Lunging -Vs- Free Work - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 12:52 AM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Lunging -Vs- Free Work

So, this all started when I began to se lunging become more and more popular. None of my horses have ever been lunged, nor do I know how to even start.

But, when me and my dad first started a couple horses last year, we would put them in the roundpen saddled and get them to just work off of our voices and body language, enforcing some of it with a long leadshank.

Welllll... I've realized that what we were doing is very similar to lunging... excecpt lacking the lunge line and whip...

I've been wanting to just loosen up some of my horses with some of this stuff and eventually be on the road to a bridless ride... The big question is: What would you rather do?

Teach an idiot-stick like me how to properly lunge


Tell me to just try the free work in a roundpen and give me advice when I need it

I'm afraid those are your only options

Thanks ya!

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post #2 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 01:14 AM
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For me, lunging is about getting the horse to loosen up and to get them to release external thoughts and turn to thinking on me, instead. That can be done actually easiest in a round pen without a line attached, in my opinion. But I do also do luning on a long leadline. I don't really lunge anymore on a real lungeline at the distance that is traditional. I didn't feel that I could really affect the horse as well when it is circling so far out there, and I don't want him circling tuned out.

But if a person knows how to lunge properly, it can be very helpful.

I think it is something you could learn to a certain degree via video. Your horse's might find it a bit confusing at first, but they can learn.

I still don't know which of the two options you left me I'd choose, though.
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post #3 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 01:17 AM
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Depending on the horse, I generally prefer free lunging (lunging without a line, or what you referred to as "free work"). I used to do both with my old gelding and I found that he actually listened better when we free lunged.

For some reason in my area, "lunging" is more synonymous with "running the bejeezus out of your horse" than it is about making the horse think and listen to you. When I lunge Aires, he works almost solely off voice cues with an occasional hand signal (one of the few hand signals I use with him is a sweeping motion up behind him to get him to keep moving out more quickly). My old gelding was the same. I know some people prefer to work almost solely off hand signals, but my thinking is that if I want to transfer those signals/cues to the saddle, which is going to be more effective: me saying "trot" and giving the correct leg/seat/rein cue or giving a hand signal for it that he can't see? Just my personal opinion though.
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post #4 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 05:06 AM
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You don't want the result I got from Stella after lunging her. Running in mindless circles can have a payback.

Stella quickly put together that when ever I came into the paddock with a lead rope she would start running around me in those circles. Just out of reach. She would stop but the moment I started towards her she would commence to circle me again.

Had this become a game, was it payback, or was she telling me somthing. We now have this game called catch me but not untill I am ready to be caught. This game lasts for 3 or 4 minutes. I now have a different strategy. I walk into the paddock she starts running those circles and I sit down. She can't resist, she has to come up and have a look. It's a female thing.

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post #5 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 10:47 AM
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I already answered this question on a different forum or the same OP, but I copy my answer here because I thin round-penning and longeing are both very misunderstood.

Round-penning free and working on a longe line are not even close to the same thing to a horse. To people, they can look similar -- after all, the horse is going around in circles. That is pretty much where the similarity ends.

Both are only as productive as the person in charge. Either can start problems or help fix them. In my opinion, neither should just be used as exercise tools. Turn-out is more effective and never causes problems. Using longeing or the round pen just for exercise without insisting on manners and complete control, causes many problems that we see as trainers.

Longeing done right teaches a horse to 'give' to the line and to be under complete control. The horse should go the exact speed the handler desires and should not pull or duck in or ever change direction without be told to. It should be more of an exercise in obedience that just exercise alone.

I do not think anything has been more misunderstood or over-done and abused in the last 20 years than round pen use. It is close to a art to do it really right. Done wrong, it is responsible for many of the spoiled horses trainers now see.

I have said many times and will repeat here that round pens are for people and not for horses. Many riders and trainers do not use them at all. They are good riders and do not need a RP to teach anything under saddle. They just teach everything they need to teach while riding. Round pens got most of their recent popularity from clinicians that use them so riders that are not competent to handle and ride green horses don't get drug off and killed. This is the do-it-yourself generation and round pens make much of this possible -- but the results are good only if done right.

