None of us ride as frequently in the winter months, but our horses still need their exercise! One way
If you’ve never tried it before, you’ve probably seen it being done – the handler, armed with a long whip, holding on to a lead and directing the horse to move in circles around him/her.
If you doubt that lungeing is as good for exercise as a hard hack, consider that (as verified by top British lunge aid brand,) 20 minutes lungeing can be as effective as 45 minutes riding under saddle.
If that isn’t enough to convince you that lungeing is beneficial, then take a closer look at what sort of exercise lungeing provides for your horse. I’ve heard it described as a cross between Pilates and gymnastics for horses! Safe to say it is an effective aerobic workout that encourages the stretching of the back muscles and activates the hind quarters while refining rhythm and improving balance.
Lungeing isn’t only good for exercising the horse in inclement weather, but is also a great alternative to riding when your horse is recovering from an injury, or if you yourself are incapacitated.
Lungeing gives you the opportunity to observe your horse and correct any bad habits. On the lunge you can assess soundness, quality of movement, gait, the way he approaches obstacles and so on.
How to Lunge Your Horse
NOTE: If you’re new to lungeing we’d recommend asking someone who’s experienced to help you initially.
Before you begin you’ll need to prepare a lungeing arena and obtain the right equipment. You’ll need:
· A fairly large enclosure where your horse can walk/trot in a circle – about 30 metres in diameter. Make sure the ground surface is free of debris or any hazards and that there are no distractions (like other horses) around to stop the horse focusing.
· You should wear your usual riding gear, including jodhpurs, helmet and boots, and with a good grip to protect against rope burn.
· You’ll need a – and this is not the same as a lead rope! Lunge lines are between 7m and 10m long, and usually made of cotton webbing or a cotton/nylon blend, with a clip on the end to attach to a cavesson.
· Horse headgear for lungeing is preferably a (though some prefer to use a bridle,
· Although you can lunge a horse wearing a saddle (with stirrups removed or properly secured) its preferable to use a (belt) with various rings for attaching long reins or training aids. Use either a padded roller or put it on over a saddlecloth.
· A vital piece of equipment is the lunge whip – a long-stemmed whip with a lash about 2m long. This is not used for punishment, but to guide and encourage the horse during the lungeing exercise.
NOTE: For serious training it’s a good idea to invest in a good lunge training system – a system of ropes and pulleys that can be adjusted to improve back usage, develop the back muscles and provide stimulation of the hindquarter.
Perfecting the process of lungeing effectively takes patience and practice for you and the horse. It is
· Fold the lunge line neatly and hold it in your left hand (for lungeing to the left). Gently attach the lunge rein to the centre ring of the cavesson.
· With the whip in your right hand pay out the line until you can position yourself in the centre of the ring, with the line loose.
· You should be the apex of a triangle, with the lunge line meeting the cavesson as one point, and the whip aimed, pointing downwards, at the hindquarters forming the other.
· Encourage the horse to move with your usual commands or clicking your tongue. Keep the lunge line tidy, and use the whip to guide the horse to move in a circle around you.
· Gradually encourage the horse to move further away from you, letting out the lunge line, so that the circle becomes larger.
· Once you’ve walked the circle a number of times, you can cue the horse to move into a trot, and eventually into a canter.
How long a lungeing session should last is a matter of varied opinion, but most experts recommend not longer than 20 minutes.
Useful Video Link: Tips from The Pony Club on how to lunge your horse.