How to Lunge a Horse

Four Methods:Knowing and Using Lunging EquipmentPositionThe AidsBasic Lunging

Lunging, sometimes known as longing, is a very useful training tool. When lunging a horse, the handler controls the horse by using aids that ask the horse to move faster or slower, bend on a circle or move closer to or farther away from you.

Aids include the lunge rope and your body language. By lunging your horse, you are given the ability to watch it from the ground, so you can monitor its movement, soundness and natural frame. Lunging before a ride can decrease the inherent risk of riding a hot horse, therefore increasing your safety. However, lunging incorrectly can be very dangerous for both you and your horse. Except for key commands do not rely on your voice. horses do not pay attention to your voice unless you've trained them specifically.

Method 1
Knowing and Using Lunging Equipment

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    Find an enclosed space for lunging, preferably a ring or small enclosed pasture. Be sure that the footing is safe for your horse throughout the ring and that you can make a circle that is at least twenty meters in diameter. Do not work the horse on a tight circle for an extended period of time, as it can cause damage to their legs. Avoid bringing your horse to these places only for lunging, spend time doing activities to desensitize the horse to the new location.
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    Apply polo wraps or brushing boots to the horse before starting work. It is important to protect the horse's legs when working on a relatively small circle, especially with green horses.
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    Ideally, use a lunge cavesson. If you do not have one a halter or bridle on the horse can also be used. If using a halter, take care to ensure it does not twist and rub your horse in the eye. Do not just clip the lunge line to one bit ring, this can cause the bit to be pulled through the horse's mouth.
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    Never leave side reins tight when the horse is walking. The horse must be able to freely move the neck and back to have a proper walk. Also it is important to allow the horse to warm up freely before attaching and tightening the side reins. An alternative to side reins is a Master Rein which does not fix the horses nose to it's chest but allows the horse to move freely forward into a contact whilst bending and flexing on the lunge.
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    Prepare the lunge line, by folding it back and forward over itself, not by coiling around your hand. Make sure it’s not twisted and is comfortable in your hand.
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    Practice using the lunging rein and whip until your are comfortable with them and can handle them nimbly. Any clumsiness will confuse and upset the horse. Take extreme caution to use good body language and avoid using frantic body language. When the horse does poorly, do not yank multiple times on the rope, Apply consistent and escalating pressure. Give the horse the opportunity to answer correctly to the lowest amount of force. When the horse behaves because of your pressure, release it. Continued pressure after this point will only confuse the horse, as it's mind is searching to get you to release the pressure it's feeling. Whatever causes you to give less pressure becomes the correct answer to the horse. To reiterate, practicing your body language and the use of your rein and aids will help you to give clear direction to the horse. The ultimate goal of any horse training exercise including lunging is to get the horse to understand the "trick" to getting you to leave it alone is to do what you say.
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    Snap the lunge rein to the center ring of the cavesson.
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    Whips may 'only' be used as an aid, never as a tool to harm, injure, or frighten the horse. The whip is only to keep you out of the kicking range. To move the horse away from you, point the whip at his shoulder (not touching); and to move the horse on, point the whip behind his hindquarters. The use of aids must be managed carefully so as to not give the horse the impression that misbehaving results in a release of pressure. When you have time, desensitize the horse to the whip by also using it to rub or stroke and give positive interaction. The horse should learn to respect your direction, not simply be afraid because you have an aid.

Method 2

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    Position yourself in the center of the ring, and, if you're lunging to the left, hold the lunge rein in your left hand and your whip in your right hand.
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    You should grasp the lunge line, with the excess folded back and forward within your hand in loops. You should be forming a triangle, with the horse's body, the lunge rein and the whip.
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    Carry the whip pointing slightly behind the horse and pointing down when not using it. Keep your wrists, arms and shoulders relaxed and supple, the same as you would for riding.
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    Face the middle of the horse. Staring at the horse in the eyes adds stress to the horse, so as a reward for good behavior avert your eyes to the shoulder.

Method 3
The Aids

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    Control the horse's speed and pace with voice aids or clicking your tongue, using commands such as "stand", “walk on”, “trot on”, “canter”, "steady" and “whoa”.
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    Ask for more forward action by bringing the lunge rein slightly forward and ‘squeezing’ the horse with the whip by bringing it up and closer to the hind quarters.
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    To slow the horse, bring the lunge rein back slightly, let the whip point down and slightly away. Do not pull back on the lunge, just add more contact and release immediately when your horse obeys.
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    To stop the horse, ask the horse to slow and also point the whip in front of the horse. You can also do this to slow a horse if they refuse to slow down. Whip-shy horses may be affected in the opposite way, so be careful.
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    Control the rhythm of your horse's pace with your own feet. Keep your feet moving.
    • In the same way, you can control your horse's pace with your seat when riding; your horse will follow the pace of your feet.
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    Flick or crack the whip to back up your aids only when necessary. Be ready if the horse reacts, and wait for the horse to relax and listen to you again.
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    Send the horse out on the circle by asking for walk or "move out" and letting the lunge rein slip though your fingers.'Important: Never Let the lunge rein get too slack or the horse may step on it and injure himself or you.'When the horse is on the line you want, take up a contact. A twenty-meter circle is normal.
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    Keep the horse from turning in or falling in on the circle by pointing the whip at the horse’s shoulder.
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    To lunge the horse in the other direction (called 'changing the rein'), first halt the horse. Take the lunge rein in your right hand and whip in your left. Raise the whip in front of the horse to block movement that way, and move the lunge line away from your body to invite the horse into that space. Wait until the horse has turned and then ask for walk.
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    When you are finished, halt the horse and walk towards the horse taking in the lunge rein as you go. Make sure you fold the rein rather than roll it to lessen the danger of the rein tightening around your hand if the horse takes off.

