Lungeing has been used in training horses and ponies for hundreds of years. It has many benefits for the pony and you don’t have to be a brilliant rider to be good at lungeing.
What does lungeing do?
The great advantage lungeing has over riding is that the pony can learn to go well without the hindrance of carrying someone. The rider’s weight can upset his balance or put extra strain on muscles doing new and unaccustomed work. Lungeing also makes the pony more supple and, with side-reins, gets him working in a correct outline. An overexcited, cold or stiff pony often gives a much easier ride if he is lunged for ten minutes first.
From your point of view, you can still work and exercise the pony even if he can’t be ridden – perhaps because his saddle needs mending or the pony has a sore back. It is also helpful to watch your own pony working and to teach him obedience to voice commands.
Even If you know you couldn’t possibly train your pony to high-school dressage level, it is still worth learning how to lunge. Any calm, sensible and practical person can learn quite quickly, although a certain amount of know-how and horse sense helps. Always learn with a trained pony, watch experienced people lungeing and get a sound knowledge of the basics before you start on a novice horse.
Keep the sessions short up to 30 minutes in total with a very fit pony.
Lungeing can be done every day but once or twice a week is adequate.
What you need
Find somewhere safe to lunge before buying a lot of expensive equipment, For a pony, a square 15m (50ft) wide is enough. This could be a flat area in the corner of a field or one end of a schooling area. Remember that the centre, where you stand, must be as flat as the edge of the lungeing circle. It is easier to judge the size and shape of the circle if you mark out a square with poles or cones. Poles should be wedged so they can’t roll about.
The only other equipment you need at first is a lungeing rein and a whip. The less expensive whips are usually light and easy to handle. A lungeing cavesson is best for attaching the lunge-rein but, if you don’t have one, use a headcollar. Wearing gloves stops you getting rope burns if the pony pulls away.
The rein and whip
Your aim now is to have your pony working round you with even rein contact and in a perfect circle which touches the four sides of your marked square. You should be able to stand in the middle giving quiet commands to walk, trot, canter or halt without the pony cutting in on the circle. He should be active, attentive and obedient. But the first problem is how to handle the length of the lunge-rein and whip!
To work on the left rein, hold the whip in your right hand. The lunge-rein goes from your left hand to the cavesson (or headcollar if this is all you have at the moment). Coil the lunge-rein carefully so that it doesn’t tangle as you let it out. It may help at first to hold the spare end in your right hand and let the rein run through your left hand. This stops you dropping too much rein and tangling it in the pony’s legs.
Starting and walking
Start in the middle of the circle, standing next to the pony’s girth. With the rein in your left hand, ask him to walk forward (take a few steps yourself if necessary) and quietly bring the whip toward his hindlegs. As the pony goes forward, stay put and let him move away from you, gradually letting out the lunge-rein. Keep repeating the command ‘Walk on!’ until the pony is walking round the circle and you can take your place in the centre.
Position yourself opposite the girth so that you are the point of a triangle. The three sides are the pony, the lunge-rein and the lunge Whip. Keep turning to face the pony and stand up straight with your elbows bent and close to your sides. Try to relax. Move the whip quietly to keep the pony active and encourage him forward with your left hand on the rein.
Walk to trot
To go from walk to trot, call the pony to attention by saying his name followed by ‘Ter-rot!’ and a slight raising of the lunge whip. If necessary give the lash a flick (not to hit him or he may charge off at a gallop!). If he is idle, crack the whip but practise this without the pony first. After a few circuits in trot ask him for walk: ‘Waaa-alk’. At the same time, lower the whip but keep it pointing toward the pony. Ask him to halt in the same way, staying out on the circle. Now you are ready to change rein and repeat the exercise on the right rein.