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Lunging - step by step

Published: 2015-11-24 14:20:58 Categories: Guides Rss feed

lunging background source:

Each one of us knows that working on lunge is important in the horse's training. Lunging helps in relaxation, gymnastics, and is a great introduction to training young horses. Horses learn obedience, form rhythm and regularity of steps but also develop proper musculature. It is all true, but only when lunging is conducted properly - by somebody who possesses the proper knowledge and skills - what are those, you will learn from our article.

Advantages of lunging

  • it gives us possibility of subordinating the pet, refreshing the rules and reminding the hierarchy in a horse-rider team
  • it helps in process of teaching a young horse
  • it makes possible building or re-building the horse's trust
  • it diversifies everyday trainings 
  • it can replace rides in the saddle while the rider is indisposed
  • it helps the horse in returning to work after a ling break (for example, after injury) and provides movement during recuperation
  • it improves balance and form rhythm and regularity of gait of the steed
  • it is excellent for gymnastics and relaxation
  • it properly develops the horse's musculature
  • you can try introducing new elements without risk for the rider during it (for example: first poles, ground poles, jumps or saddling)
  • it helps in training the "hard" horses and horses with structure defects
  • you can use them as a preliminary part to work in high collection

As you can see, there is a lot of advantages, and surely those mentioned above are not all there are. But what about the disadvantages? As we mentioned at the beginning - there are no disadvantages, if lunging is performed properly. Problems appear when training on a lunge is ill-considered, without knowledge of the horse's structure, without setting goals, and what is worst, with wrong use of equestrian inventions. You can read about all the possible mistakes you can make during lunging in the further part of this article.

Preparing for lunging

Choosing place

Lunging arena Lunging arena, source: 440fence-com

Certainly, for many of you it is obvious, but we probably should discuss this issue - where to lunge. Preferably, we should have a rectangular arena (manege, hall) or a circular lunging arena (round pen) at our disposal, while the latter is perfect for work with young horses. An advantage of working outdoors is the possibility of choosing any place we want, due to which the surface will get used up equally everywhere. A huge plus of working in a hall, is that it restricts the number of stimuli, and that allows the horse to focus better on the performing task. Lunging arena should have a proper ground (for example silica sand) - safe, on which neither the horse, nor the lunging person will slip, nor will they get hurt (we are saying about all the "surprises" such as: nails, rocks, pieces of glass, and other sharp elements). The surface should be springy, but not too hard (such ground is too slippery for shoed horses) and not too soft, or deep (the animal while "sinking" in the ground additionally loads his joints and tendons, which may lead to afflictions).

I think that if we have such possibility - it is good to change the place in which we work with our horse, in order to both diversify training, and to reinforce his discipline and obedience so he would react to commands on every ground. What is more, we will accustom him to various environment and any "news" that might appear during training - lady with an umbrella, other horses, freely flying plastic bag, or tractor will stop making our horse anxious.

Horse's equipment

Way of equipping your horse is dependant on the goal which you set (if this is just a warm-up before a ride, there is no point in using cavesson, you can just use bridle), level of the horse's advancement (young horse should not have too much equipment on him during his first rides), the horse's structure (for example, too short neck requires different approach to the steed when it comes to using inventions), but also skills and experience of the lunging person. 

lunging 1 source:

Regardless of all those factors, the horse should always have boots or wrappers on his legs. If you work on ground poles or you plan on jumping on the lunge, you should also equip your horse with wellies so that our pet's legs are properly secured.


While working on lunge, the horse should have unscrewed horseshoe nails. Otherwise, the steed might get self-injured.

Cavesson is a special type of halter that you put on the bridle. The bridle cheek straps have to be outside in order to not restrict movement of the bit. Cavesson distributes pressure on the horse's nose so that all the possible sudden lunge tensions or tugs cause no harm to his muzzle, which helps in relaxation. Due to this characteristic, cavesson is especially recommended for work with young horses. Central ring of the cavesson serves to attach the lunge line, the side rings - to side reins. Cavesson should be sized just like the Polish noseband (at a distance of two fingers from the jugal bone, two fingers of space under the strap on the nose). 

cavesson Cavesson, source:

Bridle with bit, preferably anatomical or double-broken, because they allow to chew freely, at the same time increasing production of saliva and relaxing the salivary glands and jaw muscles. You should unlink the reins, unless you plan on mounting the horse after lunging, then you can interlace the reins under the neck and fasten the throatlatch or pull it through the rolled up stirrup leathers.  

doversaddlery-com Lunging belt, source:

Lunging belt is more comfortable than saddle, because of the number of its rings to which we might attach, for example, side reins. You should put a saddle pad under the lunging belt in order to avoid abrasions and wounds of the horse's skin. Of course, if you do not possess a lunging belt, you can lunge your horse in a saddle. In such case, you have to remember to properly attach the stirrups or completely detach them with stirrup leathers, so that they won't bruise the horse's sides. 

horsetack-us One of the possible ways of lashing stirrups, source:


If your pet is pretty stocky, and that causes the saddle to slip during training, put a breastplate on him for the time of lunging - it will prevent the saddle or belt from shifting towards the croup.

