Lunging Equipment for Horses: How to Properly Use Them

Lunging is one of the main skills a horse owner needs to learn.

With that in mind, you will have to have an understanding of lunging horse equipment and how to use them.

You will come across a variety of devices to lunge your horse.

It is important to know the purpose of each, so lunging benefits your horse and doesn’t hinder it.

What Is Horse Lunging?

a woman lunging a brown horse

Lunging a horse serves several purposes. It is used to start a young horse in the training process before introducing a rider.

Instructors use it to teach beginners, so they can master basic skills while the horse is under control.

Some people use it to knock extra energy off a fresh horse. And finally, it is a useful component of training an already broke horse.

List Of Horse Lunging Equipment

  • Lunge line
  • Surcingle (roller)
  • Cavesson
  • Side reins
  • Roller pad
  • Tendon boots
  • Bridle
  • Lunge whip
  • Lunge training system
  • Lunging rope

Check: 5 Best Horse Anatomical Bridle

What Is Lunging Equipment For Horses?

a woman preparing her horse for an exercise

When you lunge a horse, you must have a few basic pieces of gear.

There are also items for a more advanced handler and horse.

It is important, if you are new to lunging, to get some lessons on the correct way to do it.

Let’s introduce you to each piece of equipment below.

#1 Lunge Line

A lunge line is the most basic and essential piece of equipment that you need. This is a long, soft rope that you attach to the cavesson or bridle and hold at the opposite end.

The handler stands in the center of the lunging area and sends the horse out on a circle. This is lunging.

#2 Cavesson

A cavesson is a piece of lunging equipment made from nylon or leather. It goes on the horse’s head, similar to a halter. However, when you put on a cavesson, you fit it quite snug, so it doesn’t slip around the horse’s face.

Just make sure it is not so snug that it is pinching the horse anywhere on its face. 

A cavesson also has metal rings on the noseband. When you lunge a horse, you clip the lunge line to the center ring.

The noseband fits just like a bridle, in that you need to leave a gap of two fingers between it and the bottom of the cheekbones.

A cavesson does not use a bit. You do not need to use any other pieces of equipment when lunging a fresh horse, or if you are introducing a young horse to this exercise.

Of course, you still need a lunge line. Some cavessons have padding or fleece lining, which increases the comfort of your horse.

A cavesson helps give you more control of the horse and provides an extra layer of safety. When you change the horse’s direction, you simply have to slow him down, turn him around and send him back onto a circle.

There is no need to move the clip, which is especially useful for a green or fresh horse. Ideally, you should not lunge a horse in a halter.

#3 Bridle

If you want to lunge a horse with side reins or other pieces of equipment, you will need to use a bridle. It is best to also use a cavesson, but many people will lunge with just a bridle.

When you lunge with a bridle alone, you should attach the line in one of two ways. The first way is to feed the line through the bit ring, over the top of the horse’s head, and clip it to the opposite bit ring.

If you are lunging the horse to the left, you feed the line through the left bit ring. When you change direction, you will need to undo the line, and feed it the opposite way around.

The second way is to feed the line through the bit ring and under the chin, attaching it to the opposite ring. Again, when you change direction, you will need to swap the side that the line goes through.

Don’t simply clip the lunge line directly to the bit on the side of the direction you are going. This will constantly pull the bit at the side of the mouth, which is not beneficial or comfortable for the horse.

Ideally, you will use a lunge cavesson with a bridle. You will need to remove the noseband from the bridle. The bridle then goes on over the cavesson.

Make sure you check the fit, as going over the cavesson means you might have to lengthen the bridle’s cheekpieces. You then attach the lunge line to the center ring of the cavesson.

#4 Surcingle

A surcingle or roller is a wide strap made from leather or nylon. It will have several metal rings on it. You put this on the horse just behind the withers and due it up just like a girth. You use a surcingle to attach side reins and other lunging equipment.

A surcingle is also one of the first pieces of equipment you use on a horse that you are breaking to ride. It gets the horse used to pressure around its body and how a girth feels.

The top of most surcingles have thick pads, it is better to use this type as it is more comfortable for the horse. When you put the roller on, make sure the gap at the top is over the spine, so it is centered. You should also always use a roller pad or a saddle pad with a surcingle.

#5 Side Reins

Side Reins are probably the most common type of additional lunging gear you will see. They come in pairs, one for each side of the horse.

