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Lunging can be a beneficial exercise for both horse and handler when done safely and properly, but accidents can happen quickly. In this video I show you how to stay safe.

Here are the three main points we are going to discuss:

1. How to avoid getting you or your horse tangled in the lunge line

2. Staying aware of your horse and your position

3. Choosing a safe location to lunge

I would love to hear from you in the comments! Do you have other suggestions for lungeing safety?

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Comments

46 Responses

  1. I’ve just started lunging a horse for the first time so the timing on this couldn’t be more perfect!! I like the idea of not coiling the rope and of holding the extra rope in the hand with the whip while using the other hand to maintain the connection with the horse. This was really helpful. Thank you!! Have a lovely weekend!

      1. Hi Callie! I really like your calm and respectful manner with horses- thanks for the videos. I have a lungeing issue to ask you about. I’ve started working with a fiesty horse that always turns in towards me when I ask her to change to the right hand lead. I’d appreciate any advice you could give me! Thanks, Amy

          1. Hi Amy, it sounds as though you just need to work on the response of being able to walk into your horse’s head and shoulder area and have her step away from you. This is how I change directions in movement… I step back the horse moves in forward towards me, I switch the rope and whip in my hands for the change of direction then step back out towards the horse, they move in the new direction, stepping out with the front legs so as to keep the space between us and create the new track of the circle.

  2. Thanks for the video, Callie! What do you do with the horse who is reluctant to lunge? My horse is not new to lunging but she does not like it. She constantly turns and toward me when I get her out on the circle so that she doesn’t have to go around me. She never rushes toward me, but she always swings her back end away from me so she does not have to go around the circle. How do I get her to stop that? Thanks so much!!

    1. Erin, my tip would be to add pressure in front of her “driveline”(basically her withers). When you are wanting to send her around you, you need to use driving pressure in front of her withers (between her head and withers somewhere on her neck) with your whip or coils of line or just assertive body language to “push” her front end out and away from you on to the circle…once she’s out and safely away from you, now you can use your whip to encourage her “engine”/hind end to move forward on the circle making sure that now you are positioned behind her driveline.. You should remain behind her withers (about where a cinch/girth would be if she were saddled) and walk a smaller circle (as Callie demonstrated in the video) inside her larger circle. When you want her to slow down or stop then you should get in front of the “driveline” position…in front of her withers…by stepping a bit to the side (left if you’re lunging left and right if going to the right.) You should still be several feet away from the horse the same distance as you were while lunging her. Sometimes the horse ends up lunging you because she faces you and you try chasing the butt/engine instead of adding pressure toward the front end. The key is: get the horse OUT ON the circle with pressure toward her neck, then once she’s out on this lunging circle you can position yourself just behind her withers. Stepping sideways in the direction of her head will cause the horse to slow or stop while stepping sideways toward her hindquarters will cause her to speed up or disengage her hindquarters and face you. Then you can change directions if you want to, or ask her to go out on the circle again and go the same direction as before. I like to “point” with my arm and hand with whichever hand is holding the line closest to the halter clip and motivate with the coils hand or whip hand to encourage her front end to get back out onto the circle. Point to show the horse where you want her to go (using driving pressure in her neck area; and then keep her moving by motivating the “engine” if necessary. Hope this helps and isn’t too confusing!
      Judy

  3. What are your comments on lunging tack. I have heard strong conflicting opinions from knowledgeable horse people and I don’t understand them as well as I’d like to. Three examples: always use side reins to simulate a good rider on the horse’s back, otherwise it’s useless vs. never use side reins. Or use a cavesson, or only use one for young/inexperienced horses–otherwise clip to the bit. Or never clip directly to the bit; always clip near the girth and thread the line through the bit. Or it isn’t helpful with one line: always use two. Comments on any of these (either your view or more about why people have developed these perspectives)?