 Rider's equipment

Obligatorily, for the period of lunging you should wear a footgear that will provide you will good grip, and also protect you from possible injury (for example, if the horse steps on our foot). Best for that purpose are equestrian shoes - jodhpurs or jackboots, alternatively wellies in autumn, or thermoshoes in winter (flip-flops in summer are not an option!).

An obvious thing for you should also be taking gloves and helmet with you. The first ones will protect you from abrasions and will give the lunge a better grip. Especially young horses can bruise your hands, as they often react abruptly, dangerously, and jerking out of the blue, and stretching the lunge. Helmet, on the other hand, will protect you during possible fall (if the horse pulls you along with him), or even a kick.

lunging 2 source:

The very basic thing is also a lunge, which you should prepare before the training (before you start lunging a horse), by properly folding it. It is always finished with a carabiner (preferably wrought, not embedded) on one side, and with a loop on the other.

We will also need a lunge whip, light and of appropriate length - that means of such length that we would be able to keep an unruly horse in the circle. The whip should be of approximately 2 m length (stable part), and the lash (moving part) from 2 to 3 m. The lash is finished with the so-called "cracker", which makes characteristic cracking sounds while swiping.

Even if your pet walks perfectly on a lunge, you should have the whip, because otherwise if some day your horse decides to "revolt" and changes direction or leaves the circle, you won't have a chance to immediately correct the mistake. Such horse will surely try to "go his way" in the future again, by resisting and checking how far he can push us with his disobedience.

Laying down the end of the whip should give a signal to the horse which gait we demand from him. In a walk we drag it on the ground, in a trot we hold it on the level of the horse's joints or slightly above, and in a gallop much higher, for example on the same level as horse's occiput.

Ways of fastening lunge

If you do not have a cavesson, you should fasten the lunge to the horse's bridle - more precisely, to the bit's rings. Unfortunately, it is a solution much worse and more harmful for the horse. However, if you find yourself in such situation, usually the question of how to properly fasten this lunge appears.

I, myself, during the process of training, being in various stables, had to do with countless ways of fastening, and each rider believed that their way is the best way. But what does "the best" mean? One is certain - no way is right if the lunging person lacks sense and cannot keep a soft, close contact with the horse's muzzle.

While posing this question, I decided to search for the answer in literature, written by people with longstanding experience and practice. The best answer to this question can be found in Polish book entitled "Akademia Jeździecka cz.1" (Equestrian Academy, part 1) by Wacław Pruchniewicz.

W. Pruchniewicz states that you cannot use the so-called sternum while lunging, because it causes an unwanted pressure of outer ring on the horse's cheek and places the bit vertically, which pushes the palate and causes pain.

When you do not have a cavesson, the author recommends replacing it with a well-matched halter. Then you can attach the lunge to the side ring of the halter. The horse's muzzle will not get hurt, but unfortunately, it will not provide us with full control over the steed.

First way, about which mister Pruchniewicz writes is attaching the lunge to the inner ring of the bit. He says that with that fastening you can train most horses, because it allows us to maintain a soft contact with the horse's muzzle. Through taking and giving the lunge you can influence the horse's position.

Attaching the lung to the inner ring of the bit and additionally to the noseband is yet another way of fastening that is especially recommended while lunging young horses and those having very sensitive muzzles. Such fastening provides better stability, preventing pulling the bit over the horse's muzzle while he shies. In such sudden situation, it will work very mildly, protecting sensitive parts of the horse's muzzle. 

fastening lunge to noseband Attaching the lunge to the inner ring of the bit and additionally to the noseband.

Another way is to pull the lunge through the inner ring of the bit and attaching it to the outer ring. Pruchniewicz mentions that, unfortunately, such way of fastening to a single-broken bit might painfully hurt our horse ("the nutcracker" effect), and that will certainly not contribute to the horse's training quality. This way may be used only with a single ring snaffle. A huge advantage of such lunge fastening is possibility of teaching the horse positioning on the outer rein.