Many will have a rubber ring that helps allow some give when the side rein is attached. When you put side reins on, you loop the strap through the metal ring of the roller on the side of the horse.

This is the ring that is about halfway down the horse’s side. You then adjust the length by pulling the side rein straight to the bit.

This should not be too tight, but short enough that it puts some pressure on the bit if the horse moves its head up or out too far.

Once you have the length set, you clip the side rein to the bit. Do the same with the opposite side rein on the other side of the horse. Make sure it is on the same hole on both sides.

Don’t get tempted to make side reins too tight, forcing the horse’s head into a false frame. Side reins help teach the horse to accept contact with the bit while keeping a nice forward pace.

You only ever use side reins for lunging, never riding. They help the horse learn how to balance and carry himself.

Take care when introducing a horse to side reins, as some can panic if the contact is too tight and they feel restricted. Always start off with them very loose.

When lunging your horse, start without the side reins attached to let him warm up.

Check: Cob Bridle Sizing Guide

#6 Lunge Training System

A lunge training system is a series of ropes the go over the body of the horse. Sometimes they go by the name of Whitaker, one of the first brands to bring this system to the market.

Do not use this system without the guidance of someone experienced.

It is much too easy to put it on the horse incorrectly and too tight. Also, never use this on a horse that is new to lunging.

The lunge training system has a part that goes behind the back legs and sits just above the hocks. This will have fleece padding.

You then put one of the ropes through the side metal ring on the surcingle. The same one your loop the side rein through. You then feed it through the bit.

You can then move it down between the horse’s legs and clip it to ring under the roller. You then do the same on the other side.

Alternatively, when you feed it through the bit ring, you move it up and back, clipping it to the surcingle ring next to the top center ring. 

It is very important to make sure the tension is even on both sides. This is a bit tricky as they are no buckles. You also want to make sure that the aid is tight enough that it stays in the correct position but not so tight that it is to restrive.

The purpose of this piece of equipment is to help the horse learn how to use its body correctly. It helps the horse work over its back and develops the correct muscles.

#7 Lunging Rope

A lunging rope is a thick, soft rope that you put over the horse’s back, down the sides, and then between the front legs. It then comes up and clips to the bit ring on each side of the face. You do not use a surcingle when you use this.

A lunging rope helps encourage the horse to stretch down and use its back muscles. Be careful using this as it has no give and some horses don’t like it at all.

Also, take care not to make it too tight, which can happen on large horses easily. This isn’t my favorite piece of lunging equipment

It seems a little too restrive and can encourage some horses to bend their neck at the wrong vertebra and work in a false frame. Though it has its purpose at times when used correctly.

#8 Lunge Whip

A lunge whip is an aide for the handler. It is a long whip that you hold to give your horse cues. It also helps keep the horse out on the circle.

You don’t hit the horse with this. Some well-trained horses don’t need a lunge whip at all and will change pace or stay out by voice commands.

Check: PS of Sweden Bridle Review

Extra Gear

Tendon boots are not on the list above. These are not specifically lunging equipment but something you should use when exercising your horse. They will help protect the legs from knocks, which can happen more easily when lunging.

Conclusion

Correct horse lunging is a skill that requires training and experience. If you have never done it before, get some lessons.

If you lunge incorrectly, you will not benefit your horse. You also need to learn the safety measures to take, such as how to hold a lunge line the right way.

There is some controversy about the use of lunging equipment. Some people are completely against it. However, with knowledge and using it at the right times, for the right reasons, it can greatly help your horse.

References

  • Pearson, Lucy. “Lunging Your Horse? Then You Need to Check These Out…” Horse & Hound, 11 Jan. 2018, www.horseandhound.co.uk/buyers-guides/horse-lunging-set-whip-kit-aid-641835. Accessed 1 July 2021.
  • “What Is a Lunging Cavesson and Why Should I Use One? | Resources.” Www.farmyardsaddlery.com.au, www.farmyardsaddlery.com.au/resources/what-is-a-lunging-cavesson-and-why-should-i-use-one/. Accessed 1 July 2021.
  • Zinger, Lisa. “Using Draw Reins and Side Reins.” Expert How-to for English Riders, practicalhorsemanmag.com/training/draw-reins-and-side-reins-17994.
an equestrian lunging a brown horse

Do you have other tips on how to use lunging equipment? Please share with us below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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