    1. I think this is one of those cases where a good argument can probably be presented for each opinion. For example, side reins in the right stage of training and with a very experienced handler can be beneficial. Side reins at the wrong time or used incorrectly will teach a horse to go behind the bit or can be dangerous. I feel cavessons are a pretty safe and useful piece of lungeing equipment for any horse and handler, where as I use threading through the bit and over the poll if I do not have a cavesson available or I want to use bit pressure for cues. To avoid the confusion, I would say keep it simple, with a cavesson or halter and one line, focus on what you are trying to accomplish through the lungeing, and add equipment as you have a reason for it. Hope this helps!

  4. Very nicely done, Callie. I love that you focus on skills we all really need for handling horses. And I always grin when I see Promise. One of these days she’s going to blossom into something truly special.

  5. how do you use the whip effectively if you are holding the line at the same time? I notice the whip is pointed backwards. Do you angle your wrist away from you to activate the whip?

    1. Good question! In the beginning I had the whip forward to keep Promise out and to shape the circle. Then I could tell she was very forward, so I brought the whip behind me. If I had to the whip quickly I could do so with a movement of my wrist, if I had to use it consistently, I move it with my fingers to bring it forward facing again. I find that practicing whip and rope handling can be a good thing to do without a horse – that way you only need to focus on the action of moving the whip, instead of the other mechanics of controlling the horse as well.

  6. Nice job Callie, explaining handling the line and WHY it’s so important for your safety. Some of your audience might not be savvy about the use of the longeing cavesson or the use of the various rings on the noseband…I’m curious as to why you wouldn’t use the center ring (which allows you to longe in both directions without having to re- attach the line) if this horse is pretty well trained to longe. Also, I prefer to make it clear to the horse when sending the him out and away from me to begin the longeing circle to never push into my space causing me to have to get out of his way (or get pushed or stepped on) ….the horse will see this as being allowed to “move your feet” instead of you “moving his/her feet and if not addressed most horses will continue to “push” on the handler with their shoulder. The other comment I have (and it was most likely just an inadvertent glitch) is that you gave a voice command of “WHOA” when I believe you meant “WALK” (at least you accepted the walk.) Anyway, for me as a trainer, I never want the word WHOA to mean anything but STOP! And I am not guiltless with this once in a while, but if I inadvertently say whoa when I really just wanted walk, I now MUST be sure I get WHOA! It may save my life some day. I have observed many riders and handlers who use the word “whoa” to slow their horse’s speed. I believe this can be dangerous (and can easily become a habit when used interchangeably for “easy” or “walk”, etc.) because you will lose your important STOP command!…Not to mention that now you’ve programmed the horse to NOT really know what to do when it hears the word “WHOA”. We all have different styles and philosophies with out training techniques but I hope I can convince your followers to teach their horse/s that Whoa means STOP and nothing but STOP. Think about it, if it means multiple things (easy, slow down, relax, or stop), how could you expect the horse to know which response you want? Callie, I have great respect and regard for your expertise, and I know I’d definitely be open to advice and constructive criticism in comments given. We can always choose to accept it or not accept it. That’s what makes us individuals! I hope I can add some constructive comments once in a while…I admire you for allowing this interaction in blogs. I still believe you are very gifted in the way you clearly present and share your knowledge and high skill level!!!!! You are most certainly helping thousands of horsemen and women! We’re all here to learn more. THANK YOU
    Judy

    1. Hi Judy – Thanks for pointing this out, I do try to also keep whoa and walk as separate commands. I didn’t rewatch the video to catch where I did this, but I am guessing it was just a mistake as my mind was thinking of taking for the video and slowing Promise at the same time! Good catch

  7. Thanks, Callie! Great tips for sure. It takes time to teach lungeing to your horse, and for green people to get comfortable with this practice. Both my Quarterhorse and myself were pretty green with lungeing when we brought him home. This video is super helpful. Thank you!

