But don´t go making your own circle of dust
Stand in the middle, give him the rope,
Let him form the circle, don´t be a dope
If you wander around, click and chasing behind him,
He´ll lean or he´ll fall and make knots of his forelimb
His shoulder will bulge, his hip will loose balance
And thats nothing to say of the mental abhorrence
Lunge a horse, if you really must,
But remember for him it is a lack of trust
Those circles illformed, don´t build a partnership,
Only serving to improve his markmanship
Your horse will begin to kick and buck,
And not down to him being a schmuck
The imbalance you made will cause him pain,
Especially if you are unable to ascertain
Lunge a horse, if you really must,
But take advise and he wont combust
Lunging is an art applied, not a simple exercise
Like everything else in equitation
It is based on a knowing foundation
The word is believed to be derived from either the French word allonge, meaning ´to lengthen´, or the Latin longa. In both cases, the root word featured spelling with an “o” and emphasis is on lengthening and extension, so although always pronounced “lungeing”, the traditional spelling of the word in English is “longeing”.* Having friends in both spelling camps I thought it would be good to clarified the why, now I´ll explain my reasons behind my rhyme.
Lungeing a horse correctly is an art. It takes patience and application to develop. The point of this article is not to teach this. Finding an experienced instructor and receiving hands-on guidance, is the recommended way to learn. The point of this article is to bring attention to the people who don´t know how to lunge, are maybe unaware they are not lungeing correctly, and often don´t really know why they are lungeing (?), in the hope they will take this information on board and go and seek correct guidance - and ask questions.** We have all been in a place with the best of intentions but under a very misguided notion at some point in our lives!
There are some ´rules´ to lungeing, which you ignore at your peril. When working with a young horse or a new horse, it is very much a time when he or she will assess you. Their decision, based on your performance, will directly influence their behavior towards you in the future, be it ridden or on the ground. This can be make or break time for your relationship!
Why some people lunge:
As a means to tire out a horse - that is just cruel and mindless.
To control behavior - senseless. You end up with a much fitter horse, who therefore has more energy to misbehave.
Why other people lunge;
As a precursor to long reins
A way a trainer can observe for themselves the progress of a horse
A way to start a beginner, or give a lesson to a more advanced rider
It can be used to increase fitness, suppleness, muscle tone, and stretching (a fair tool in the box if you don´t have time to ride) and as a remedial tool for imbalances or after an injury.
Let´s focus on the suppleness mentioned above and the meaning of the word ´lunge´ explained at the beginning. If you truss your horse up like the Christmas turkey to lunge them you are not aiding them to find their natural balance. You are not aiding them to be able to stretch and lengthen through from the hind quarters, back and to the fores, to be able to lift the spine, work equally the fores and hinds and create their own natural collection when their body is ready to do so. You are creating disharmony. A disharmony that can create a swing bridge of the spinal column and disengaged hinds. The polar opposite of the collection you may want to achieve. Again, see note **
Though what I really want to draw attention to is the handler who doesn´t stand still! There is a time and a place for moving from your center pivot point - again, seek out experienced instruction** - but constantly doing so, constantly either bracing or slacking against the lunge rope is a no-no.
Firstly, if you are lungeing in a round pen there is no need for a rope or lunge line. Train your horse to respond to your voice and body language - good groundwork. And remember the ´rules´ mentioned at the beginning. If you are not constant with your rules a horse will see you as weak and test you to the limits. Be sure the turn is asked by you, be sure corners are not cut. Again, see note**
If you don´t stand still you are not permitting the horse to gauge the circle and pace himself according to it´s size in what ever gait you are asking. This will cause him to either be bracing against you, which means he is not naturally ´bending´ around the circle with his whole body, but rather falling out with his hind end and using the outside shoulder much more. Or he is turning his head, and subsequently neck, in towards you, trying to figure out where he should be going, and he will be constantly stepping on an inside track with his inside fore. Again, unbalanced. Of course either of these two give him the option to run off quick smart, should the thought enter his head, probably taking you off balance with him - and breaking one of the ´rules´. Additionally, if you are constantly moving you will, at some point, be positioned either in front or behind the horse. In front sends signals to the horse that you are blocking his path. Behind sends signals that you are chasing him up. Both causing hesitation, both loosing the rhythm.
Ideally you will be standing centered, pivoting, with a constant contact, not pressure, on the lunge line. Your leading arm, with the line, will form one side of a triangle, your trailing/guiding arm (with lunge whip if you use one) forms the other side of a triangle, meeting at tip of nose and end of tail of the horse, the third side of the triangle. This is a neutral position. You are not putting the horse under pressure. You are positioned to guide him forward at your chosen pace, halt at your behest and change direction, again, when you ask for it. Now, how that all comes together, with no pushmepullyou is via - see note**
Using the lunge as a remedial or corrective tool really should only be done by an experienced equestrian, someone who is also capable of maintaining their own circle as is required to ´walk´ around with the horse. No eggs, no rhombus and knowing what level of contact to maintain.
Just remember, the first tool you ever pull out of the box is patience. Buckets of that in every aspect of your equestrian endevours and, with the correct guidance, you will have harmonious days ahead with a balanced, happy horse.
Ref; * Wikipedia