Teaching a horse to lunge?

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Teaching a horse to lunge?

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    07-12-2011, 06:46 AM
Teaching a horse to lunge?

Okay so Negrita is 20 years old, and doesnt know how to lunge. Yes 20 years old, and has never been lunged in her life. I've tried to lunge her twice, with no success.. she just doesnt understand what im asking her to do. She'll walk for a couple of steps, then turn and face me. When I try to get her back out on a circle, she panics & throws her head up & backs up, or just keeps turning towards me.. she's a very panicky horse due to being abused in the past, and both times I've tried to lunge her she starts getting stressed & shying away from me & snorting. At one point she was actually shaking... how can I teach her to lunge? Is it possible to teach a horse of this age something they should have learned when they were young?
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    07-12-2011, 08:29 AM

Absolutely you can, barring physical ailments age has little to do with it.
The issue with a question like this however is quite simply what do you mean by lunging?

Lunging is unfortunately one of those things that people readily attempt to do with little understanding of how to do it properly and consistently.

Some are turning on the spot and training purely for vocal commands, others use body language, others effectively just use it as exercise or getting the buzz out of the animal before riding. So what are you looking to achieve? Also what are you actually doing? What is your motion and your body position?

Regardless of the method I find that most domesticated horses automatically pick up on certain positions, and often people are asking for the turn in without realising it. The turn in from the horse is perfectly natural when domesticated. (I exclude mongolian horses in this)

Assuming you are in the correct position a simple aiming of the stick/whip/reed or whatever at the withers should keep them out. (energy aiming not contact). You will need to gauge the pressure dependent upon this horses sensitivity. Also be sure you are not causing the horse to brake and turn with your body. (especially being forward alongside the shoulder or aiming front back towards the hind will both cause this)
    07-12-2011, 08:40 AM
Well she needs light exercise, because she has a bit of arthritis, but I don't have a saddle for her yet & I can only walk her bareback since she gets panicky when ask her to trot (only been ridden bareback a few times) so really its just to help keep her legs loose until I can start riding her more. I do attempt to stand in line with her shoulder when I "lunge" her, but as soon as I move to her side she will follow & turn to face me. I havent tried to use a lunging whip yet, I usually just flick the end of the lunge line towards her to get her to move out but again all she will do is turn towards me.. it gets a little frustrating.
    07-12-2011, 09:28 AM
Ok firstly depending on how you send her out, standing by the shoulder is part of the issue. Also if she has had any NH type training in the past (Parelli etc) then again the movement to the back can cause the turn in. All easily resolvable.

If I may my next question first however. Why do you think she gets panicky when asked to trot? Do you ever see her trotting loose in her field etc? If so have you noticed how she moves off herself? Does she throw herself into the trot, or does she ease into it?
    07-12-2011, 09:42 AM
Ooh no theres nothing wrong with the way she trots, I let her off in the lunging paddock the other day. <-- here. Its just she's had a couple of months off work until last week, and when I ask her to trot she's fine for a few steps then rushes forwards.
    07-12-2011, 10:05 AM
Great video thanks. Very interesting. In many ways.

If you can engage her via lunging, then one of the real benefits will be to teach her to engage her hind, and halt and half halt by bringing her hind underneath. You can see at the moment she has issues in the stop. It's stiff, stuttery and forehand loaded though she is actually trying to find another way, you can see that. She just needs a little guidance.

That's what I would be doing with her. However that's a very physical type of lunging in the sense that you have to walk the circle actively and engage your own body, it's not something you can do in the 'turn on the spot' type of lunging. So it depends on heat you are happy to try.

Either way, the important thing with a horse like this is to ask for a few steps only, then a stop. A few steps more then a stop. It's down to feel but there are two reactions from a horse like this. If they are nervous they will be trying to turn their head away from you. Being happy to turn in is not a bad sign. If you try to force them out with too much energy they will likely take off. Remember you want then to be happy to turn in because then you can ask for just the front for shoulder in etc later. If you get them to bring their hind under to stop then all of a sudden they cannot turn in until after they have stopped, and as a separate action which is ok.

I would definitely suggest using some sort of whip, only so that you can be precise as to where you are pointing.

Will she lunge in a straight line rather than the circle?
    07-12-2011, 10:59 AM
You mean like long reining? Im not sure she's ever been taught anything like that. She's litterally just been very basically broken in & used for polo all her life.
    07-12-2011, 11:26 AM
Not long reining no, but that's a good idea too.

In the truest historical sense of lunging a horse should be taught with two people first not one, and in a straight line.

Remember lunging should be like leading, it's just more advanced and done from a distance. Also a horse should not actually bring any tension onto the line, therefore he should not be turning because of the rope, he should be turning because of you. In the same way, if you step out, so should he. When you can do that you can ask for anything, circles, ovals, 8s, D's etc. If there is resistance on the line (as the BHS teaches) then you are basically causing bracing , and even if you get past this the horse comes to rely on the tension which defeats the purpose and affects flexion and balance. BHS lunging is simply a way of teaching vocal commands with little consideration for the actual physical development of the horse beyond the aerobic.

If you do use a second person they must be just slightly behind you in timing so your cue is seen first, theirs is just reinforcement. Also when they halt they must also halt square and stand absolutely, and I mean absolutely still for a few seconds. Not even a shift of weight. As people we tend to find that the hardest part. I see so many people fidgeting around with mobile phones etc and expecting their horses to stand still, then the next second expecting the horse to be sensitive to every motion.
    07-12-2011, 11:42 AM
Oooh okay. I guess I could ask a friend to help me out with it next time I try. I'll also attempt to long rein her, should be interesting since she gets a little funny with if anyone/anything is walking behind her. She tends to tense up when anything even goes near her back end lol
    07-12-2011, 11:51 AM
Originally Posted by KawaiiCharlie    
Oooh okay. I guess I could ask a friend to help me out with it next time I try. I'll also attempt to long rein her, should be interesting since she gets a little funny with if anyone/anything is walking behind her. She tends to tense up when anything even goes near her back end lol
Well then it might be better to avoid until you and she are confident. Having a helper for the lunge would be safer and less stress for the horse and you.

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