Method 4
Basic Lunging

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    Prepare your horse. Get your horse's headcollar, a lunge line and a whip - preferably a dressage or schooling whip. Put the lunge line on the headcollar. Just do this like you would the lead rope, and then put the head collar on.
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    Lead your horse to the area you are lunging. You need a bit of space to lunge, but you can do it in any enclosed arena. For easy lunging, using a round pen (it forces the horse to continuously move in a circle). A large arena will also work, so long as there are not other people or horse inside with you.
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    Walk your horse around in a big circle. Standing in the center of the round pen or arena, cue your horse to being walking by gently clucking or wiggling the lunge line at them. Have them walk in a circle around you for several minutes, making sure that they stay rated and don't try to come too close to you or pull away.
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    Move your horse into a trot. When they've perfected the walk, cue your horse to trot by waving the whip behind them and clucking. Give them forward pressure by standing slightly behind their hips in the center of the circle, and pushing towards them with your body. Have them do this for several minutes to make sure that they don't try to slow down, speed up, or spiral in or out from you.
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    Move your horse away from you. Let more of the lunge line go to make your horse go out. Do not let it touch the ground though. Letting the horse out is a cue from you to them that you're trusting them to respond to you, with less physical connection. Continue to have them lunge in a trot around you, using your whip or body language to push them forwards if they try to slow down or turn away.
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    Speed your horse into a canter. After 5-10 minutes of successful trotting, you can ask your horse to speed up once more into a canter. This is the most difficult part of lunging - maintaining control over the horse while moving at a high speed, far away from you. Make a kissing noise to your horse and use wave your whip in the air behind them to cue the canter. Ask them to maintain the canter for 3-5 minutes before letting go, and having them move back into a trot.
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    Move your horse back down into a walk. Slowly release pressure to cue your horse to slow down. To do so, lower your eyes, back away, and drop the whip so that it's pointing away from them. They should respond accordingly by slowing their pace until they're back at a walk. Finish lunging by having them walk for a few minutes in a circle around you, and then let them join up with you at the end.


  • Use body language more than the whip.
  • Never get impatient with yourself or the horse. If you are beginning to feel frustrated, stop and let yourself calm down.
  • Find a dependable, well-trained horse to practice on and an experienced horse-person to supervise you. Never mix an inexperience handler and an inexperienced horse.
  • Work the horse in a calm, assertive manner, never in an excited, nervous, fearful, angry, frustrated, tense, anxious or unsure state of mind because chances are the horse will not be wanting to respond as readily to you and your movements than if you are calm and relaxed.
  • Always give your horse a 'way out'. Keep the lunge line relaxed and always pointing to where you want to go, with the whip behind the horse.
  • Lunging has great training value if you aren't just letting the horse run in circles around you. Try practicing changing gaits, such as having the horse halt, walk, trot, canter, etc. with no more than half circle between the changes in gait. You will be teaching the horse to be attentive and obedient, and will see him start to engage and come on the bit. You will be rewarded with an improved ride and better gait transitions when you are mounted.
  • Some more advance lunging includes: Lunging from a bridle with one or two reins, using training aids, doing pole work, and jumping on the lunge.
  • If you find it easier you can hold the excess rein in your other hand with the whip. However this restricts your movements and is impossible in some more advanced types of lunging, like using two reins.


  • Never, ever, allow the lunge line to become wrapped around any part of your body, including your fingers, hand(s), waist, neck or feet. People have been injured and actually even killed this way while lunging.
  • Move the horse away from you if it's rear end is facing you. Don't crack the whip because the horse might startle and buck out when you are right behind the horse causing injuries.
  • Never lunge a lame horse, except to assess lameness under the supervision of a vet. Pressure from moving in a circle will irritate the horse's injury.
  • Never lunge your horse on too small of a circle. It puts too much stress on his joints and he could be injured.
  • Never lunge your horse in only one direction. Lunging is quite stressful to his joints, and lunging in only one direction is a sure-fire way to make your horse go lame.
  • Lunging is a very constructive way of exercising a horse, but, under certain circumstances, such as if your horse is moving in an unusual way due to a lameness, he could be injured.
  • Don't let your horse act up. He may try to rear or buck.
  • Tapping the horse with the lash of the whip or cracking the whip takes skill and practice. Neither should be necessary with a dependable horse and supervision.
  • This is as advanced and complex a training technique as riding. Do not try this with a horse you do not know or if you have no prior horse experience.
  • Wear helmet and gloves when dealing with a new or difficult horse. but don't let them become crutches. A well trained horse does not require gloves to lunge
  • When dealing with a new horse or difficult one, consider carrying an aid. Whips may be preferred but anything that can put pressure on the horse will work.

Things You'll Need

  • A correctly fitted lunge caves-son, bridle or halter.
  • Leg protection for the horse.
  • A lunge line - at least 35 feet (~20m) is best.
  • Gloves.( not recommended on anything but a disobedient horse, if you need gloves you are either doing it wrong or have not made any significant progress on a new or difficult horse)
  • Helmet (optional, but recommended) .
  • Lunge whip.(also optional)
  • Side reins - optional.
  • Master Rein.
  • Surcingle or saddle- optional.
  • A pad or numnah to prevent the surcingle from rubbing.
  • A lunging a halter.
  • A safe, level enclosed space.

Article Info

Categories: Horse Training