  8. Hi Callie, great tips on safety! My horse and I have been working on lunging for months and months and still we do not do it right.

    1. Hi, Lorena;
      I really like Clinton Anderson’s method (although I sometimes find myself “toning it down” a notch or 2 because I don’t want to be as assertive as he is at times), but his technique of “Round Penning” and then moving on to longeing for respect stage 1 will get most any horse going well on the circle around you in just a few days….but, of course, your body language, feel and timing, and release of pressure must be good. I think “You Tube” might have examples of these 2 skills and, if not, maybe you could find his book at the library: Clinton Anderson’s Downunder Horsemanship; Establishing Respect and Control for English and Western Riders. I’ve used his methods now for the past 10+ years and have had great success with it, but I have been training for over 50 years, so I probably have a bit of a head start over you. I like his method because it’s so easy for anyone to do (he explains all the skills very well) and, iwhen done correctly, all horses I’ve trained have had no problems figuring out if they’ve done something correctly or not…because the handler/rider is “black and white”…no shades of gray… in applying pressure and following up with a quick release when the horse gives a try or correct response. Remember that horses learn through the RELEASE of pressure, NOT from the pressure itself! I hope you’ll at least check it out, but in the end, you must decide if this method works for you. If you’ve already spent months on trying to teach lunging to your horse then you may want to consider having a professional help you out in order to progress on to the next level. Perhaps you are unaware of something you might be doing that is causing the horse to become confused or to misinterpret something.
      I wish you the best of luck with your horse. You might also want to read my comment to Erin (who’s also having lunging problems).
      Judy Weinmann

      1. Thank you Judy, I actually started out with Clinton Anderson as the go to person on horsemanship, and have one of his c/ds. I find his methods to harsh for me to use. I do watch his and other people u tube videos, and even though the lunging has improved, from where we started it is not where it should be. I find most videos have a horse that wants to move. My horse would be happy just to stand. I would love to see a video on lunging a horse that really could care less if he ever trotted. Thank you for your input, I appreciate the response!

        1. Lorena;
          Lungeing, for some people, can be more challenging than teaching your horse the “sending” exercise. You may want to begin with sending because you are closer to the horse and would have better control of his foot speed. Once the horse learns this exercise, then you could “send” him on the lunge circle around you! This involves teaching the horse to go both left and right in front of you between a fence or wall (and later it could be between you and a tarp, puddle, or any scary object.) If you teach your horse to walk past you on line (using just your lead rope…longer is best (I use a 12 to 14 foot lead which gives you the length to “let out some line if the horse squirts too fast or far) this exercise can help with controlling the horse’s direction because you will be closer when asking for him to go away from you and won’t have to worry about so much line in your hand, yet. To send your horse between you and a fence going to the left, you will point left with your left hand which is holding the lead rope 4 feet from the clip and you standing parallel and facing him (and 3 or 4 feet away from his nose.) Ask the horse to move forward with the “pointing” and if he doesn’t, then add the motivator of tapping him on his neck with a training stick or by twirling the end of the lead rope (excess held in your left hand)…leave a “tail” of rope in your right hand that you can twirl toward the horse’s neck in a spot behind the halter’s buckle to create energy to cause him to move forward and keep him safely away from you, as he proceeds through the gap. “The gap is the space you create between you and the fence. Start out with a wide gap (10 feet or so) and narrow it little by little as the horse gets better. When his tail crosses in front of you then step toward his rear with your right foot (always step with the foot holding the stick or your tail of rope) to disengage the horse’s hindquarters. Now he should be facing toward you and looking at you with both eyes…but he’s at least 4 feet away from you. Important: no loops in your lead rope…use big figure 8’s. *Your horse should already know how to disengage his hindquarters before this exercise is taught. Reverse everything now before “sending” him to the right. I use this exercise a lot to ask my horses to go past, through, under or over scary objects. Once the horse knows how to “send”, (which builds confidence and trust in both YOU and the HORSE) you can introduce him to literally anything (that’s safe to do so). When a horse faces you when you didn’t ask for it (this can be lack of understanding what you want, or the horse has learned that this gets him out of work)…lazier type horses are good at figuring this out.
          Remember, without forward movement, you cannot train! “Be as gentle as possible but AS FIRM AS NECESSARY to get the job done….AND REWARD THE SLIGHTEST TRY!
          Good luck with your horse.
          Judy Weinmann

