Lungeing a Horse: How, When & Why
By Keith Hosman, John Lyons Certified Trainer
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Lungeing a Horse: How, When & Why
Lungeing your horse can offer great benefits, but it has it's time and place. Here's how to teach it - and how and when to use it.
The greatest training advice you'll receive from reading this material comes here in this first paragraph. Ready? It's this: Lungeing is for training, not for "tiring out" a horse. (I'll get to the "how to" in a paragraph or three but first the sermon.) Put briefly, lungeing is for folks who don't have access to a round pen. Word up: When you lunge a horse to "get the fresh out," do you know what's really happening? Your training is turning him into a bigger, stronger horse that can run even longer tomorrow. Remember how "Rocky" couldn't run up the stairs in the beginning without hacking up a lung - but just one montage later he's not only bolting to the top, but dancing around when he gets there? Like Sly, your horse will be more of a fighter after succeeding workouts, not less. He certainly won't be any "less scary" weeks from now when he can run for half an hour without breaking a sweat then turn to you, muscles rippling, with an "Is that all you got?" look on his face. Unless... unless you've used your time lungeing time to train his brain. Working your horse at the end of a lunge line can offer great benefits, but you gotta use the time wisely.
Truth be told, if I've got a horse, fresh from his box stall, a horse that's been cooped up for 22 hours, I may very well turn him out in a paddock to "get the bucks out" before - or even after - our ride. But I see that as his opportunity to exercise a little freedom, the obvious difference being that I'm not controlling (or pretending to control) his movement. I don't lead him out, hook him to a line and ask for mindless loping, then ride off "where I want to go," only to pitch him back into solitary before heading home for the night. Like any office worker, he's got his free time and he's got his "office hours." So if you want to let your horse "blow off steam," turn him out, don't ask for endless 40 foot circles hoping he'll be "too weak" to put up a good fight. The most tired horse you've ever seen could still buck you off if a grizzly bear appeared in the pen (or a plastic bag, for that matter). When he's under saddle - or attached to you via lunge line or lead rope, then expect compliance - and be training all-the-while. If he's free in a paddock, he gets to call the shots; if he's with you, you call the shots.
To a large extent, lunge-lining simply mocks round pen work. It allows you to teach your horse to read your body language and to begin seeing you as boss without ponying up the big bucks a good round pen might set you back. With that in mind, you can see that it does little good to simply send your horse to the end of a rope and ask him to run off with no rhyme or reason (let alone proper manners). If he's out there spinning like some rabid dog chasing his tail, pulling on you all the while, then he's "practicing wrong" and your time spent is actually reinforcing bad, bad habits. How many times have you seen a horse being lunged, the horse spinning around, nearly pulling the owner's arms out of the sockets? What's the horse learning there beyond "Ignore pressure"? He's learning "Pull on the lunge line today, pull on the reins tomorrow." He's learning "Run faster the harder that guy pulls on the line." (Read: "Speed up when he pulls on the reins"). We've already seen that the horse is growing stronger with each rep, so put it all together and you've got a wreck.
Whether you're first teaching a youngster to lunge - or giving some remedial training to an older horse prone to spin at Mach 6, you'll begin in the same way. You'll begin...
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| Meet the author:
John & Josh Lyons Certified
Clinician and Trainer
Utopia, TX (Hill Country of San Antonio)
Keith Hosman is based in San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, lessons and training. He frequently travels to Los Angeles, CA and Kansas City, MO where he partners with fellow clinician Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations. You can find him on Google+ and Reddit.
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Give to Bit
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Lyons Training 101: Issue Thirty-six, Part 1
"Horse Lunge Training: Lungeing a Horse: How, When & Why"
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