Another way of fastening is attaching the lung, pulled through the inner bit rig, to the lunging belt. Such way is possible only when the lunging person has a very delicate hand and is very experienced. Soft contact with the horse's muzzle and activating aids will help us positioning the horse in his occiput. However, too strong impact of the lunge pressure, without "feeling" it might end up in positioning the steed too much to the centre, at the same time provoking him to fall out with his croup or shoulder (or both at the same time).

Fastening the lunge to the outer bit ring, pulling it through the upper belt ring, and then through the inner ring ("as in reins"). Such fastening, as the previous one - requires huge equestrian sense combined with experience. However, a thought-through work with the use of this fastening might be only beneficial, as it helps the horse to position himself properly and easily enter contact. In order for the lunge to easily move through the rings, it is good to choose the one which this part was made of a slippery wire.

lunge fastening 2 Fastening "as in reins".

The last method is to fasten it by pulling the lunge through the occiput. We have to be aware of the fact that such fastening works very strongly on the horse's muzzle, pulling edges of his muzzle. The horse, in order to free himself from this might raise his head, or even start jerking it. In such case, trying to achieve the horse's relaxation and improvement of his gait regularity is impossible.

lunge fastening 1 Pulling lunge through the occiput.

Thus, before you try to lunge the horse without using cavesson, only on a bridle, you should wonder what is your goal, what is yours and your pet's and advancement level so you can pick the way of fastening the lunge.

During lunging

Workout plan

Like every training, lunging should be conducted basing on a particular plan. The so-called training unit always consists of:

  • warm-up
  • proper work
  • trotting out/cooling down

Moving constantly on an arc is very loading for the horse, so the total time of work in both ways should not be longer than 30-40 min. Direction in which you lead the horse should be changed every 5-10 minutes.

During warm-up the horse should acitvely move, in a big circle. Any aids and inventions can be already fastened, but they should not be in use. The horse's nose should be clearly ahead of his vertical. The warm-up has to include at least 5-10 min of a walk, 5-10 min of a trot and 5 min of a gallop - total in both ways. 

During proper work (10-15 min) you can work on a chosen supplementary rein, starting with its mild impact. As the time goes by, you should increase its influence. 

During trotting out/cooling down - as during the warm-up, the horse cannot be buckled (inventions should be detached or attached in such a way that they no longer affect the steed, and so that they do not interrupt his movement in the circle). In this phase, the animal should move in a free walk so that he can relax, lowering his head. 

A few tips

Remember that during lunging, you are constantly observed by your horse. Thus, it is worth to positively use his attention. The horse, just like a dog during training, reacts to our gestures, body language, activating aids (whip), and voice. The animal will better comprehend the way of uttering our words rather than their meaning - so more important is how we speak than what we say. Of course, you should set some particular commands to which you will accustom your steed. A calm, long spoken command, with lowering voice will provoke the horse to calm down, slow down or shift to a slower gait. Command spoken quickly and loudly will cause the horse to increase the tempo of his movement, or shift to a quicker gait.

We expect the horse to be fully focused during lunging. However, we have to demand the same thing from ourselves, constantly observing the horse's body and reactions.

Whip and lunge

Skillful use of lunge is one of the most important skills. If you do not hold it properly, if you get lost and tangled - proper lunging is simply impossible. What is more, if the horses jerks, the lunge might catch the lunging person's hand or even leg, which might end up with a serious injury. As we mentioned before, before you fasten the horse to a lunge, walking him out from the stall - you should properly fold it.

folded lunge Proper folding of lunge, source:

During the very lunging, one hand (this in which direction the horse moves) holds a lunge folded into a loop, constantly controlling its length, allowing a fluent and delicate contact with the horse. Extending the lunge happens while you slightly open your hand so that little parts of the lunge can slip, never the whole loop at once. In the other hand, you should have the end of the lunge with emergency loop, that should go through index and middle finger. In this hand you should also hold a whip.

rider's position Rider's position, source:

Whip activates and helps keeping the horse in a circle. It does not serve to punish the animal, and the animal should not be afraid of it. Pointless whipping or loud cracking with it undermines trust to the rider. The whip does not serve threatening the horse, but ought to be a signal, a sing to which he should properly react. If the horse disobeys, our resolute approach and voice will work better. Just like with children. The most respect have those parents who can put them in order with one punishing look, not using raised voice or slaps. The horse, on the other hand, senses our emotions and will surely react to a single loud and clear "no" and re-showing him the right direction.