One of the biggest pitfalls for RP use are a rider/handler staying in one way to long. This eventually teaches a horse that the rider has no control anywhere else. The horse only has respect in the RP and is completely out of control outside. If lessons learned early in the RP are transferred to the big outside pretty quickly, it works. If you continue to just do them in the RP, then that is where you will be stuck.

The other really BIG problem is letting the horse learn that the RP fence is the only perimeter they have to respect. So, when a person tries to longe in the open, the horse just bolts for the nearest fence so it has the fence to follow like it did in the RP. Many horses learn to do the same thing under saddle. They just drift out to a fence or outright bolt for one. These horses have learned to follow a fence instead of obeying a handler's longe line or reins.

If you put a line on a horse in the round pen (which I do about 1/2 of the time I use one), you have to make sure that the horse uses that line as a perimeter and not the wall of the pen. I prefer a 60 foot round pen because I can longe a horse in it and keep the horse 6-10 feet from the RP fence. I do MANY stops (without saying "Whoa!") and many direction changes (but not following every stop), many transitions (without voice commands) and teach perfect manners and control. I teach a horse to 'give' to pressure, to move its hips and shoulders and to lighten its back-up. I do my first ground driving in it so a horse does not have an opportunity to bolt or get out of control. I do my first two rides in it and then head out to the pasture or big arena. On later rides, I will ride the horse 5 minutes or so in the RP and then head out.

Up until about 25 years ago, I never used a round pen at all. I did not need to use one. I could do everything I needed to do out in the open. I started longing horses about 40 years ago when I started showing. Before that, just like all of the horsemen I knew, I put a first ride on one in a tiny pen and then headed out. When I started to get severe arthritis (was diagnosed with RA at 35 and Osteoarthritis right after that) and had to try to come back from serious leg surgery (bone cancer) "I" needed a round pen, so I learned to use one. No one was out there teaching round-penning, videos had not been introduced so it was just trial and error with lots of errors. I did not take me long to find the serious problems that could come from doing it wrong and it explained some of the spoiled horse problems I had been getting in to fix for people. I figured it out pretty quickly, but then, I had been training for more than 25 years and had a keen understanding of how horses think. [That was a gift and not taught.]

I have watched many clinicians use round pens in the last few years -- most in person and some on TV. The best person I have seen is Stacy Westfall. The next one that comes to mind is Dennis Reese. I have watched both in person and they both truly understand how horses think. The worst two I have seen in the round pen are Craig Cameron (he looks better now - on TV at least ) and Curt Pate (he was clueless). I just sat there shaking my head as he did his demonstrations at a the Oklahoma Horse Fair.

I hope this clears up some of the differences and explains the pitfalls of the misunderstood round pen
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post #6 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 10:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Stan View Post
...Running in mindless circles can have a payback...
Beating a horse with a crop can have a payback, but that isn't why most people use a crop. If the horse is running in mindless circles, what are you doing? And WHY are you doing it?
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post #7 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 11:16 AM
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I suppose I ought to expand. I am NOT a professional trainer, or good at using round pens or lunge lines. I have been using both under a pro. It is not a way to run your horse silly, and it seems a horrible way to exercise your horse (to me).

My mare has a tendency to panic and bolt. When she bolts, she pays no attention to her feet. Just running around loose, I've seen her fall at a gallop too many times to want to be on her when it happens.

So I've been using a round pen and a lunge line. The round pen was primarily to teach her she can get wound up, and then transition down rapidly. At first, if she bolted in the pen, she would run 20+ laps in a panic, unless I did something. So when she would bolt, I would require her to turn, which slows her down and makes more work. If she started to trot on her own, I'd either turn her or speed her up. With time, she has learned it is both easier and 'safe' to go the speed I want, and now that is pretty much what she does. She pays more attention to me, spins herself up less and calms down much faster.

I've also used it with poles to make her pay attention to her feet. At first, she wouldn't cross a pole on the ground at a walk without smacking at least one hoof. We've worked up so now she can gallop across several poles at different heights without hitting them - which tells me she is paying more attention to her feet, even at a gallop.

