Lunging the horse is a great way to help develop his balance, confidence and paces.
There is a wide range of lunging equipment – it’s good to know what is available and what your best options are for the particular horse you will be schooling. You can use your own snaffle bridle, minus the reins and martingale, or the other alternative to lunging without a bit is to use a lunging cavesson. A lunging rein and correct whip is also essential, together with gloves to avoid friction to your hands. The horses pictured in this article are being trained in specific, branded lungeing aids or systems.
Your best lungeing tool is your voice, so train the horse to understand your voice commands to stand and walk on, always praising him when he gets it right. You will be walking within your own smaller circle; a triangle will form with you at the apex, your left hand with the rein, your right guiding the whip behind him. Your aim is to be at the centre of his circle whilst on your own very small one.
Once walk is well established, ask for halt using your voice and a little extra pressure on the rein contact. The transitions of walk-halt-walk must be the first command to be fully established on both reins. Your horse must be trained to stand on the lunge and wait for his next command. It is not good practice to allow him to walk towards you at any time! Even when the session is over, he must ideally remain standing on his circle, and you will walk to him to praise and lead out. Once your walk and halt transitions are well-established, you can confidently ask for trot, using your voice and whip to encourage, praising each time he learns and responds correctly.
An advanced technique
There’s an exersise that works well for horses that are experienced at lungeing, that I like. It utilises 3 metre showjumping poles set into a square. The average horse (over 15.2hh) can work well over a distance of 2.7 – 3 metres (approx 3 of your own long steps) in all paces – he will get around one canter stride, two trot strides and three walk strides within the ‘space’. You can use your skills to slow or increase the pace, to help him achieve well-balanced and harmonious strides in between the poles, when he’s in the ‘box’. Try to keep him in the middle, so he’s not close to the poles to his left and right. This works well for handlers that are adept at ‘moving’ the lungeing circle around the school, guiding the horse to a particular spot in the manege.
Trainer Jenny Richardson is Business Manager at Castle Leslie Estate.
The venue offers a range of horsey training breaks in Ireland.