DbarH Equine Training. Natural Horsemanship.
Medicine Lodge Valley, Dillon, Montana

Beginning Lunging

"If you meet resistances, you can now rely on alternative techniques rather than muscle power to work your way out of a problem."

Sally Swift, Centered Riding,1985


I used to lunge with a whip, but I when worked with the ones that didn't know how to lunge I soon change from that style. All the horse knew was that the whip either make them jumpy, jolt or go faster. And thus loosing the concentration that was suppose to be built. If the whip were to be used there is no clear communication between you and the horse.

I had to figure out how to teach the horse to lunge without the whip and pulling on the line. To do that I went back to the basics. Leading was pretty basic. How does a horse know how to lead with you beside them? You teach them by voice and body language and foot action.

If a horse doesn't know verbal cues then that needs to be taught. To walk either say "walk" or "walk on". To trot can say "tarot". Make sure what ever work you use for that transition that it can't be confused for the other transition word. Example: "walk on" and "trot on". The horse may learn the word "on" and be confused what you want.

While leading the horse do a lot of walk - whoa transitions, then move up to walk - trot transitions back down to whoa. Do different sequences. Doing all your transitions with verbal cues when you want to change transitions along with your body movement. Move your arms and body lean forward and ask for the upward transition. Then for the downward transition bring you body and arms slightly back and ask. The horse will catch on.

The next step is to see how well he is learning. Take your lead line and let there be lots of slack or put the lead line over his neck. Be in the same position as you were in when you taught him the cues (right beside his head). Do the same cues and see if he responds. If he doesn't you know you need to keep with the learning. If he follows then great! He is responding to your verbal cues and body language.

Now make sure you are using lots of space. No tight circles. In fact don't direct him in any kind of circle unless you are in a round pen and moving with the shape of the wall. our not even thinking of lunging, just leading.

Next step is to get the horse to move while you walk more toward the shoulder and belly. He may not think to much of you standing there and asking him to move forward. To do this if he isn't to keen on you not being by his head is to move back toward the shoulder belly area while walking. Stand at his head and walk then while walking gradually let there be more slack as you slow down from his pace and move to the shoulder - belly area. Once you accomplish this then you can start working toward the rear while walking.

Do some transitions at both shoulder-belly and then the rear. When he gets the hang of that you are well on your way to lunging. Now you can start to do large circles. You are still moving with him. No standing in one spot. You are a participant too. Everything is a equal venture. If you get tired then give your horse a break too. If you get lazy so will your horse. Why should the horse be in to it if your not.

Go from the rear and start to give the horse more and more line between the both of you. If he hesitates ask him to move on by one of your verbal cues. And he should do so. If he doesn't then you need to go back to learning the verbal cues.

Next thing you know you are lunging in a larger circle. And if he has learned the verbal cues he will look like he is a veteran lounger. Remember no standing in place. Lazy is as lazy does.

Ok now to stopping. Some horses will want to come to you. It also depends on the person, if they want the horse to come to them or if they want the horse to stand still and they go to the horse. If you want the horse to stay still in the circle and he wants to come to you then you need to teach the horse to stay still. The horse has learned that he comes to the person lovingly. He might get confused when all of a sudden you tell he that you don't want him. When you tell the horse to whoa he should stop, because he learned his cues. When he stops start walking toward him as soon as he stops. He may also want to meet you. So put out your hand in front of you toward the horse and say whoa again. The horse will stop. Keep the arm out until you reach him. And if he stays still let him know he did very good. By treats, or petting.

Practice all of the above until he has it down pack. then when you want to lunge from the stop and a little distance between you and the horse there should be not problem.

I have seen where some people say long line (drive) the horse to teach the horse to lounge. And not teaching the horse verbal cues like I said above. How can a horse drive if he doesn't know what's going on with the person behind the horse. I think what these people are getting at is that you have the head restraint if the horse freaks when they don't understand the person. Thus the person can use the horses head to maneuver the horse. The horse will be more confused by the actions.



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Donna Hildreth 1998 - 2009
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