The lunge work has been mostly to improve her balance. She has always had a tendency to flail with her head, throwing her off balance. The lunge line allows me to remove some of that. She is learning to 'turn corners' without falling on her side. And yes, she is 10 years old...

The trainer I've been working with has been on vacation for a month, but she returns next week. Hopefully Mia will be ready to ride. Maybe not...but we're close. She is much better balanced and much more watchful (and much faster to transition down) than before.

Once she is ready to ride, we probably won't go back to the round pen. In fact, I plan to take it down. The trainer I've worked with believes round pens and lunge lines are used...well, to train. You teach a lesson. Once the horse has learned the lesson, you graduate.

I'm not in any way a pro. I am pretty well convinced, however, that we shouldn't do anything mindless with our horses. When I ride, I have things I want to work on for MY riding, and things I want to have the horse practice. We're both always training, either for good or bad.
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post #8 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for the imformitive information. As to is 3.15 am the mind is beginning to turn to mush. However I think I should clear up a thought. Mindless circles, My horse Stella was lunged by me only once, not in a pen but the paddock on a 20 foot lead.
It was done to help establish communication and her responce to word comands. The result from the one short session is what I described, and from that she playes her game. I say it is a game, as the outcome is the same, she will stop, lower her head, and allow the holter to be put on when she is ready.
If she is turned loose with the halter left on, when I go to get her she will not play her game. It is only when it is off.

Her body language I describe as playfull and has been comented on by others as such.

We dont stable our horses they are turned loose at the end of any work session so having them easy to catch is a must. Stella seems to have decided some months after being lunged to play this game.

This horse has developed this behaviour fairly recently or it was dorment in her before I aquired her but it is there.

As the horse is in a paddock the process I have adoped is to be calm and not to force her as this only increases the time it takes for her to stop hence I now sit down and ignore her. No growling, no praise, unless she submits without the running in circles.

Stella has a look about her and a defiance which could be described as restance for a couple of minutes, then she changes her mind and submits.
It is anoying at times but kept light hearted. Any help I get from your responce is greatfully received as in the end this game is a pain in the butt if it happens to rain. Stella is the horse in my Avatar the one at the bottom of the page is Savannah
Cheers, Stan

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Last edited by Stan; 09-02-2011 at 11:56 AM.
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post #9 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 12:05 PM
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By the way I don't use a crop or spurs. She will respond to voice commands walk on, trot up, get up (canter), easy, means down a gear. I am lucky in that way but she is also herd bound. An issue presently being worked on and no amount of money could by this tart from me. Take a close look at her she is a tart in a nice way.

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post #10 of 10 Old 09-02-2011, 12:38 PM
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Honestly I think both can be very useful tools. Notice I said tools, they help train, they are not the trainer.

As a general rule for myself, I use the round pen to help establish respect on the ground, rarely ever do I ride in a round pen. With Onyx, my gelding, he came to me with a terrible habit of running through lead line, biting, and kicking plus a terrible fear of anything that resembled a whip (due to an abusive past probably). Also he was very hesitant to expose his left side to me (counterclockwise). NOT something I want to start on the end of a lunge line. I tried it once and soon realized he would get nowhere just from that. Someone had already taught him bad habits on a lunge.

So I tried the round pen. I worked him as Cherie had said in a previous post, I made sure he was tuned to me, not to the roundpen. I directed him by having him yield his hind end, stop, turn, and perform at all 3 gaits in both directions. I finished with a join up. Then I attached him to my lead line, and "lunged" him at a walk. Slowly desensitizing him to his fear of being on a lunge, and his fear of a whip ( I probably did all of this in less than 10 minutes).

I did many different steps to get him lunging again (which he now does fine). The point being I use both lunging and round pen as a means to an end, not as an end. The end being him being a trail horse, or behaving in an arena, or in a field (which he now does).

I think the biggest problem with both is that people run the crap out of their horses before they get on them to "calm them down" or tire them. That's the stupidest reason I have ever heard for lunging or round pen. I use both round pens and lunging for a small period of time, to bring my horse to focus and assess his ability to perform that day.

So basically I say try both. Assess which one your horse pays most attention to you when using, and go with that.

** Don't be the rider who gallops all night and never sees the horse that is beneath him **
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