Friday, October 16, 2015

To Lunge or Not to Lunge

really loving the black-on-bay right now
If you've been around here for any length of time, you probably know that I'm not the biggest fan of lunging. There are circumstances in which I will lunge, though--the most recent example would be be on day two of a high fever when riding seems like maybe not the best idea.

always flailing
Although I have plenty of theoretical objections to lunging, I think my primary dislike is based on the fact that in the 2+ years I've had Courage, I have RARELY had a lunge session with him that did not include a hearty dose of rearing. And flailing.

I dunno about the rest of you, but I don't need more rearing in my life. 

look who's cantering on the right lead
Maybe that information makes lunging my particular horse while sick not the best idea ever, in hindsight. However. I did it. (Poorly and half-assed-ly, I'm sure.)

Most of my pictures are blurry because apparently I can't be sick, lunge, and have mad camera skillz, but hey.

not a hi ho silver picture. sorry.
It's good to know that Courage can give to pressure, carry himself forward, and generally take a nice shape with very minimal interference from me. I suspect the lack of rearing came from me never really closing the back door and pushing him FORWARD, but for now, I'll take it.

What are the odds I'll ever be able to take a lunge lesson on this horse? Does it usually take two years to get to lunge a horse without rearing?


  1. Easy to say and hard to execute, but the best advice I ever got was if they are lunging with no tack, they can be a little silly, but need to stop when you say enough. If they have tack on, they MUST get down to business. If this means getting out the sillies on the lunge before you tack up, so be it. Eventually, with a lot of consistency, they learn the difference.

  2. I longed yesterday because I didn't have time to ride, although it turned out to be a longer session than I thought it would be. I do think it's a skill every horse should have, although Paddy isn't trustworthy outside of a round pen (work in progress). I've found it helpful for letting a horse figure out their balance without me flopping around, but each horse is an individual and it helps some more than others.

  3. My steady eddy, usually calm about most things Quarter Horse (who is also 13, been through literally almost every discipline and is seasoned, and knows better) will rear and flail and buck on the lunge line. Put him in a round pen and lunge without the line? No biggie, he may be fresh but not bad. He's done that for almost all 13 years of his life. ;) I like what Promise said, about tack being for work time. That's what I'm trying to get through my guy's head. Practice makes perfect!

  4. I think it depends on the horse. Our TB, who is now 15, still acts like a two year old on the lunge line...most every time. Riva - pretty lazy. I normally only lunge Riva if she has been stuck in her stall all day - just for a warm up.

  5. Lunging is like any other skill we teach them and if it's not done regularly, then we can't realistically expect them to be "good" at it or comfortable with it. Maybe think about doing it more so he becomes less stressed about it and or more obedient to you (not rearing) on the line. I think it's important a horse can lunge submissively as part of his bag of tricks. Start sans side reins too if you're not already to make sure he gets to warm up before being placed in a frame, then loose side reins for a while before tightening then up at all.

    1. Oh and...Using a round pen to work on it would prob help him feel more secure too...even Pong who is a great lunger gets freaked sometimes in open arenas on the line.

  6. ugh my mare is awful at lunging so i rarely bother....

  7. All my horses learn to lunge when I bring them home because a) it lets me watch them move without being on them b) it can be handy in case I ever have to teach a lunge line lesson c) if I have to resell a horse it's important for them to know how to lunge for when prospects come to look. But once they know how to lunge like non-asshats, I almost never lunge them. When I have a horse who's a real butt munch about it I break it down to in-hand work, can you walk on without me moving my feet, halt immediately when I apply backward pressure, and repeat. Then I'll get them walking in circles around me, not big ones, but just walking. They'll do that every day for a few weeks and eventually I'll ask them to trot by increasing the pressure. I know a lot of people will just sort of push through the crazies but I really never want to see total insanity on the lunge so I just don't go there.

  8. I agree with Nicku that if it is not done with regularity, how can we expect them to learn to do it at all, let alone properly?

    Start with teaching him to walk on the line. Keep him close in at first and just keep it at a walk. You can ease him out on the line after a little while, but walking as a cool down is great too. My WB mare starts out walking a couple laps and let me tell you- it is awesome! Beats the hell out of having a horse bolt to the end of the line and jerk your arms out of the sockets or rip the line thru your hands...

    If he's still rearing and trying to bolt, put the rope around his nose and give it a tug. It keeps my OTTB mare in check long enough for her to work and get the bugs, bucks and otherwise kinks out so she can settle down and work. Good luck!

  9. Hampton is 100% voice control on the lunge line. Broke to death and would actually make an outstanding vaulting horse if he ever decided to quite dressage. That is because he has spent A LOT of time on the lunge line, and in long lines. He knows it means work, it has taught him balance, voice commands and some degree of softness. It has been a critical part of my training with him (and many horses). Just my opinion though - I wouldn't lunge a super young horse more than once or twice a week. And it doesn't have to be a long session, 10-15 minutes of quality lunge work is really helpful to a lot of horses. My two cents.

  10. Murray wasn't a professional at lunging when I started working with him, but he wasn't Courage-level displeased with it either. He was just more than willing to take advantage of a novice-lunger and be naughty if he even had the inkling to be so. I had to lunge him ever day as part of our tack up routine, so he's pretty good at it now, and it didn't take long for him to get that way. But if he ever gets the idea that he can be bad, he will fully take advantage of it -- like if someone new tries to llunge him.

    For what it's worth, I think you CAN have a horse who knows when it's appropriate to play on the lunge and when it's time to work, but that requires careful management from the person on the ground too. I know several horses who have always been tossed on the lunge to get their yayas out a bit (often the lunger will shuffle or shake the lunge line at them to see what is in there), and then get down to work when they can. I think, as with any other training program of something somewhat difficult, gentle persistence and kind repetition are key.


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