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To Lunge Or Not To Lunge

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  • #21
    I like lunging my horse as it is a fun way for us to bond. She's an OTTB and one of the first things I taught her when I got her 4 years ago is voice commands. Fun to have her walk. stop promptly when I give the command. Trot, walk, trot, walk, stop, walk, trot, canter, trot, walk. Lots of changes of direction- she really listens. It's fun with her. At a canter i often walk a circle so she has more room. She is too well behaved to cut loose on the lunge line (not that I want her to). I often use lunging as a warm up before I turn her out to play (buck, rear, race about). I know a lot of people disagree with letting horses play like that but she has so much fun playing. And I think it's safer and more fair to the horse to let them get the ya ya's out before asking them to be good under saddle. That said- she is a very good girl. There have been times where there was no chance to get the ya ya's out before riding and she was a good good girl (could tell she wanted to play but knew better). The hardest months we had were when I was at a barn that did not allow turn out (she lived in a pasture- but even so she really likes her chance to play before a ride).


    • #22
      I longe when getting on is going to be dangerous. I'm closer to 50 than I am to 40 and the ground hurts more than it used to. I think gravity must have gotten stronger in the past 20 years... So if my horse is going to act like a gorilla on crack they can do it without me on their back, thank you very much.


      • #23
        I am also really interested in this thread. It looks like I may be going in for surgery after the new year and will be sidelined for a while. I have a 8 (will be 9) year old mare who loses fitness much easier than the TBs I have had in the past and I would like to keep her relatively fit so that I am not starting from square one. She is not hot or stupid in the least, so it would be right to work for her, no sillies.

        She does lunge very, very well and I have a small arena I can utilize (55 or 57 feet). Does anyone have any input as to a program that I can do? I don't want to overdo it, but am not sure what the "sweet spot" will be!


        • #24
          I don't think it is wise to lunge more than once a week because it is hard on their hocks and stifles. I never lunge before a ride unless I have a question about soundness. With my horse, I find it just works him up rather than down (even though he is well behaved on the lunge line).

          As for letting them run in an indoor, I really do discourage that. My horse pulled a suspensory running like a nutjob in an indoor, and I know of a horse that broke its leg doing the same thing and had to be euthanized. Indoor arena footing is designed to give traction and not be slippery, so when a horse plants and spins, their hoof stays solidly planted, and all of the structures above the hoof take an unreasonable burden. Trust me, you'd rather ride out a little bit of freshness than take the risk of a bad injury. If you think you have an unpleasant time of things riding your horse that has been turned out outside and that has been in consistent work, you will really not enjoy bringing that same horse back from stall rest before it is permitted to be turned out again (ask me how I know!).


          • #25
            I'm really sorry to hear that, FineAlready.

            My horse has enough respect for me that with or without lunging he can contain/focus all of his energy, even if it's overflowing. But he is a pasture horse who is prone to kicks and general outdoorsy stuff, and once I groom I generally lunge on a big circle as warm up and to make sure he hasn't hurt himself playing outside. Of course you can feel these things under saddle, but it doesn't hurt to check.


            • #26
              I'm not really into longing. If I were sidelined with an injury, I'd probably either give my horses a little vacation or pay a pro to ride them, who knows, maybe I'd groom them and longe them 5 or 10 minutes a couple times a week for my own well-being, I don't see anything wrong with that. I wouldn't use it as a way to try keep an otherwise out of work horse fit or in work. Longing is a pretty limited tool IME. A little 5 min longe to loosen up a cold backed horse or loosen up a horse that has been up in a stall isn't a big deal, but I usually keep it very short. I might longe a horse that's just been gelded to get the swelling down. I'm into self preservation also--if a horse is acting like a nut before I've even gotten on I might put them on the longe for 5 min to appraise the situation, but not as a regular thing.

              Unlike others, I don't use it as a training tool. I don't think that going round and round on a longe teaches a horse very much that pertains to their career as a riding horse. Side reins do not teach horses to have light and responsive mouths. Some horses like to use the longe to buck and play and I really dislike that--when we are in the ring we are working, no fooling around. Of course, as a practical matter longing is a useful skill for a horse to know.

              The other thing I dislike is that I see a lot of people who overuse longing and ground work because they are nervous to actually get on and ride the horse in question. I think this is why the natural horsemanship movement has been so popular, it gives people who are afraid to ride their horses something to do with them that feels good. I wouldn't hire a pro that used longing as part of their breaking process because I want my babies to learn to be RIDDEN, not longed. I've broken horses both ways, and I think the non-longed horses do better. Of course, some people feel differently about that, and that's okay, there are many ways to train horses.

              The last thing I'd say, is that if you are sharing an arena with other people, longing can be dangerous/annoying to other riders. Doing a lot of longing at a boarding barn is not a good way to make friends.


