Learning Lunging

Anyone out there a lunging expert?
'Cause we're definitely not pros...
I am very open about the fact that I am the opposite of an expert in lunging and ground work. To be fair, I also don't believe most groundwork actually translates to dressage training and therefore have not seen a reason to learn more. Pig is notoriously terrible on the lunge line, often losing his balance and nearly falling over or fighting any pressure from side reins or contraptions. As such, I really never got used to using lunging as a training tool.

Enter Bast...
"Oh hai!"
As I've been working with the baby, I've discovered some glaring holes in his education. Under saddle, he's coming along great. However he is struggling when it comes to the basics of reacting to pressure and trusting and looking to his handler. These issues are mostly a problem on the ground, but resolving them will help make his under saddle work much better, too.

I figured bringing Bast back to work after his splint with some light lunging would help address these issues, plus be a light way to test the leg. Unfortunately, I immediately discovered some training holes...
Uh, Pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to go.
I realized Bast's grasp of lunging was completely lacking. As most horses do when confronted with too big of an ask, he was tuning me out completely and attempting to exit stage left to hang out with his dude bros.


So what to do? Start learning how to actually train a horse to lunge, I guess.

I've figured out the best way to approach things with Bast is at the very beginning. As in, so far at the beginning that you might not even feel like you're actually working on the issue at all. What's that mean for lunging?
Hint: Not this at all.
Well, it means standing in the field with my horse in a halter and tapping him on the shoulder with a dressage whip.



"Wtf with the tapping tho?"
The idea is to teach Bast to move away from pressure by annoying the hell out of him with a tapping whip on the shoulder until he finally moves away. Once he moves, I immediately stop the tapping as a reward. Then I repeat. On both sides.

To be honest, he's a really smart horse so this step went really fast. In about 10 minutes he had a good grasp of moving his shoulder away. I didn't move on to the next step (moving away when I simply point at the shoulder), but we'll get there soon. First I want to make sure he understands the concept even when other things are distracting him (like other horses, the wind, the idea of coyotes and lions in the bushes, etc).

The plan going forward to continue to slowly introduce him to increasing questions until he understands all the steps and instruction of lunging. I think this is going to be really useful when it comes to building trust between he and I. He likes getting answers right, and doing this is going to teach him to look to me and think when he's confused, rather than taking matters into his own hands and bolting off into the sunset.

Let's hope it works!
Hopefully we'll work up a more confident version of this soon!


  1. Time spent on the long line is always time well spent: it completely transformed my Tess (who likes to get things right too ;)

  2. I hate lunging. There's so many gadgets and crap people use and nothing is substitute for good proper riding to build a topline. If I do it, I always "double lunge" or long line or something... I have an inside and outside rein and it's a lot like riding. I think more of that type of thing will be in our future... I'm glad Bast is starting to understand!

  3. Yeahhh, Bobby always looked slightly lame and definitely mentally retarded whenever he was on the longe. He long lined great, but left to his own devices on a circle and there was nothing productive going on there.

  4. I'm not good at many things but I AM good at lunging and teaching horses to lunge! Hampton is so broke on the lunge he could be a vaulting horse. It is an invaluable tool, although of course don't abuse it or overuse. It sounds like you are on the right track - just always be sure to stay in your triangle!

  5. If you can find it, try to get Chris Irwin's DVD called 'The Language of the Lunge.' It helped me OMG so much with my baby horse! We had completely lost our right lead canter, nowhere to be found, and I was so frustrated I couldn't figure it out. This DVD showed me the right body language to use so that I was communicating much more clearly.

  6. I'm not very educated on lunging or groundwork either, but the few lessons I've taken with my trainer on the subject have been really helpful!

  7. Uh well there's hope! I think it was a solid year+ before I could get C to lunge to the right without standing on his hind legs and waving at me. He ended up as a lunging champion.

  8. I'm guessing you guys don't have a round pen?


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