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To Lunge Or Not To Lunge

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  • To Lunge Or Not To Lunge

    I know this has been talked about a bit on the forum, but I'd like to start a discussion specifically about whether or not posters think the risks of injury outweigh the potential benefits. And given that moderation is key, what do you consider a safe amount to lunge your horse?

  • #2
    I think it depends on many factors, including the age of the horse, how fit it is, how large or small of a circle you are using, how long you do it, etc.

    I don't longe my horse that often, but it's only because there is so much more I can teach her while in the saddle now that she has been under saddle for a while.

    The few times I do it these days is if she has been kept inside for a while due to inclement weather, such as the recent hurricane on the east coast. I might longe for ~10 min just to see how she is going and to allow her to warm up before I get on. I confess too, that sometimes I do it to make sure there aren't going to be major theatrics to deal with.

    I probably wouldn't longe for more than 15 min. though, but then only on a large circle like 20m or more. If people are working with a horse that's not under saddle yet, or needs more groundwork than I'd do long-lining where at least you can follow the horse around the arena instead of always staying on a circle.

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    • #3
      Lunging is great training if you know how to do it well. Some horses I lunge a lot, some horses never. Most of my young horses get lots of training on the lunge line. Done well, lunging is not really any less work than riding and training on their back. It's different and helpful in teaching horses new things and correcting habits. But the horses, and anyone that might be lunging them, has to learn my rules and commands.

      They have to walk, trot, and canter in a controlled circle. If the horse does not know how to make a circle, then I teach them that in the round pen. When they are young they are first free lunged in the round pen until they can obey my verbal commands (which are very specific), then I transition them to being on a line in the round pen, and then to the indoor and last the outdoor arena (or other open area).

      They have to stop on the circle, never turning towards me. That is one of my pet-peeves as it is a really dangerous behavior.

      I never let horses rip around on a lunge line unless it is by accident. I stop them as soon as I can.

      I put my young horses in a halter or lunging cavesson first, I don't clip the line to the bit until they are used to contact on the reins.

      I do a lot of double lunging (two lines on the circle) with my horses when they are young (about 3.5 on) and even sometimes with the more trained ones. It's great for them to understand the inside and outside rein. Most of the horses I start first learn to be ground driven and then gradually move into doing circles at the walk, trot and canter with the double lines.

      I believe in being very actively involved lunging. I hate watching people at shows talking on their cell phones while lunging a wild horse running around on the wrong lead in deep footing!
      ******
      "A good horse and a good rider are only so in mutual trust."
      -H.M.E.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Horseymama View Post
        Lunging is great training if you know how to do it well. Some horses I lunge a lot, some horses never. Most of my young horses get lots of training on the lunge line. Done well, lunging is not really any less work than riding and training on their back. It's different and helpful in teaching horses new things and correcting habits. But the horses, and anyone that might be lunging them, has to learn my rules and commands.
        I agree with Horseymama.

        I mainly use it as a tool very early in the breaking (or pre-breaking) process in a similar manner to Horseymama's post....though perhaps in a slightly less organized manner since I eventually decide I can do much more from their backs (and really just want to install voice commands prior to riding).

        I don't lunge any of my finished horses regardless of how "up" they are. But If I have a green horse I'm concerned about being a bit too frisky or a horse who would benefit from warming up without a person on their back, then I'll lunge before riding. But even if I want a horse to get some of that friskiness out I don't allow them to play on the lunge line. Unless we're talking about one of my finished horses who I tend to let "break the rules" a lot more than the youngsters....I figure if they're willing to cart me around the big jumps happily they deserve a little more leniency on basic things
        __________________________________
        Flying F Sport Horses
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        • #5
          I use lunging to teach basic things, and have used it to help strengthen a topline as well as work on inside/outside rein understanding. I also use it to let a horse kind of move out and relax and get their legs moving if they've been cooped up for a while. I would never lunge for more than 20 mins, and never on a circle less than 20m. I don't understand the "lunge it into the ground" method, but I suppose people will do as they do.