              • #27
                Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post
                The last thing I'd say, is that if you are sharing an arena with other people, longing can be dangerous/annoying to other riders. Doing a lot of longing at a boarding barn is not a good way to make friends.
                Worth repeating!!


                • #28
                  I was raised in a program that incorporated a lot of lunging - weekly, daily, every few days - depended on the horse. But everything got and still gets lunged.

                  When I first got my horse - I lunged him once a week.

                  I have to say that it did help us bond, helped to teach him my voice, helped him find his balance in a very small indoor and allowed me to study him so I had a fairly good idea of what he was like in general so I could tell when he was improving as a result of his training or when he wasn't feeling very good for the day.

                  I rarely lunge him now - for various reasons.

                  He tripped badly lunging on a line some time in our second year together - few weeks lay up. He has a slower warm up time so he likes to walk around and trot and go the other direction to do the same thing before he thinks of cantering. This is a good thing - but not at a boarding facility with one indoor and one outdoor. So if I rushed him he would get dangerous - running blindly, spinning, bucking, kicking out at the walls - things you don't want a horse to do and that were scary to watch. And he would just keep going and going and going. After awhile, even if he didn't act out and was able to warm up, even the once a week lunge we used to do was just too much and would affect him negatively.

                  So I stopped lunging -

                  I occasionally let him lunge but really only to trot and move around. When he is stabling at a horse show, I will let him stretch out in the morining but nothing too intense.

                  Same thing at home - lots of trotting to get him to relax and stretch.

                  He is a quieter and happier horse with less lunging. He actually used to spook when I first got him and with the reduction in lunging, has no spook whatsover any more.

                  It really made me re think lunging all together -

                  It has a place but as my horse showed me, maybe not a permanent one in your program....


                  • #29
                    For SURE, lunging is at a training tool. It is not for endless circles at any tempo/bucking/etc. If it is to set up a STEADY TEMPO with a consistent balance. And the lateral flexibility sets up longitudinal flexion. If done with side reins (in trot), the horse should learn to take hh (via the caveson), and fold the hindlegs. If the s.r. are set low or short they do not function correctly, nor a mobile jaw; but that is merely poor technique. The horse starts out with walk, halt (in balance/square/up to the bit), it should be able to change directions. It is basis for REACTIONS needed in the saddle. (And long lining/double lunging is helpful as well). Done well it is a great basis for learning transitions/reactions to the leg and reactions to the whip.
                    I.D.E.A. yoda


                    • #30
                      I'm not huge on lunging, but I have used it a few times with my current horse.

                      We lunged for about 15 minutes once a week when I first got him, to get him used to humans working with him again, and to get used to my voice/body movements. It also helped him figure out his balance in the smallish arena.

                      I've done it when we were out and about to get him paying more attention to me than to his surroundings.

                      Lately, I've been doing kind of a long-line/lunge mix to help him get his balance back after a lay up. Circles are only at the walk, trotting on the straights, and never for more than 10 minutes at a time total everything, and exercises that the vet recommended. Mainly because he is working on finding his balance again, and he really doesn't need my butt bobbling around on his back all the time to help him with this!


                      • #31
                        Finally, somebody who KNOWS how to spell the word lunge!


                        I agree with what hntrjmprpro45 says: As little as possible, but as much as necessary.

                        I use lunging as a training tool. I really take care about the stress of lunging/rp in a small circle does to the legs of a horse. So I try not to do much lunging. I do have a 90' RP and will free lunge in there if I need to take some fresh off a horse.


                        • #32
                          I do not lunge my horse because I do not have a need to.

                          I do think it puts stress on their legs, but I do not feel that short sessions would be detrimental.
                          APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


                          • #33
                            My current horse I have lunged three or four times, I didn't even lunge her when I took her to her first show this spring. I lunged her a few times to work on picking up her right lead canter. I did lunge her on Monday when she had been in all day and the rain was making spooky noises on the roof. She ran like an idiot and then quieted down. Sure I could have gotten on her, she's not unsafe, but it would be decidedly unfun to deal with the tension and snorting for the 15 minutes it took to warm her up and get the kinks out.


                            • #34

                              Finally, somebody who KNOWS how to spell the word !! Quote rmh_rider ??

                              I find this tread scary...! Why? with the inability of of the many posters to understand that longeing is a basic training tool, and an art in itself. It is not mindlessly running a horse around you in circles to wear it down.. It is a training tool, used wisely and well it will be a "back to" in many situations.

                              The SRS is far away from today's Hunter ring, sadly. But it still is the leader in intelligent training of the horse. And those horses longe.

                              I'm betting many are missing the red thumbs.
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #35
                                Like everybody said - it is not about endlessly going round and round and round as we see so often at shows to take the edge off. It is a difficult skill to master, combining timing and body language with the minimum amount of
                                signalling, to achieve suppling and attention - and so on.