Pointing the end of the whip in particular points on the horse's body will prove helpful while working with an experienced horse. However, when you work with less experienced horses, you should for example touch his hock, so that the animal could increase the bend of his hinder leg.


Remember that during the whole work on lunge with horse, we have to be consistent, decided, and sure about what we do. Due to that, the horse will consequently see us as leader of the group, which will make our cooperation easier and will shorten the fight for dominance in the horse-rider pair, as well as will improve his trust for us.

Change of direction

Way of holding a whip Way of holding a whip during change of direction and refastening aids, source:

A few simple rules that you should obey while changing direction:

  1. Change direction every 5-10 minutes so that the horse will work equally on both sides.
  2. Command your horse to shift to a walk, and then stop in such a way that he stays in the circle.
  3. Do not allow him to approach you! It is you who should approach the standing still animal.
  4. Put the whip under your arm so that its end would point backwards, close to the ground so it won't unnecessarily scare the horse.
  5. Under no circumstance can you put the whip on the ground! It is a bad habit which can end up badly for the lunging person - if at the same time when you will be picking the whip from the ground - the horse gets scared - a sure injury!
  6. Refasten the lunge, then turn the horse around, leading him in hand.
  7.  Walk a few steps with him, still leading him, simultaneously extending the lunge so he can go back in the circle, and you to its centre.

Few words about equestrian inventions

While using any supplementary reins, the lunging person has to know exactly what he or she want and can achieve by using each one of them. He or she should also be able to correct their impact, through change of their height and length, in regard to a particular situation and horse's anatomy. Remember that prolonged use of inventions will never replace our equestrian shortcomings and will stop being helpful in the horse's training and start being harmful - provoking the animal's resistance, causing him pain, thus resulting in lack of trust for the lunging person.

Regular side reins

lunging side reins Regular side reins fastened to lunging belt, source:

Two thin thongs made of leather or tape, finished with a carabiner fastened to bit rings on one side, and holes and buckle fastened to belt or saddle (girth and tabs) on the other. Remember that you should not use side reins with rubber insertions, because they spring-back, at the same time cushioning the bit's pressure on the horse's muzzle. This kind of side reins are suitable only for vault horses, because they allow them to maintain balance, which is being disrupted by exercising people. During regular training of a jumping or dressage horse, a "releasing" bit, on which the horse is pressing, teaches him to not respect the rider's hand in the future.

While fastening regular side reins, remember to fasten the side rein on the outer side of the horse walking in a circle a hole longer that the inner side rein. During lunging, when you change direction in which the horse moves in circle, appropriately change length of the side reins.

If you use side reins while working with a horse that has a low withers or poorly developed back muscles, you should also put him a crupper, which will prevent the belt or saddle from shifting towards the front.


Regular side reins (nose 10 cm ahead the vertical, natural position of the head) provoke the horse to seek contact.

Long side reins (nose 10 cm ahead the vertical, muzzle on a level of the shoulder joint) is prefered for younger horses.

Short fastening of side reins (nose in the vertical line, muzzle on a level of the shoulder joint) is used to achieve higher position of the hose. Such side reins are used only with experienced horses.

Side reins are fastened wrong when the horse's muzzle is outside his vertical, and the occiput is not the highest point of the horse's body.

Double side reins

double side reins Double side rein, source:

On both its sides you can find loops for attaching a belt or saddle. Lower loop should be on the level of the shoulder joint, and upper more or less three widths above. Immediately when the horse relaxes, due to impact of this supplementary rein, lowering his head, you should refasten it lower in order to allow him to stay in this position.

Advantage of double side rein is its side impact, which stabilises the horse's neck position.

Triangular side reins

triangular side reins

Loops of regulated length should be pulled through the girth and lead between the horse's front legs, next separately pulled through the bit rings and eventually fastened to the belt/saddle on the shoulder joint's level on both sides of the horse. In such configuration, the animal might walk with his head forward, however not having side support (like in the case of regular side reins). You cannot work with every horse using this invention, because some horses shift their body weight too heavily towards the front.

It is good to use the triangular side reins while training a horse that stiffens his upper neck line. This king of aid does not allow the horse to find elastic, and at the same time constant contact.


marystack-com Rubber chambon, source:

Impact of a chombon relies mainly on pressure on the horse's occiput, through the muzzle and cheeks when he tries to raise his head up. Available on the market are chambons made of leather, which length can be regulated by fastening on particular holes in the loop put on the girth, or rubber ones, which can be either lengthen or shorten by a special welt on the horse's occiput.

