If you want to learn how to lunge a horse, then four-time Olympian Jennie Loriston-Clarke MBE FBHS had some great advice for delegates at the BHS National Coaching Convention last year at Addington Equestrian Centre.
Jennie’s masterclass had a particular focus on training and exercising young horses on the lunge, but the legendary rider and trainer’s advice and tips can be applied to horses of any age.
1. Before starting to lunge a horse 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 a suitable area in the corner of a field or by cutting off your arena with blocks or wings and poles. Once the horse is settled waking in-hand then change the rein and lead it in the opposite direction.
“By showing it the lunging area on the right rein first, this means it will leap inwards away from the handler if scared or spooky, rather than over the top 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 when lunging a horse. 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 around the circle if needed.
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 by lunging 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. Your voice is key when lunging a horse.
“Your voice is one of the most important things in lunging 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 canter on straight lines when you are riding them,” says Jennie.
9. Introduce an outside side rein before using both.
“Putting the outside side rein when lunging 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 on the inside when the horse if happily accepting the outside side rein.”
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