(also known as longe lines, depending upon your sense of phonetic spelling)
If you grew up riding in the English style, you are probably familiar with the lunge line, but if you came to horses through trail riding or Western disciplines, it may be something of a foreign concept.
Lunging sends horses in a circle around their handler, who holds the excess line and sometimes a lunge whip. The whip does not typically touch the horse, but is carried in the right hand, trailing behind the horse to create noise that lets the horse know he needs to keep moving.
Lunging horses has lots of different applications; it can be a controlled setting to work a horse lightly back from an injury, or provide a chance for someone on the ground to watch a horse at work to look for lameness. Lunging is also a way of letting a horse blow off some steam before beginning a ride, and it can also be a good way to help a horse build condition or muscle (especially if you’re also using side reins or other equipment). We’ve also found it a good way to teach horses voice commands, which can transfer nicely to other groundwork or riding.
Many English riders also begin their riding instruction riding a lunged horse, because it enables them to focus on their legs and position before they need to worry about also directing the horse around the arena.
No matter how you use lunging, there are a few important things to remember. If you’re lunging for more than a couple of minutes, it’s considered good practice to send the horse in both directions before finishing up for the day. That’s because turning in a circle unevenly stretches and loads the two sides of a horse’s body. It’s also important not to lunge too often or for too long at a time to avoid stress-related injury. Another good way to avoid putting too much strain on the horse is to avoid making the circle he travels in too small. Circles measuring 20-30 meters in diameter are considered a good size.
While lunging your horse, don’t wrap the line around your hand. If the horse should spook, you’ll end up losing some skin on your palms. Instead, loop excess line and grab the loop around the center.
Two Horse Tack offers all the equipment you need to get your horse lunging. Our lunge lines come in lengths from 10 to 40 feet in your choice of 14 colors. Our lunging cavesson includes hardware sewn into the noseband, giving you all kinds of options for line placement. Cavessons are available in sizes mini to draft, in matching colors to our lines.
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.