Meaningful lunging is another great exercise essential to horse training. But chasing your horse in circles is not, there needs to be a purpose to all of your training.
To begin, outfit your horse in a long, preferably 12 foot, lead rope or lunge line and a rope halter. Use a training stick, lunge whip, or the end of your rope to help you cue the horse. Here I will describe the exercise using the end of your rope, but you can use the stick or whip if you prefer.
Circle to the Right
This lesson works best at a trot, but start at a walk when you are first learning the steps. Then speed him up once you have the rope handling and body movement down.
- Start the lesson by raising your lead rope up and to the side in your right hand. Hold the end of your rope or whip in your left hand.
- Step toward the horse’s left shoulder and start swinging the rope toward the same shoulder.
- If he doesn’t move off, swing the rope closer and closer until you are tapping the horse on the shoulder.
- Increase the pressure smacking harder until he moves to the right even a step.
- When he moves off in the direction you want release all the pressure.
At first he may only take one step to the side and that’s fine. Release when he takes one correct step then ask again until he continues circling.
- After you get him started out on a circle around you, walk toward his ribcage, making a small circle to where you are almost pivoting.
- Stay behind his drive line which is at the base of his neck. Stepping in front of the drive line will cause him to stop or change directions.
- Create a bend in his body by giving and taking on the lead rope and stepping forward on the circle toward the horse’s hip. If he pulls or swings his head to the outside on the circlezdg bump the rope toward you until he softens and brings his nose toward the inside of the circle.
- Circle for about two laps before yielding the hind end and changing directions.
- Reverse the directions for a circle to the left.
Yield the Hindquarters
- To change directions slide your right hand down the lead about an arm’s length down. As you do that stop walking forward, bend at the waist, look at the hindquarters, and take a step toward your hand.
- Swing the end of your lead rope at the hindquarters until he takes a step away from you; crossing the leg closest to you over his opposite hind leg.
- He should yield his hindquarters away and face you. Make sure that the horse disengages all the way, his body should be straight.
- Once he is facing you, stand up straight and send him off in the other direction.
- After lunging for a few minutes, end the lesson by yielding him then immediately desensitizing him to the lead rope by tossing it over his back until he relaxes. Desensitizing him immediately after a sensitizing lesson does two things. First, it lets him rest while facing you and second, the horse is thinking about moving after you just lunged him. By desensitizing him right away it will balance him from thinking go forward to thinking stand still and relax. Most of the time people will desensitize after the horse has been standing for a minute, but if you start desensitizing right after he stops moving you will be able to reenact something that would scare the horse while riding.
Won’t Yield His Hindquarters– If he doesn’t want to stop, bump the rope toward you to block his forward motion while walking toward his hindquarters, still swinging the end of your rope toward his hind end. Continue getting closer until he stops going forward and yields. If he gets confused and tries to run away bump his head toward you and keep the same amount of pressure until he turns and faces you. Once he is facing you start desensitizing him until he relaxes as he is anticipating moving forward and you need to balance him out. Once he is relaxed send him off again. Do this every time he rushes through a turn or wants to turn on his own.
Comes Into Your Space– Back him out of your space immediately by moving your hand with the lead rope up and down causing the rope to shake and putting pressure on his face. Once he is at least three feet away stop shaking the rope and continue on with the exercise.
Won’t Go Out on the Circle– Reward each correct step then instantly ask again until he stays out on the circle.
Pins His Ears– If the horse is pinning his ears while circling swing the end of your rope gently, putting a little bit of pressure on the horse until he brings his ears forward. You really have to pay attention to when his ears go up because you need to stop swinging, and release the pressure instantly. If instead he is pinning his ears when yielding the hindquarters pay attention to his ears and keep yielding until they go forward, then quit asking him to yield.
Pushes His Hip Toward You– Watch the horse’s body position closely. When his hip is on the inside of the circle he won’t be bent around the circle, instead his front end will be pointing to the outside. This may be very slight. To fix it, yield his hindquarters each time you notice he is pushing his hip toward you.
Kicks Out– Immediately smack him on the hind end with your rope or stick then yield the hindquarters away from you. Don’t get mad at the horse just make him move quickly so he will think twice about kicking next time. Pushing the hip toward you is the beginning of kicking out, fix that first. When the horse does this he is either thinking about leaving to the outside of the circle or kicking out at you either because you are nagging him, or putting too much pressure on him.
Builds Speed– The horse that takes off on the circle is worried and anxious. Yield the hindquarters each time he speeds up. Yielding makes the horse relax and think because when he crosses his hind legs he has to bend his body and can’t push off with both hind legs to run, buck, etc. He will also slow down in preparation for all of your changes of direction, focusing on you to know where he is going next.
Keeps Stopping– The lazy type horse will find any opportunity to slow down or stop. If he stops while lunging immediately send him forward again by pointing, clucking, then using your rope or whip until he moves forward.