          In terms of expectations, mine vary by the situation. I expect all horses I work with to w/t/c on the lungeline without issue, and should stop on a voice command (any ones that I get to teach learn not to face me, unfortunately some horses come "pre-installed" with that and I still haven't found a way to fix it 100%). If tacked up or in a surcingle, I won't tolerate any silliness. If I just have them in a halter and protective boots, I let them play a little bit. They learn the difference between work clothes and playing nekkid pretty quickly.

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          • #6
            If you cant control your horse on a lunge line/round pen then you cant and wont control them under saddle end of story. Being able to move a horses feet is how one horse controls another and so if you can control how and when your horse moves their feet when they arent under you then you will open a whole new world with you and your horse. If done right lunging is a fantastic tool to bond and gain respect with your horse. I honestly cant see a reason that lunging is bad. Its not about running them in a circle as hard or fast as you can make them move. There is MUCH more to it than that and quite honestly if you are against lunging/groundwork then you are misunderstanding the whole thing and are missing out on some very neat stuff.....but thats just my two cents. I feel that gaining a bond and respect on the ground with my horse before getting in the saddle and using the horse for my pleasure is very rewarding. There is much more to riding than the riding itself
            LILY-13yr APHA/PtHA mare**LUKE-11yr Rescue Haflinger gelding (being leased out)**ANNIE-7yr AQHA mare

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            • #7
              I only lunge periodically and for only a few minutes each direction, usually to blow out the cob webs if necessary. I much prefer long lining over lungeing. It's easier to change direction, and you have control of the bend and flexion while changing direction and can change the length of the contact and let them stretch down. I also feel you get better quality transistions, better half halfs etc.
              Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
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              • #8
                Like the others -- it depends on the horse. Two of my three riding-age horses never get longed, ever. The third was a bit cold-backed as a youngster and is the only horse I've ever had that I regularly longed for 5 minutes every time I got on him for about a year, just to get the play out. He stopped bucking under saddle for the most part after I switched to this policy -- now he'll play in the corners a little if he's happy with himself, but no "OMG SO MUCH ENERGY MUST BUCK!!!" nonsense. He went from rogue to easy to ride in that time.

                I don't longe him any more but if I thought he needed it again, sure.

                The two year old got longed three times total this year, twice with a saddle/girth, and will get started in the spring. He does not appear worse for wear in any way and I like the saddle to be old hat by the time I add riding.

                When starting horses they longe for about a week, learn walk-trot-whoa commands and how to trot around with a saddle/girth on (that can feel weird to them at first). Then I usually just get on and go.

                When would I longe? I would longe before I turn beginner kids loose the old pony, just to be sure she's not feeling too frisky from her semi-retirement. In the summer there would be no need but in winter sometimes I catch a gleam in her eye that might just be naughtiness.

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                • #9
                  My guy is either calm, or VERY up. I know I don't have the skill to ride the "up" version yet without being a danger to everyone else in the arena. I always start out lunging to get a feel for where we're at that day.

                  I'm also using it to help develop some transitions that are a bit weaker right now, esp downward. He can figure out how to use himself a bit faster without my rerider butt making life difficult.
                  Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

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                  • #10
                    I have one that warms-up better (away from home) with a lunge. Particularly in the cold weather.

                    The 3yo gets lunged on occasion. Never to 'tire,' it's more of a mental-gauge, a few transitions in each direction to make sure we are focused on work. Actually, this one is lazy & big, so if I'm alone & can tell by the walk out to the ring we are pokey, waking her up & getting forward is a bit easier on the lunge line, and transitions nicely U/S.

