Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A note about lunging


A commenter on my previous entry "Bucked Off" made a very valid point cautioning against using lunging as a crutch.  I absolutely 100% agree with her.  I have since been thinking about the merits of lunging and thought I'd jot some of them down.

Often times, yes, people lean on it as a crutch, not willing to take a little step of faith and trust their horse to behave.  Especially if it's a solid, quiet horse who has been there done that... Granted, there are people who do have confidence struggles, and I'm not trying to downplay that, but... sometimes, to get to that next level of competitence and confidence, sometimes you have to step blindly.

That said (and yes, that was a bit of a soapbox rant), there are many reasons to lunge a horse, of which my top three reasons are:

  1. Before riding to settle them and get them focused about work, giving them a permissable time to be stupid and buck and enjoy their energy.  For young horses especially I feel that this is very important, otherwise they feel trapped by their energy and act out under saddle.
  2. As exercise in place of riding.  Sometimes you just don't have the time to put in a full ride, or the horse is coming back from a break and needs a re-fresher day before getting in the saddle.  When used properly and with proper use of equipment and aids, lunging can be very beneficial to developing a horse's sense of balance, rhythm, and strength.
  3. To asses soundness.  This is my first test to see if a horse is sound visually, I make sure to lunge the horse both ways to see if it a bi-lateral lameness or not (this can also be useful to pinpoint where the lameness is, going one way you might think you see something but can't decide which leg it's in, but going the other way, with the change in weight carrying the lameness will show itself more prominently).
The reason I lunge Cash before a ride is because mentally, physically, and for his safety and mine, he needs it at this point in his training.  He needs that time to get the kinks out, to buck, squeal, whatever!  As he works he relaxes in his body and thus, his mind, giving me a much more rideable horse.  A more rideable horse means a more productive ride, and thus his training will advance further.  I don't like lunging before a ride at all, it takes up time and can be a pain in the butt, but, it's what he needs right now so I will do it without complaint.

I think back to when I first got Pie, it was probably a good year at least before I even dreamed about riding him without lunging.  But, time and persistence paid off, because fast forward 6 years from then and I could pluck him out of the pasture after a month off and go for a ride down the road bareback in a halter.  Man, I miss that horse.

Oh, and by the way, I have a hell of a bruise on my knee this morning.  Hello my friend Mr. Ice Pack.


I used to lunge my horse Carlos before almost every ride. It was always a great way for him to get a couple bucks out before settling down to work. And he knew the drill, he'd tear and buck a bit and settle and walk back to me. As he got older I lunged him less.

Hey that was me! :) I had a friend who used it as a crutch badly, actually two friends. One of them their horse got serious hock issues. The other, I made her ride without it a few times and then her lunge went away and has not come back.

I agree, it depends on the level of training for your horse. Lunging is a great tool and I lunged William before I rode him for a good 8 months (he's a bucker too). My coach told me to use it as a training tool instead and work him on the lunge a few days a week, with side reins, over caveletti etc. I gradually started riding without lunging first and now I never need to.

I'm happy to hear you will just be using it for the time being. I don't think it should ever be a long term thing.

I used to lunge Hampton before every ride. As he has gotten older, I have stopped doing that but I still do it sometimes! I find it very beneficial - even now as a more broke horse. Sometimes he needs to burn energy, other times it just really helps him become more supple and loose so our ride is much more productive. I also sometimes like to lunge him to evaluate his movement, like you said. Sometimes I may see something I don't really feel.

I nominated you for the Liebster Award! Check out my blog for all the details. :)

Totally agree. ESPECIALLY with young horses. Or from time to time my horse gets cold backed, I know in the x-ties if it's a lunge first day. I have nothing to prove. For us, his free lunging is his play time and that is a separate thing all together where he rips and gets his stupids out and then we end with some natural horsemanship stuff to bring him back to planet earth and reinforce our communication. On the lunge line it's either his warmup or that day's workout so he's expected to work and be a gentleman. A little buck is ok, but I dont let him get wound up when I'm attached to him, haha! We're lucky tho cuz we have a HUGE round pen and a smaller round pen closer to the ring.

Every horse is different. Some need that 'get the wiggles out' and some don't. If I thought it was a safety issue, I would always choose lunging. To me it's only a crutch when you are lunging to death and tiring your horse out before you even get on... over and over. There are some days for that, and some not.

I totally agree... lunging can be a life-saver in most instances especially when your horse is acting like a crazy fire breathing dragon! I also nominated you for the leibster blog award! Check out my blog for the details!

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