For those of us who grew up riding in the English disciplines, lunge lines (or “longe lines” depending upon your spelling preference) are pretty commonplace. But for many trail or Western riders, the lines and their usefulness may be a little foreign.
Lunge lines are typically 20 – 30 feet long (though we offer them in a range of lengths from 10 to 40 feet) with a snap at one end and either a rubber stopper or hand loop on the other. Horses can be taught to circle their handler at the end of the lunge line while wearing either a halter or bridle at various gaits and can even jump small items that are open on the sides. Some people use lunging to allow a horse to get out feisty behavior like bolting, diving, and bucking on a windy day or after a long layoff, which can be useful ahead of a horse show performance or a ride at home. Others use lunging to help bring a horse back up to fitness without the weight of a rider, or can even to help scope out whether a horse is lame. (Often lamenesses are emphasized as the horse moves around a curve.)
Depending upon how you use the lunge line, you may prefer a lunging cavesson with loops around the noseband. This gives you options for where to clip or weave the lunge line. (Our lunging cavesson can be added underneath any bridle and is made from durable beta biothane.)
No matter how you use a lunge line, it’s important to choose a length that’s safe for what you’re doing. A stiff or lame horse may benefit from a longer line that allows him to make a larger circle around the handler. Also keep in mind that you should switch directions to avoid placing too much stress on left or right front legs. One more consideration–don’t lunge too long. Stress injuries are caused by repeated force in one spot, and continuous turning in a circle can create that kind of stress after large number of repetitions.
Wondering how to teach your horse to work on a lunge line? Equusite has a great step-by-step troubleshooting guide to help. One thing that we’ve found helpful: vocal cues that help the horse learn what kind of transition you want from him. Those cues can also help you break through barriers under saddle.