                    As far as injury, I'm not sure how lunging properly is riskier than anything else we do with horses. Now, I don't think they should go round & round in circles, wearing out heir hocks & tendons, galloping around like a mad-man for hrs on end. But a lunge here & there? When it's cold, you know you'll have a fresh horse, to practice transitions, to work on something sans-rider, or even when you are pressed for time & they need to strech their legs, these reasons all work IMO. Too much will leave you with an overly-fit & sore horse. Moderation.

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                    • #11
                      I grew up with a trainer that had mostly TB's off the track and we usually lunged.

                      I now have my own 4 year old that is a dead head but the first day at a show gets a little kooky.

                      If I lunge then I have no horse for the week, I have found if I just deal with the stupid 10 minutes then he is much better the rest of the week.

                      He has only been to a few shows and he is a baby, so I am confident that the silly will go away eventually.

                      Lunging has a huge negative effect on joints. If done well, in moderation I think it is ok, but horses that lose it on a lunge line have huges chances to harm their legs.

                      I can't tell you how many times I have seen people early in the morning at the shows with the horse running on the lunge line.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MyssMyst View Post
                        My guy is either calm, or VERY up. I know I don't have the skill to ride the "up" version yet without being a danger to everyone else in the arena. I always start out lunging to get a feel for where we're at that day.

                        I'm also using it to help develop some transitions that are a bit weaker right now, esp downward. He can figure out how to use himself a bit faster without my rerider butt making life difficult.
                        Same with my mare, except instead of being "up", she's just not focused. Once she's decided that she's not going to be focused it's hard to have a productive ride with her. I'd rather have shorter, more productive rides than longer rides where all I do is fight for her attention. I'll lunge just to help her get into "work mode", but I also prefer to lunge for a few minutes if it's cold just because the cold weather does tend to make her pretty fresh even regardless of how many times she's been ridden prior.
                        If i smell like peppermint, I gave my horse treats.
                        If I smell like shampoo, I gave my horse a bath.
                        If I smell like manure, I tripped.

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                        • #13
                          I am not opposed to lunging, but I don't use it a lot because, in most cases, I find there are other safer, more effective ways to work with a horse. I see it as a tool that does have a time and a place, such as warming up a cold-backed horse, helping a horse figure something out without the rider on its back, or getting a young horse started in its training. I think it is important for a horse to know how to lunge safely, but I don't like to use it to get the "sillies" out unless there is no safe alternative.

                          I am not sure what is a safe amount of time to lunge a horse. Typically, I don't lunge for more than 20 minutes at a time. At most, I lunge once or twice in a week. Since lunging is usually a training tool, I usually use it for a bunch of sessions in a row to get a point across, then I stop. For example, my current horse has probably only been lunged 10 times in the 2.5 years I have had him. We had an OTTB that spent about 6 months lunging in side reins, with maybe a few tune ups here and there after that. Once it was comfortable with carrying itself properly, it did not lunge.

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                          • #14
                            Totally depends on the horse. That's like saying, how far should you run everyday???
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                            • #15
                              I rarely lunge mine now. When she was younger/greener, I found lunging once a week or so in sidereins/balancing reins helpful for letting her figure out balance in transitions and moving into contact without me on her. Now, it's most often a soundness check, or occasionally when we show in the winter and she's been in all night, I'll put her on the lunge for maybe 10 minutes to let her loosen up and stretch her legs out before getting cleaned up--not wildly yahooing around, just 10 minutes of mostly trotting and a few circles of canter.

                              It really depends on the horse and the circumstances. Using it as a training tool, or to get a horse moving that's stalled for whatever reason (foul weather, showing, etc)? Lunging more often makes sense, at least when it's working them and not just letting them act like fools on the end of a line, or running them into the ground to get them tired.
                              A Year In the Saddle

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                              • #16
                                Just in my personal experience with longing, there is very little that longing achieves that contributes to the purposes I wish to achieve with a horse. (I am talking about sending the horse around you in circles on one longe line. Long lining or ground work is a totally different story.)

