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9 top tips for lungeing a young horse

Four-time Olympian Jennie Loriston-Clarke MBE FBHS was at the BHS National Coaching Convention at Addington Equestrian Centre last month to give delegates a masterclass into training and exercising young horses on the lunge. Here we share some of the advice and top tips the legendary rider and trainer imparted on us.

1. Before starting the horse on the lunge walk it in-hand on the right rein around the area where it is going to be worked so it can get its bearings. If you don’t have a lunge pen you can improvise and make one in the corner of a field or cutting off an area of your arena with blocks or wings and poles. Once the horse is settled then change the rein and lead it in the opposite direction.

“By showing it the area on the right rein first this means it will leap inwards if scared or spooky rather than over you,” explains Jennie.

2. Expect the horse to behave differently if you are in a different or new place. Always be alert as accidents can happen quickly, particularly if the horse is young and fresh.

“When sending a horse out on the lunge be aware that they can turn away from you and kick towards you, as well as turning in and turning around,” says Jennie.

3. Dress appropriately. Ensure you are wearing a hat, gloves and have suitable footwear. If you do not have pen or penned off area, it is helpful in the beginning to have an assistant standing in the open area of the arena to help guide the horse on the circle for support.

4. Don’t be in a hurry.

“With young horses you have to give them the time they need to understand what you want of them. Have patience, don’t start working with them if you don’t have plenty of time to give them, you need to allow the horse to learn in its own time,” says Jennie. “If the horse learns in its first lesson to walk on and to halt, then praise in a soft voice as a reward. Don’t muddle the horse by asking too much in each session.”

5. Start lungeing the horse in a light contact on a big circle.

“Have a light feel on the lunge rein, keep your elbows bent like when you are riding and remember to give with the rein when the horse accepts the contact and the circle,” adds Jennie.

6. Use your voice.

“Your voice is one of the most important things in lungeing and riding and is your first communication of the natural aids. Start using it to give instructions — the horse should recognise it and be obedient to it — a soft voice to calm and slow down, a sharper voice to activate and tighter body language. You don’t want them to be frightened of you, but to have respect,” continues Jennie.

7. As well as using your voice, use your body language.

“Slow your body’s direction on the circle and relax when asking the horse to slow down and act positively to encourage it to go,” says Jennie.

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8. Limit canter work.

“There is no real need to canter young horses on the lunge, you are better to train them in straight lines when you are riding them,” says Jennie.

9. Use an outside side rein.

“Putting the outside side rein on teaches the horse to accept the outside rein and helps the horse to become better balanced and carry itself better,” adds Jennie. “Don’t overuse it though and give the horse plenty of rest in its neck without the side rein as it will tire easily. Always release the side rein when changing the rein. Introduce the second side rein when the horse if happily accepting the outside side rein.”

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