How to Teach Your Horse to Lunge

Three Parts:Getting the Right EquipmentUsing a Lunge LineDoing Lunge Work in the Circle

Lunging a horse entails having the horse follow your command to run faster or slower and move in or out of a circle. As the horse's handler, you'll stand in the center of that circle and give commands while holding the other end of the lunge line. Teaching a horse to lunge can be challenging for both you and the horse, and lunging should never be done by an inexperienced horse handler. But with enough time, patience, and adequate space to perform lunging, your horse can learn to run, trot, canter, and walk on the lunge line in no time.

Part 1
Getting the Right Equipment

  1. 1
    Aquire a lunge line. The lunge line should be your main method of communication with your horse during lunge training. You'll give your horse subtle direction using the line, just as you would with the reins if you were riding the horse.[1]
    • The lunge line should be approximately 25 to 30 feet (7.6 to 9 meters) long and made of lightweight material. It should also come with a swivel snap, though some come with a chain at the end.[2]
    • Lunge lines are typically made of cotton webbing, nylon, or a blend of both fibers. Some experts recommend cotton for beginners since it is less likely to twist up or slip from your grip.
    • Some lunge lines come with stops along the strap to help you get a better grip on the line, while others do not. This is largely a matter of personal preference and comfort.
  2. 2
    Select a lunging cavesson. Halters can slip out of place and diminish your control over a horse during lunging.[3] Instead, your horse will need to wear a lunging cavesson while training and exercising on the lunge line. This piece of equipment should have a heavily-padded metal noseband with a ring attached to the top. That ring will be used to attach the lunge line to your horse.[4]
    • Have an equestrian expert size and adjust your horse's lunging cavesson to ensure a proper fit.
    • A properly fitted cavesson should stay securely fastened and remain in place while still being comfortable to the horse.
    • Never fit a lunging cavesson over a grackle/figure 8 noseband. This will be tremendously uncomfortable to the horse and it may reduce your control over the animal.
  3. 3
    Purchase a lunge whip. The role of a lunge whip is to mimic a rider's leg against the horse's body. It is not used to spur the horse's speed, but to gently urge the horse forward or out along the circle.[5]
    • The lunge whip should be approximately six feet (1.8 meters) long and fitted with lashes that measure six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) in length.[6]

Part 2
Using a Lunge Line

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    Hold the lunge line properly. You may instinctively think that wrapping the lunge line around your hand or wrist will help you maintain a better grip, but such a hold is actually quite dangerous. If the horse panicked and took off, you would be dragged along with it. Instead, it's best to hold the line in such a way that you can maintain control but still let go if necessary.[7]
    • Fold the lunge line back and forth to create a stack of folded line.
    • Feed the line out from the top of your folded line stack and attach that end to your horse.
    • Hold the line in the center of the stack and let additional line out as needed. If your horse panics for any reason, let go of the line so you are not dragged.
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    Position yourself in the circle. Stand in the circle with the lunge line stacked into a folded line and held in one hand. You'll want to stand at the horse's side facing its shoulder. Hold the lead with your hand approximately 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) from the snap.[8]
  3. 3
    Use the whip. The lunge whip is one of your most important tools. You'll use it to guide your horse as it lunges in and out of the circle. As you train, make sure you tap your horse's shoulder steadily and consistently.[9]
    • Maintain a steady rhythm of one to two taps per second.
    • If your horse moves its head, keep tapping its shoulder. As soon as your horse learns to move its shoulder instead of its head, immediately stop tapping.
    • Wait a few seconds, then repeat the whole process until your horse learns to follow your cues.
  4. 4
    Advance your training. As your horse gets comfortable with the process, you can increase the length of the lunge line. This may take several weeks of consistent practice before your horse gets this comfortable and is ready to advance.[10]
    • Hold the line about 10 inches (25 centimeters) from the snap and follow the same procedure.
    • Keep practicing until your horse becomes fluent at this length.

Part 3
Doing Lunge Work in the Circle

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    Familiarize your horse with the round pen. Your horse has probably been conditioned to always stay with you when it's being led, which can make lunge work confusing for horses at first. Teaching your horse to move around the round pen on its own will help your horse get more comfortable with other steps in the lunging training.[11]
    • The best way to get your horse comfortable and familiar with a round pen is to simply set it loose in the space.
    • Don't hold the reins or strap; simply let it leave your side or return to you as it desires.[12]
    • Try using a verbal command like "walk." You can teach a verbal command by giving the cue, encouraging a response to the command, and rewarding the behavior.[13]
    • Once your horse is used to roaming around the pen, get your horse comfortable walking the circumference of the round pen and following your command using a lunge whip.
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    Work up to a trot. Once your horse is comfortable roaming slowly around the round pen on its own, you'll want to work at building your horse's speed. Start out slow and gradually get faster and faster, but make sure you don't sacrifice form for speed.[14]
    • Use a lunge whip to teach your horse to trot outside of the circle around you.
    • You can also use verbal commands. Say "trot," then tug on the lead while jogging and reward your horse when it responds.[15]
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    Practice halting. The goal is to get your horse to halt in its path without turning to face you. It may take a while for your horse to get comfortable with halting, so be patient and have faith in your animal.[16]
    • Try using your body language to lead the horse back out into the circle. You can also tug on the horse's lunge line to guide it the same way you would tug on the reins.
    • Whenever your horse turns and faces you, approach the horse and guide it straight back onto the circular path.
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    Reinforce the pattern. Once your horse is comfortable working in a round pen, you're ready to take it to a larger space, like a full-size arena. This can take many weeks of dedicated practice for some horses, so be patient and remain consistent in your practice sessions.[17]


  • If you are inexperienced, find an experienced horse person or reputable trainer to help you. A lunging horse can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing.
  • All horses will react differently, so get to know your horse. Know his fears and his weaknesses, as well as how he acts around you and reacts to your commands.
  • Keep your cool. Never get angry or upset with a horse. This will only make it less cooperative. Instead, try to maintain a calm and assertive energy when teaching a horse to lunge.


  • Never use lunging as a way for your horse to work off excess energy. Moving out of control on a lunge line is bad for the horse's legs and it teaches the horse how to use its weight and energy to overpower you.
  • Do not overwork your horse.
  • Make sure small children aren't around while you train your horse to lunge. An excited horse may not be able to stop if a child wanders into the circle.

Things You'll Need

  • A horse
  • A lunge line
  • A lunging cavesson fitted to your horse
  • A lunge whip
  • A round pen or any other area where your horse cannot escape easily
  • An experienced horse trainer

Article Info

Categories: Horse Training