How do I train a colt to lunge? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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Question How do I train a colt to lunge?

Have an 8 month old pony colt--he's very tiny at the moment, and only comes up to my waist. I would like to train him how to lunge, but I'm not sure how to start. I have a QH mare that was professionally trained so I've never had to try with her! I've been working with this colt since day one, and he leads fine (will trot with me), stands to be groomed, and will let me pick up and pick out all four of his feet (he even let the farrier rasp his back feet a little the last time he came out for my big girl). He's very smart (we've started trick training), and I don't think he'd have a hard time learning to exercise through lunging, I just don't know the proper way to start. Even if you feel he's too young to start, tell me but still give me advice on how to get going with his training. Thanks!
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post #2 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 10:36 AM
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I won't longe any horse under 2 years old. The reason is that it puts a lot of torque on the horse's body, especially when you and the horse are learning together.

No horse is done growing until the age of 8 years old or so... most horses do have their knees close at 2 years old (or thereabouts), and that's a primary concern when longing. Those legs need to stand up under the wear and tear of riding (or whatever else you do with your horse) for the rest of it's life. For that reason, it's in yours, and your horse's best interests to wait as long as you can before putting un-needed stresses on them.

I realize that there are classes out there for yearlings to do longe line, but, over the years I've heard enough from people who have studied equine bio mechanics to have decided that it's just not worth it to me. My goal for any horse I train is long term soundness - to me it's not worth risking that soundness because I wanted to get going on something early, or we were bored with the early steps.

To start a horse out in longing I make sure they lead well. This is something you can make sure he's doing now by setting up some leading challenges - make an obstacle course in which he has to stay with you, on a LOOSE lead (so give him some slack) and try to navigate your course. Keep it simple at first - but by all means work up to some challenging stuff like walking over bridges, or over some "downed trees" (you can make them in your ring with poles, have them criss cross, with odd distances), do some pole weaving... over tarps. (If you have access take him out into the "whole wide world" and find natural obstacles). The goal is to NEVER have to touch him, or take the slack out of the lead, he should stay in position and follow your body's guidance. Remember with a young young baby like this, keep your sessions pretty short. He won't learn anything if you've gone beyond his attention span.

The other thing a horse needs to know before learning to longe is learning to move away from pressure. This is crucial, because you are going to be sending your energy out at the horse in order to keep it on the circle when you longe.

You can teach this in hand (if you haven't already - it's actually one of the first things I teach any horse). Get him to move his hips over, his ribs over, his shoulders over. Try to get him so that you can just direct your energy and "intent" at him and he'll move - but you'll probably need to start by touching or pressing on him. Remember that horses will lean INTO pressure first, so be ready for it and be ready to correct it. Also remember to NOT overdo it. You'll make him cranky and sour.

In reality, I do nearly nothing with foals under a year. They learn to be led, and daily handling stuff (grooming, feet cleaned and rasped, they may learn to load into a trailer, and basic leading). I think they really do benefit more from getting the chance to grow up, especially if they can do so with space and other horses.

Between 1 and 2 I'll start a horse ground-driving, and long lining. I prefer this over longing because I don't need to work on a circle at all. I can hit the trails, or work in the whole ring, I can introduce more obstacles (no jumping... but stuff they need to "think" about where they put their feet are good). I start to school cues for different gaits, and instill a really solid "WHOA".