                                Aside from basic fitness, what is achieved by the horse going around and around? Half the time the human says "whoa" and the horse carries on for three laps before slowing. So we learn to ignore voice aids? On the long lines or on a 12' rope, "whoa" means "WHOA!"

                                Then people don't even have side reins on and pay no attention to where the horse is even looking, so it is doodling about willy nilly la la la la laaaaaa. It's not even PAYING ATTENTION what are you spending this time for?

                                If I want to "virtually ride" my horse, then long lining is what I do.

                                If I want to work on manners/lightness/sensitization or desensitization, then close ground work on a 12' rope is what I do.

                                If I want to make sure a horse is not too fresh before I climb on I'll do a little close ground work, changing directions snappy snappy, lateral work, etc etc rather than just stand there watching it go round and round.

                                Spinning a horse around me 30' out where I can't reach him but I don't really have a bridle connection either to me does very little. I have used it, with side reins, to test a horse's acceptance of basic contact to make sure it won't flip over on me the second I pick up a contact. But other than that I find the other methods of ground work get a lot more done.
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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Interesting to read the responses here. More or less what I expected.

                                  I'll shed a little light on my situation: I have a green broke 4yo mare I'd like to get going (again) over the winter. Unfortunately, right now my health and general well being impede me from riding a whole lot. I'd like to start the process of getting her in shape for when I'm able to ride more, so I'm going to start lunging her a bit (in side reins). I am, however, wary of injuries from over exertion on the circle. I think at this point I'll probably only lunge her twice a week or so (likely over the next month-ish).

                                  meupatdoes, it's interesting that you mention long lining as I'm looking into that as well. I've never done it before though, so I'm looking into the hows to see what I can reasonably teach myself and at what point I'm better off to draw the line without someone else who's well versed in it giving me a hand.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by over the moon View Post
                                    Interesting to read the responses here. More or less what I expected.

                                    I'll shed a little light on my situation: I have a green broke 4yo mare I'd like to get going (again) over the winter. Unfortunately, right now my health and general well being impede me from riding a whole lot. I'd like to start the process of getting her in shape for when I'm able to ride more, so I'm going to start lunging her a bit (in side reins). I am, however, wary of injuries from over exertion on the circle. I think at this point I'll probably only lunge her twice a week or so (likely over the next month-ish).

                                    meupatdoes, it's interesting that you mention long lining as I'm looking into that as well. I've never done it before though, so I'm looking into the hows to see what I can reasonably teach myself and at what point I'm better off to draw the line without someone else who's well versed in it giving me a hand.
                                    OP - what did you decide to do and how is it going? I will be out of riding for a few weeks but would like to keep my horse worked a few days a week. He won't completely fall out of shape but I'd like to keep his head in the game. Did you deicide on lunging or long-lining? If long-lining, was it fairly easy to teach yourself how to do so?
                                    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" - Winston Churchill

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                                    • #19
                                      I rarely lunge anymore but when I do I work him on larger circles (where I still have control) and I move up and down the ring so we aren't just going around and around in the same circle. I also always use side reins, I don't see the use of lungeing if they are going around hollow, high headed and unbalanced. I also like to do some of the groundwork on a long lead rope. The book, "Lessons in Lightness" has a lot of great groundwork exercises.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        How much should you lunge? As little as possible but as much as necessary.

                                        That means most of my horses never get lunged on a regular basis. The young horses learn basic transitions on the lunge line (with side reins) and I only do enough to reinforce those commands (so maybe 5 minutes each direction). For cold backed horses (which I currently don't have any right now), I will walk or slow trot for upwards of 15 minutes to get their back loose and warmed up. I only have one horse that is lunged to relieve excess energy. She is VERY hot and generally only needs to be lunged when it is super cold. She is small and quick like a cat, so when she gets goofy and bucks through her canter transitions, things can get exciting very fast- she is also very green. So on those days, I will warm her up a little on the lunge and work on canter transitions before I hop on.

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