                                But, in a young horse there is a real danger of popping splints, and in big- footed horses (like mine) causing ankle soreness, and warned to me by my farrier.

                                I do think it is part of an educated horse's repertoire, and for times when a horse cannot be exercised for whatever reason, to be used with common sense. No bucking on the line either.

                                Letting a fresh horse lose in an arena can and has caused serious injury, including a GP jumper who could not be turned out due to ice, who broke a leg.
                                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique


                                • #36
                                  It depends on the horse. I usually tie the horse up for at least 30 minutes, then lunge for a couple minutes in each direction at all 3 gaits with side reins (allowing a natural head position). This tends to eliminate the 10 to 20 minutes of inattentiveness or freshness some horses may have at the beginning of the ride in a way that is not physically stressful or wearing to the horse.
                                  Man plans. God laughs.


                                  • #37
                                    Originally posted by rmh_rider View Post
                                    Finally, somebody who KNOWS how to spell the word lunge!

                                    Actually, they are both correct, longe or lunge. Latin root "longus"- to enlongate, "long line" in French : "allonge" means to draw out or something to that nature.

                                    Other countries use "lunge", from lunge rein. Lunge line, longe line and longe rein mean the same. Neither is incorrect, I use "lunge" 90 % of the time, as well. BUT, it is the bastardized slang term version of "longe".

                                    Just because "You" use it one way, does not mean others are using it incorrectly.
                                    And side note, not nearly as annoying as "Check out my horse's CONFIRMATION", which I see on a daily basis.

                                    Merrygoround, totally with you.
                                    Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                                    • #38
                                      99.9% of risk for injury can be eliminated with a proper education on how to lunge. It is as intricate an art as riding. Most people *think* they know how to lunge already and don't seek further knowledge, just like the person who rode a few nags at camp thinks they know how to ride and wonder why after 20 years you're still taking lessons.
                                      I once posted a question on a local board asking if anyone would be interested in a hosted clinic on lunging with a skilled professional. Not a soul responded. THAT's why horses get injured, that's why people find its hard on their horses hocks, that's why they don't see real benefit.

                                      That said, 20% of my education budget goes to furthering my skill and knowledge of lunging and in hand work.
                                      Step 1 for all horses that come to me for training is the learn the correct way to lunge, and work in hand.
                                      My personal dressage horse works on the lunge every Monday and every other Wednesday. It keeps him physically strong, playful, eager to experiment with his body, and very in tune to me. It has helped him erase the fearfilled evasions of his prior training, and recently helped him lay the groundwork for learning piaffe.
                                      chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                      • #39
                                        It depends entirely on what you mean by "longeing" (however you spell it), the horse, and what you hope to achieve by longeing.

                                        I was one of the competition stewards at WEG in KY who had supervisory duties over the schooling areas, including the longeing area. It was a real lesson in longeing techniques, with variations practiced according to personal preference, discipline, and country.

                                        The chief jumping steward, Karen Golding, had me post video clips to my Facebook page, and here on COTH to illustrate what we judged to be some of the best techniques, as practiced by members of the Dutch driving team.

                                        At its best, longeing focuses the attention of the horse on the handler and the level of communication with between the two is quite high--they are partners in the movements being practiced toward a purpose, rather than adversaries as you see most often in the H/J longeing areas at horse shows, where often you will see horses galloping about in halters twisting into their eyeballs, with their necks sideways and their back ends falling outward. To complete the picture, their handler leans back against the centrifugal force being generated, all the while frantically snapping a whip (sometimes with a plastic bag attached).

                                        Compare the example above with the image of the feather-light responsiveness of an attentive, well trained horse in the hands of an experienced and knowledgeable handler, and it's no wonder that some who have never been exposed to the latter would question the value of longeing altogether.
                                        Inner Bay Equestrian


                                        • #40
                                          Done by someone who knows what they are doing.... 'free longeing' is a dandy tool. I use it all winter long (which is when our indoor is 'closed' up enough to do it. In the warmer months, there are too many open doors.) I DO NOT run the horses around like lunatics. I give them the basics of liberty work in the round pen (go, whoa, draw, and maybe rate between gaits) and then that it very easy to build on in the indoor arena.

                                          (Okay, there may be a few days with the newbies where I get a nice jog in travelling from one end of the arena and back until they get the idea...) But I mix it up with some days of free longeing, some days of jump chute, some days of 'jump line' ( I place a line of small fences across most of the width of the arena, so horse's have to jump something on each long side.) And some days of longe on a line with siderein(s) maybe.

                                          I agree you have to have a certain skill level with round pen/liberty work for it work out that well.
                                          "Friend" me !