Lunging is a great form of exercise for horses of all ages, experience and discipline. Lunging can be used for a variety of purposes including; exercise, training, soundness examines, and to quiet a hot horse.
For exercise, lunging can be especially useful if the weather is uncooperative (i.e. in the winter) but the horse still needs to do something that day. Lunging can be a great tool for days like this, if for nothing else than providing some mental stimulation for the horse. Quiet often horses who are excitable or hot if not ridden, benefit from simply doing something that day. Additionally, lunging is a valuable resource if you are tight on time or have a whole list of horses to get through. However, something very important to keep in mind is that lunging should not replace a ride for less effort. A horse that is being lunged should still be working to reap the mos benefits from the exercise. Time is saved in that you are not going to lunge a horse for an hour, as you might ride him for, but he should still be working, mentally and physically, as he would if being ridden.
As a training tool, lunging is fantastic for introducing young horses to new or different
aids, and helping them to develop and solidify new skills on the ground. Equipment such as the de Gogue, side reins, Pessoa System, and bungees can all be quite useful in accomplishing these goals. All of these aids are meant to mimic the rider aids help the horse with skills such as learning to track up, learning to come over his back, learning to be round while truly engaged, and learning to accept the bit
and contact. Please remember, however, that all these tools are only beneficial to the horse when used correctly. If you are new to a piece of equipment be sure to ask a professional who is experienced with the equipment!
Another great use for lunging is to determine the soundness of the horse. Some veterinarians will ask you to lunge the horse when determining soundness or in a Pre-Purchase Examination. When lunging for soundness it is important to have an area of good, level footing and to make sure that the horse is lunged in both directions. This will help to ensure the accuracy of the of the examination.
Quite often at horse shows you will see horses being lunged before they are ridden. A horse who is particularly hot or excitable may benefit from being lunged to get his beans out of his system before the rider is mounted. This is something that comes down to the specific horse and training program. While some horses benefit from this technique, some may become hotter and more excitable or remain the same. This is a decision that should be made between trainer and rider. It is important to remember, again, that even though it is lunging just to take the edge off, the horse should still be asked to work in these sessions not just gallop around the end of the line.
If you have never lunged before, be sure to ask for the assistance of a professional and practice on an experienced horse until you are comfortable with the techniques. This is important to remember for both your own safety, the horses’ safety and the safety of those around you. When introducing new pieces of equipment to your horses’ lunging regime, introduce them slowly and be sure they are applied correctly to achieve the most benefits.