Lunging horses. What do you picture in your mind? A flat, 30 ft. nylon lunge line. A lunge whip. Maybe draw reins and a surcingle. Step out to the arena. Lunge 10 minutes to the left, then 10 minutes to the right. O.K. Now he's warmed up, right? Maybe yes. Maybe no. You have worked him physically, that's true. You can see the sweat pouring off him. Yet to have a horse physically fit and warmed up is not enough. Your horse must also be psychologically and emotionally fit and ready to ride.
Horses will often begin their lunging exercise and simply tune out mentally. Lunging should not simply be a physical exercise, but rather a mental exercise. Let's exercise his mind and I promise you, his body will follow.
There are a lot of ways to accomplish this. "Use your imagination. How can you engage your horses mind during the lunging process? Begin by changing your thinking. Instead of thinking "Lunge", think "Send". Send your horse away like you would send your stock dog around some cattle. Give him a definite job to do and a definite place to go.
Lunging can be made more interesting by simply moving. You don't have to stay in one place. If you are in the arena, send your horse out into a circle. After a couple times around, start to drift. Make your way towards the other end of the arena. Now work your way back. These are the kind of things that will keep your horses mind interested and engaged. Teach your horse to change directions at the end of the line. Start small at first (12 feet is good). As your horse is traveling around, reach down the line towards his head and tip him to you. When he has disengaged his hindquarters (turned them to the outside of the circle) use your rope, stick or whip to send his front end away in the opposite direction. It will be important that your horse understands how to yield his hind end and front end away. Don't allow him to come in towards you when he turns.
Obstacles and uneven terrain are also great things to incorporate into your lunging program. Send your horse out to the end of the line. Then drift towards a jump or obstacle. Now your horse is going to begin to look where he is going. He will be thinking all the way down to his feet. Do you have a hillside, creek bed or other uneven terrain? Send your horse up and over or down and through some of these things. All of these exercises begin to give purpose to the otherwise mundane lunging principals he learned in the arena.
Send your horse around a tree, pole or post. Allow that post to change his direction. Step to the other side and send him off the other way. Practice all these things at shorter lengths of rope at first and increase the length as you and your horse gain proficiency. Start with a 12 foot lead rope. Then you can go to 25 feet. Then to 50 feet.
Lunging does not have to be a boring, mundane activity. It can be exciting for you and your horse. Remember: Exercise his mind. His body will follow!
Contact: Richard Winters
115 Columbia Hill Court
Reno, Nevada 89508
Phone: (805) 640-0956
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