          1. Thank you!! I am familiar with the sending exercise but have never tried it. I will let you know how it goes. Thank you so much for your input!!

  9. Callie, thank you for the video…i did have a lungeing accident a few years ago when my friend’s horse put his head down to graze when I was gathering up the line. His reins, which were twisted around his neck slid down and justvthat quickly, he moved his foot and got tangled in the reins. He is a VERY quiet horse, but he went into freak out mode. I was alone, to nake thigs even worse. It took a minute or two, but I was able to catch him and untangle him. I wasn’t hurt, nor was the horse, but now i am really scared to lunge. I now have a pretty bossy OTTB mare who thinks the lungeline is for running and kicking up her heels. She goes immediately into a trot when you send her out. For this reason, I prefer to “free” lunge her in our indoor ring. I would rather her kick up her heels without being “connected” to her by a lungeline. After watching your video, however, I think I am feeling a little more willing to attempt this again. My strategy will be to work on just walking and halting until I am certain she is listening to me. Also, i will lunge only with a halter or surcingle, not under tack, to begin with. But most importantly, I will make sure someone more experienced than me is on hand!

    1. Hi Karen,
      Glad you found the video helpful! That is a great strategy to go back to walking and halting. I believe that it not only establishes control through repetition of the important responses but also creates more rapport with the horse as well.

  10. Callie, thank you for the video…i did have a lungeing accident a few years ago when my friend’s horse put his head down to graze when I was gathering up the line. His reins, which were twisted around his neck slid down and just that quickly, he moved his foot and got tangled in the reins. He is a VERY quiet horse, but he went into freak out mode. I was alone, to make things even worse. It took a minute or two, but I was able to catch him and untangle him. I wasn’t hurt, nor was the horse, but now i am really scared to lunge. I now have a pretty bossy OTTB mare who thinks the lungeline is for running and kicking up her heels. She goes immediately into a trot when you send her out. For this reason, I prefer to “free” lunge her in our indoor ring. I would rather her kick up her heels without being “connected” to her by a lungeline. After watching your video, however, I think I am feeling a little more willing to attempt this again. My strategy will be to work on just walking and halting until I am certain she is listening to me. Also, i will lunge only with a halter or surcingle, not under tack, to begin with. But most importantly, I will make sure someone more experienced than me is on hand!

  11. Excellent video, thank you. Some small points from my heathcare and sailing background are to wear gloves particularly if you wear rings on your fingers. I have seen quite a few skin degloving accidents from rope or other objects catching rings on fingers. Also the layering of a line over your hand in the second example is called flaking a line in sailing and used by single handed sailors when they want a line to run freely without kinking as you described. The rope must be flaked from the free end (bitter end). If flaked from the other end the section what rope you are paying out will foul as it will be on the bottom of the flake or coil. I am not very horse knowlegeable but my wife and I use these same safety skills when we live on our sailboat. You are a wonderful teacher. Thanks again

    1. Thanks Callie – and Gene. Love this info on flaking the line – didn’t know it had a name, but did notice Callie doing it – so much better and safer than big loops. I also liked that Promise had been trained not to stop and come in to you quickly – I’ve worked with horses that come into the centre quickly and I sometimes drop the whip to keep control of my lunge line. Thanks!

  12. Terrific video. I am grateful for your experience, and gentle clear teaching skills. I, like another writer, am new using a lunge line – once so far. Wondering what to do if the lunge line gets caught between the horse’s legs, how to get the horse going in the direction I want, and how to slow a horse down on a lunge line. If you would address that some time in the future, I’d appreciate it. Thanks!

