How to Lunge a Horse (Steps For Beginners & Key Safety Tips)

Sharing is caring!

Do you know how to lunge a horse?

Lunging a horse is a simple way to help your horse get and stay in shape when done correctly.

Lunging is either done in a bridle, cavesson, or a halter.

Here, I will explain what lunging means, its benefits, how to do it properly, and what to avoid.

Check out these bridles for horses for good options.

What Does Lunging a Horse Mean?

a woman preparing her horse for an exercise

What is lunging a horse? Before you can understand how to lunge a horse, you must know what lunging is and what it means.

Lunging a horse is a form of exercise that involves having the horse move around the rider in a circle. 

In a lunge session, the rider or trainer guides the horse through different movements using a long rope attached to their halter, cavesson, or bridle and a lunge whip.

Body language or body movements, and vocal commands are also part of the exercise.

Some horses do well on a lunge line, while others do not. Lunging builds trust between horse and rider

Here is a video that explains more about lunging:

What Are The Benefits/Drawbacks of Lunging a Horse?

As with any training method, lunging a horse has both positive and negative sides. 

Benefits of Lunging a Horse 

The main benefits of lunging a horse are as follows:

1. Lunging is a Natural Part of the Breaking and Training Process

To begin the process of starting and backing a horse, you have to teach them how to go in a halter, be lead, and respond to verbal commands. 

These elements are all a part of lunge horse training. You have to teach a horse your voice commands and body language and gain their respect for you to continue.

In a lunge session, you can teach the horse to respond to basic voice commands like a walk-on, trot, canter, whoa, stand, and tongue clicks if you prefer.

All of these commands transfer to ridden work. Use a higher-pitched tone when asking the horse to do an upward transition. 

When you want the horse to slow down, use a calm tone. Horses will pick up on this and initiate a downward transition.

a woman lunging a brown horse

2. Lunging Helps Build the Muscle Needed to Carry a Rider

Horses are not designed to carry a rider, so they must be taught how to work their way up to it. Lunging sessions allow a horse to get used to turning its body and working in circles.

Lunging teaches the horse to stretch. This helps them achieve a balanced frame and develop the muscles in their back and topline to handle a rider’s weight without injury.

3. Lunging Helps a Horse Gain Suppleness or Flexibility

Adding cavalettis or raised poles to lunge training asks a horse to lower its head, neck, and topline. It also helps them learn to engage their hind end because they have to lift their legs to clear the poles. 

The more a horse has to stretch and engage the hind end, the more flexible it will become.

4. Lunging Helps Your Horse Respond Better to Transitions

Using the lunge whip and voice commands, you can help your horse learn upward and downward transitions more efficiently. This will help them respond to leg aids when ridden.

5. Lunging Helps Calm a Horse Down

Working in circles helps the young and fresh horse get extra energy out and focus on what you are asking. 

lunging horses for their daily exercise

Drawbacks of Lunging a Horse

The drawbacks of lunging a horse are as follows: 

1. Increased Chance of Injury or Lameness

Lunging in a circle is strenuous for a horse’s joints. (1) To go in a lunge circle, they must lean in to follow the rope. 

The faster they go, the more they lean, and the risk of joint damage is higher. Lunging a horse too frequently will also increase the likelihood of lameness.

2. Lunging Does Not Calm All Horses

High-strung horses will use the lunge line as a means of jumping about and being playful and take the opportunity of not having a rider on their back to run. 

 This can cause these types of horses to get more wound up instead of calming down.

How to Lunge a Horse Properly?

If your horse has never used a lunge line, you have to teach it how to lunge first. Let’s take a look at the basics of how to lunge a horse properly.

Lunging Prep

lady preparing the horse for lunging

Find an open, quiet, and flat space to work with your horse. Once you are dressed in your riding gear and gloves, grab a lunge line, a lunge whip, and a halter for your horse.

Bring your horse to the lunging space. Once they are settled, hook the lunge line onto the last ring of the halter, and gather the excess lunge rein into loops on your left hand. Hold it so the rope slides out of your hand and can’t wrap around it.

