Teach your horse to lunge
This is another commonly asked question on the Bulletin Boards. Seems like teaching your horse to longe is harder than it looks.

First you gotta teach him to go around you.

Pressure and release is the A and O of horse training, and it works here too. Get a set of signals, keep them consistent, and be quiet when your horse does what he is supposed to do.
I raise both my lunge arm and my whip arm as my signal for go.

lunge11. I am touching the whip to his butt just a little.

2. He starts moving forward, and I immediately and very obviously let both my arms drop (Pressure and Release).

3. He turns his head in, wanting to stop and I bring the whip out to keep him moving forward.

4. He is moving out real nice and I drop the whip behind me in reward.

5. He's getting the idea and I let him out a little, just enough to still be in easy reach should he give me trouble. You can see his head is turned in, looking for his chance to stop, and my whip is out a little, instructing him to keep going.

6. He is obedient, and moves off nicely, and I immediately drop the whip behind me.

These signals that I am teaching him here are the ones that will save my butt when I get to the trouble spots.

lunge2The most annoying lunge line problem... Run Backwards Drama
Yes, horse can be drama queens, and I handle them just like the human ones... with a blank face *Grin*.
Most of this is pretty self explanatory. But let me just point a few things out.
As he runs backwards I try as hard as I can to stay relaxed. My shoulders are down, I try to keep up with him but not go towards him any more than I have to, my whip is behind me. He finally stops (somewhere between 4 and 5) and I calmly use my go forward signal to get him to move out again.

lunge3In pic 5 he's moving nicely, and I have already dropped the whip behind me again.This little drama takes quite a bit of energy for a horse, and if you can keep from getting sucked into the Hoopla, they will not try it very often. It's just a lot easier to do what he's told.

faceThe most common lunge line problem...Stop and face
Pressure and Release fixes this problem too. As long as your horse is faced towards you, pressure him with the whip to move. As soon as he moves into the right direction release all pressure and let him go.

1. Goof stops and faces me.
I gently and insistently wave the whip, moving toward him slowly to increase the pressure of my command.

2. He refuses to take a step, so I additionally raise my line arm, keep stepping towards him, and also move towards his side a little to make the command crystal clear.

3. He thinks about it for a few moments, but then decides it might be a good idea to move on. I immediately drop my whip behind me.

4. He might decide to move into the wrong direction. At that point I additionally put pressure on the halter. I usually have to walk up and get to the correct side again, but during all that I try to keep the halter and whip pressure on as good as I can, till he starts moving into the right direction.

5. Using this insistent Pressure and Release method will teach him not to face any more very, very soon. Matter of fact, that same day, once we got the other side explained, he sweetly trotted around without facing up once.

If your horse knows how to lunge, but you are having problems, the first thing I'd check is your position in relationship to your horse...
If he perceives that you are in front of him, he will assume you want him to stop. So you want to stay slightly behind his eye.
A human naturally wants to line himself up with the horse's head (because you are connected to the head w/ the lungeline). But that puts you into the forward line of sight of the horse, which a horse understands as the signal to stop.
To stay in the backward line of sight of your horse, line yourself up with your horses hind end.

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I just want to add a lunge whip is not always necassary. Sensitive horses can find it a bit too much. I can and do often ditch it if I find the horse reacting stressed out. The tail end of the lunge line or a lead line in place of a whip can get much the same reaction from a sensitive horse.
You know, Lunging is a bigger deal than some people make it out to be..... that is ALL I am going to say.. for a novice person, it's a good way to learn quick that you don't know nutin hunny..... my take on it is that this info and photos are awesome.... most of the time the training videos show the horse at the end of the line..... out of control and trying to take charge... when my horse Oliver and I started closer I became more able to push him away than the time I was having trying to regain control when he was young and crazy at the end of the line rearing and striking.... lunging is dangerous people if you are new and don't know how to do it, be very very careful. Also, since this is a Chris Irwin site, I am going to point out that I don't want my horses head going up like in the photos... Oliver becomes very brazen and then defiant and defensive if he throws up his head.... I love drawing five, before I move him forward, I soften him into me to make sure he's calm and then I ask for the forward motion. People miss the important bending part of the horses posture.... thanks for pointing it out.
I agree with you splash that a lunge whip isn't always necessary. My mare tends to get overexcited when the whip is involved and I often just drop it and find that I don't even need anything in my other hand. She's learned just from where I position my hand if it's adding or releasing pressure. :)
What do you guys look at while longing? I was taught to always look at the horse's flank or butt, because some may see it as a threatening gesture if I look at them in the eye.
I find the single thing most people miss when teaching a horse to longe is the "Out" command. Invariably at some point the horse will cut in on the circle and the person must be able to send them back out to keep the slack out of the longe line. In the beginning I feel that "out" is more important than maintaining the chosen gait.

The best way to teach a person about longeing is to have a very well trained horse - unfortunately a rare thing in North America. I had the pleasure of working with one and she taught me that I could even half halt her on the longe. She taught me the finer points of longeing! :)

Where I look depends on what I want from the horse. Further back to drive forward, further forward to slow.
this is an okay example, for working excess energy off, or teach a new horse "space" with out an enclosed area lunging is a great thing to know. I rarely lunge horses. I used to lunge horses when i had younger and more spirited mounts. I prefer a surcingle, and/or driving to be way more beneficial. I would start in a round pen where there are no lines to get tangled up when working with a new green horse, get the horse used to moving out of your space and such, then add lines. My opinion, this horse in the first photos shows defiance through misunderstanding and to me I would take lines away and give him his perimeters (and head), then he will realise you want him going around you. I "give" all my energy and forward motion from behind as thats where when I am riding I want the motion to come from (carrying himself).
I teach all my horses to lunge - to me it is an essential part of their training. it allows me to do on the ground what i want on their back, from gait change to turns, collection and flexion, halt and backing. yes i use a whip but only as an extension to my arm, very rarely will I flick them with it and certainly never hit. Starting the lunge is not hard using what I term the 'come by' lesson, it simply becomes a progression. A couple of points I do keep in mind and suggest others as well might. Lunging must be interesting, educational and purposeful for the horse. Running a horse round in mindless circles does nothing other than make them and you giddy. I use only a single connected rope to a rope halter. A bridle with reins to the roller or saddle.
I never wear sunglasses, I want eye contact with a horse, I use my posture a lot and my pointer is where my belly button points (well where it used to anyway) which points to where I want the horse to go. My lead arm will open for increase pace and following arm close, reverse to slow, close both to collect.
But most important of all is to have the horse enjoy the ask, makes it much more fun for me as well then. I am always looking for a partnership, does it all work? the many horses I have trained suggest yes.
However may I humbly suggest that if you are not sure what you are doing, go and learn from someone who can teach you, you can get yourself and the horse into awful trouble if you dont.


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