  13. Hi Callie,

    What kind of halter are you using in this video with the nose rings and why use this type of halter when lunging? I have used just a regular halter with clip under chin.

    1. Hi Ruby, This is called a lungeing cavesson. Basically it allows for more control of the horse’s head by the rope or line attaching to the front rings instead of underneath. I do lunge in halters as well, but if I am focusing on the movement of the horse or feel I need more control, I prefer the cavesson.

  14. Callie,
    Thanks for the wonderful lunging video, especially on how to handle the loops in our hand.
    One thing that was confusing is that you consistently used the verb for placing an object, lay, instead of the one for repose.
    I kept wondering what the lines and poles were putting on the ground.
    🙂

  15. Thanks for another great video Callie! One tip I’ve learned, if lunging in a large arena, use the corner of the arena to slow your horse down if need be. The other thing I will emphasize is one you shared…Always make sure the arena gates are closed & latched…I learned this one the hard way…my usually not so forward horse was in a mood & got away from me by turning his head away from me, bucking & yanking me off balance. I did not want to let go & was dragged several meters across the ground!! Another lesson, I guess…let go of the lunge line!

  16. Can you discuss the cavesson? I am unfamiliar with it. Why is it uses versus a halter? Does lunging promote falling in on the inside shoulder?

    Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Jackie,
      I like the cavesson because it allows for more control of the horse’s head by the rope or line attaching to the front rings instead of underneath. I do lunge in halters as well, but if I am focusing on the movement of the horse or feel I need more control, I prefer the cavesson. Lungeing can promote falling in if the horse is pushed too fast or on too big a circle too early where their balance can’t be influenced and correct body position taught. I start on a small circle and teach the horse inside bending and stepping under with the inside hind then gradually increase the size of the circle as they are able to stay balanced.

  17. Hi Callie
    Great video.
    I usually use a cavesson with a bit attachment. When would you use the bit when lunging and when would you choose not to use one?
    Also I was taught to wear gloves and a hard hat when lunging to avoid line burns and head injuries should anything go badly wrong. So far neither has happened to me but I have treated head injuries so know what the results can be.

    1. Hi Katrina,
      Both the gloves and the hard hat are good extra safety measures! Most of the time in training I prefer the lungeing cavesson. I attach to the bit if I am just needing to quickly use the lunge line on a horse for a few minutes, such as to help a rider during a lesson.

  18. Hi Callie!
    What are some methods that you can use to help a horse drop his head and develop his topline, bend laterally, and have good propulsion through his hind end while lunging – without using a bunch of equipment? I feel like there is a bunch of advice out there on the basics of lunging, or on how to use equipment to force him into a “correct” form, but I’ve had a hard time finding information on true correct lunging. Like you’ve said before, there’s not much point in just letting a horse run around in circles if you aren’t helping him to develop suppleness, flexibility, and focus!
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah, great question! I find the best way is to start with working in hand. Basically I just walk the circle with the horse asking for stretch, then bending. As the horse is relaxing and able to hold their position longer I start letting more distance between us and allowing the circle to get bigger. Marikje from Straightness Training does a good job teaching this and I also like the book Horse Training In Hand by Ellen Schuthof-Lesmeister

  19. Thank you, Callow. Great video. I can’t wait to try this with my horse. Where can I buy the canvassing to control my horse better, he doesn’t Dowell with just a halter.

  20. Thank you, Callow. Great video. I can’t wait to try this with my horse. Where can I buy the canvassing to control my horse better, he doesn’t Do well with just a halter. Does pretty much any feed store sell them?

    1. Debbie, a great way to teach transitions on the lunge line is by using voice cues! I would recommend starting on a small circle and maybe incorporating some positive reinforcement to help too!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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