An undoubted advantage of working with chambon is its impact that provokes the horse to extend and lower his neck, thus bending his back. Often, to allow the horse the so-called "entrance on the bit" you should fasten regular side reins along with the chambon.

A disadvantage of chambon is painful pulling of the horse's muzzle edges whenever the horse rises his head. In order to soften its impact, you can replace it with its another version - gogue.


gogue Gogue usage, source:

In comparison to chambon, gogue improves action in the muzzle - occiput - chest line, but still does not give side restriction, due to which the work of his back is incomplete.

Pessoa rein

Its impact is very rough. Increased pressure on the bit follows each backing of the horse's limb (slightly nullified by a system of blocks). In a pretty brutal way, the Pessoa rein provokes the steed to strongly engage his hinder legs under his croup, and strong bend in his occiput. When the horse moves, each of his steps shift the bit in his muzzle once into one side, once into the other - in practice, you can compare it to "filing" the horse with reins by his rider (alternately pulling the reins).

A particular fastening of the Pessoa rein in different points on the belt, enforces different positioning of the horse.


Of course, this invention will give the effect we expect, because every animal will yield to such strong pressure. However, it is worth considering whether it would not be more beneficial to achieve the same effect through patient work on engaging and on softly and delicately accepting the bit by the horse.

Major mistakes in training with lunge

Mistakes in using the lunge:

  • improper hold of the lunge precludes its fluent shortening and extending, additionally it might lead to dangerous situations, or even cause an injury of the lunging person
  • stiff hand causes unsubtle and uncaring contact with the muzzle and disturbs free movement in circle
  • too long, dangling lunge, or even dragged along the ground precludes maintaining proper contact with the muzzle, and poses a threat of being stepped on by the horse
  • keeping constant, too strong contact when the horse runs outside the circle
  • calling the horse to change direction (you should stop the horse, approach him, refasten the lunge and leading him, turn him around)
witsendnj-blogspot-com Result of keeping too close contact, when the horse runs outside the circle, source:

Mistakes in using whip:

  • putting the whip on the ground, then leaning to get it - while doing so, the lunging person has no possibility of seeing and controlling the horse, what is more, the horse could get scared by a rapid straightening up of the lunging person, shy and run away, prance, and catch the lunge or kick
  • beating the horse with the whip, especially hitting anywhere near the head (unacceptable!)
  • pointless waving the whip or cracking only distracts the horse, and after longer period of time it will numb him to its impact

Mistakes in voice commands:

  • too loud and too frequent commands distract, and then stupefy the horse
  • too quiet and too rare usage of commands cause misunderstanding between the lunging person and the horse who cannot hear the uttered commands and is not capable of understanding the rider's expectations
  • using voice by people standing outside the circle, outside the lunging arena disrupts and disturbs the horse in focus
  • constant usage of voice of the same pitch is an unclear information for the horse

Mistakes in the lunging person's attitude:

  • lack of following the horse with your body and sight
  • aggressive attitude, or backed and completely passive
  • lack of consistence and enforcing proper performance of exercises
  • allowing the horse for arbitrary change of pace, gait, and direction dethrones us in position of leader of the herd
  • lack of simultaneous use of particular, always the same aids for particular exercises

10 rules of lunging

  1. Lunge only on proper ground on which neither you nor your horse will slip.
  2. Always wear gloves.
  3. Properly fold the lunge before start working.
  4. Lunging whip cannot lay on the ground.
  5. Lunge a horse only in boots or bandages.
  6. Fasten side reins only for a warmed-up horse.
  7. Try to lunge on a circle of approximately 20 m, rarely smaller (min. 10 m).
  8. Horse should work equally in both directions.
  9. Remember that lunging heavily loads the horse's joints. Do not train him like that too often.
  10. Do not forget that lunging is also a training during which the horse learns.

10 zasad lonzowania

Working on lunge has many advantages, but only when conducted by an experienced and aware rider. If you do not feel up to it, ask somebody to help you perform such training. The lunging person should always be a hundred percent ready before he or she starts the lunging training with his or her horse. Properly dressed, with properly folded lunge, well-prepared equestrian equipment, and thought-through plan and goal. Such measures should always precede walking the horse from a stall to the lunging arena. Before you decide to use any inventions, remember that used wrongly will cause more harm than good. Even if you decide to use some, it has to be supported by willingness to achieve a goal, but never a shortcut! Faster does not mean better.

Proper lunging reinforces our position as leader of the herd in our horse's eyes and will strengthen understanding on the horse-rider line.