge line to get their attention, or a small give and take. You can also use transitions to make sure they’re paying attention, just in case their attention has wandered a little bit…
We hope these tips will help you make the most of your lunging sessions this winter and beyond!