Once he's older, I will start teaching him to walk forward on the longe line, when I send him forward and ask him to stay on the circle. A first it'll just be walking and halting... and as he masters that we'll work on the trot and much later the canter. The big thing about longing a young horse is that you want to make sure your circle isn't less than 33' (20m)... less than that and you're only really going to be teaching your horse bad habits you'll be needing to fix later as he'll pick up habits to help him stay balanced when he's being asked to work incorrectly. (Cross firing, bad bend etc. ). Make sure once he understands the concept of the circle you also start using a larger space - do some straight lines, do some figure eights (work best in a longe cavesson!), set up a little "test" for yourselves and see how well you can accomplish it (I actually downloaded the basic tests for Dressage... we work with those)
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post #3 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 10:39 AM
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I personally believe that its NEVER too early to start with the basics of lunging, and beginning with this age will probably be a very good thing for him, because it will teach him discipline, improve his muscular tone, and help when you begin teaching him to be ridden(that is, if he's for the purpose of riding, and isnt too small.) because he'll already know the basics.
One of the most common problems that I've seen with young horses- especially ones that have been taught to walk on a lead line from an early age(that is in no way a bad thing), is that they don't understand the cue 'move away.' When you try to get them to move around you- they'll simply spin in place to keep you at their left shoulder- as they've been taught. This takes a bit of retraining, and its crucial to NEVER let you frustration show when teaching him that its ok to step away from you.
I have a miniature horse filly who now sucessfully walks, trots, and canters at my signal- and it took about...2 1/2 months? For her to get to this point- so it can be rather slow going, but you will get there. My method isnt exactly the same as everyone elses, but it ends up with a well trained animal. Theres always the method of forcing them away from you until they learn- too. =]
The first step is to teach him to 'move away.' To teach him this, find a word that works for you that means for him to step away from you(this is a handy trick for other things to, like show classes.) I use the term 'move out' but anything will work. Press against his chest or shoulder(or both!) firmly while saying 'move out.' once he takes a step or two away- praise him. Within a few days you should be able to tell him to 'move out' and he will move away from you. At this point you should also be able to walk around him without him feeling the need to spin. Now you can actually begin trying to lunge.
The best way is if you have another experienced person helping you, because he wont understand what he's supposed to do at first. I'm assuming you have a lunge line/whip since you lunge your mare, but if not- you can always use another rope. Its best to start in a round pen, also. Start with simply using a lead line-and have your friend take your colts halter and begin leading him a circle around you- with you standing firmly in place. Talk to him as he circles so that you stay his center of attention. Have him make a few circles, then stop. Go over to him and praise him. Do this a few times so he understands the route he needs to take.
After a few days of this, introduce the whip. Snap it behind him and have your friend move him forwards if he doesnt move on his own. Hopefully he WILL move on his own, however. By now your friend should be able to let go of his halter and he will move in a circle still. If not, keep practicing the step before this one.
Once he is moving in a circle (dont worry about his pace) for you by himself, your friend can move away. If he stops, snap the whip behind him again to get him moving. After about a week of this- you can start working on gaits. Whenever he is walking, call 'walk'- and trotting, call 'trot' to familiarize him with the words even when you're just leading him around. Then begin reinforcing your words with the cues. Have him move out and begin circling you on a lunge line- and after he picks a pace, snap your whip behind him and call for him to step the gait up. If he's walking, say 'trot!', or if he trots, ask him to 'canter!'. Continue to snap and call this word until he moves up his pace, then praise him. Have him make one or two circles, then ask him to 'woah'. If he doesnt already know to stop, point your whip in front of him. He should stop.
Continue working on this in both directions. Counter clockwise and clockwise. Eventually he should 'move out', 'woah', 'walk', 'trot', and 'canter' at your request. Those are the basics of lunging. Later you can introduce faster and slower variations of each pace, direction changes, and sliding stops- which I'm working on with my filly right now. But for now, thats about all he needs to know. Hope I helped atleast a bit, but remember that if you dont like my method- you can alway go for someone elses =] I opt for the gentler onces that let the horse figure his own way through instead of forcing them to, but thats not something everyone agrees with.
Happy lunging! If you have a question, feel free to ask me.
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post #4 of 6 Old 12-08-2010, 08:49 PM
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I agree with Unicorn, and an excellant post!

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post #5 of 6 Old 12-09-2010, 12:01 AM
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I would not lunge a baby either. Even the longest lunge line creates some pretty tight circles for young undeveloped legs.

I know that some people do this, but I am somewhat anal, and will not seriously jump my 5 yr old til next year (I jumped him 3 times this year, but that was more of a hop of a joke of a fence).
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post #6 of 6 Old 12-09-2010, 03:56 PM
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All I can say is make sure you start at a walk, and with a small circle, little bits at a time (bout 5 minute incriments). I did this with my horse, literally lunged her at about 10 feet out, at a
WALK and thus she learned not to pull or yank her head away, to move away and be respectful of my space, and my cues to stop and face me. It is no fun having a scared horse on the end of a 30 foot rope running around like a maniac, thats not a controlled excersize. Start small, and as the horse gets comfortable with the rope, the pace, and being driven forward in a new way,then you can move outward. However I would not move past a walk until you and the horse feel comfortable with a longer lead. To get the horse to move around you at a walk on a short lead, move towards his rear end, gently pulling his head aroung while driving his rear away, look at his hip while nudging him away (click at him or wiggle the rope) from you as you hold the rope and hell get the idea. Release some rope as he moves out to give him space to move around you. Thus he will learn to move away from the rope near his rear, and will learn to not pull on the lead. This is how I started my horse and she picked it up really well. I did this by myself and it was very effective.
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colt , lunge , pony , training

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