Be careful not to let the lunge line wrap around your body. Do not let the rope hit the ground. Start guiding your horse in a counter-clockwise circle around you. Make sure your horse does not trip around the lunge line. 

Stand at their shoulder and ask them to walk by clucking or saying walk-on. Once they start moving, give them slack on the lunge line and let it extend to the full 20 meters when they are out. 

If your horse stops or slows, wave the lunge whip lightly at them and use your voice to encourage them forward.

Training on the Lunge 

When lunging, the lunge is the reins, and the whip is your leg. Place the horse between the whip and the lunge, forming a V shape with you as the point. 

Face the horse’s flank or rump, and stay slightly behind them, holding your space in the center as the horse moves around you.

To ask the horse to trot, say trot and show them the whip. To slow them down, say whoa in a low tone and ask for a walk. Practice walk-trot transitions. Note that you aren’t hitting the horse with the whip, it is just for guiding.

To ask the horse to halt, pull the lunge line slightly and say halt. For canter, lift the whip and shout canter. 

Here is a video that explains more about lunging a horse.

Lunging a Horse: Other Considerations 

Here are some other things to keep in mind when lunging a horse.

How Often Should a Lunge My Horse?

No more than 2-3 times a week. But keeping it to once a week is even better. It is a great tool that should not be overused.

How Long Should You Lunge a Horse For?

No more than 15-20 minutes at a time. Split the time equally for each direction. It is important that your horse’s body works equally on the left and the right.

Items Needed to Lunge a Horse 

The minimum horse lunging equipment needed is a lunge line, lunge whip, and a halter. You also need gloves to protect your hands from rope burn. I’ve seen this happen and trust me you don’t want rope burn!

Is Lunging Bad For Horses?

Lunging is bad for horses if it is done poorly or too often. It is an excellent idea for exercise otherwise. 

However, as the horse is always leaning it puts extra stress on the joints. Expert horse trainer, Jean Luc Cornille says:

“Due to the horse’s body inclination, the hoof of the inside hind leg, as well as inside foreleg, impacts on the outside wall while the hoof of the outside hind and front legs alights on the inside wall. Such impact induces abnormal stresses on the fetlock, knees, and hocks
joints.” (2)

FAQs

Do horses enjoy lunging?

lunging a horse in the field

Most horses go on a lunge line because their owners ask them to, not because they want to.

Should I lunge my horse with a saddle?

It depends on if you are going to ride them or not. Lunging a horse in its saddle before riding helps it get used to the weight and prepare for a rider.

Can you lunge a horse in a rug?

No, you can’t lunge a horse in a rug (stable blanket). However, you can use a blanket designed specifically for lunging, similar to a quarter sheet. 

At what age should you start lunging a horse?

Wait until your horse is at least 3. This is when horses are old enough to begin basic training and prepare to be backed.

Conclusion

Many equestrians do not know how to lunge a horse properly or safely. Lunging a horse is the process of exercising them in a small circle from the ground.

It has many benefits but can also lead to injury when done too often.

lady lunging her horse

How do you lunge your horse? Let us know below!

References 

1. Logan AA, Nielsen BD, Robison CI, Hallock DB, Manfredi JM, Hiney KM, et al. Impact of Gait and Diameter during Circular Exercise on Front Hoof Area, Vertical Force, and Pressure in Mature Horses. Animals [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Apr 26];11:3581. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/11/12/3581/htm

2. Luc Cornille J, Luc J. “A gifted horse will lead a good rider to victory. A great rider will give to the horse the gift of soundness.” The Side Effects of Lungeing [Internet]. Available from: https://www.scienceofmotion.com/documents/lungeing101.pdf

Bryanna Tanase
Bryanna Tanase

Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
Follow on INSTAGRAM and FACEBOOK
Read her Latest articles
Learn more about HER

Leave a Comment


SUBSCRIBE OUR NEWSLETTER

Want The Best Care For Your Horse? Subscribe to our EXPERT RIDER Tips