Guest post by Christa from Piaffe Style.
Lunging a horse has become increasingly popular.
For years, this has been a method of exercising or training a physically expressive horse without putting the rider at risk, getting “the steam” out before riding or training the dressage horse without distraction from the rider.
While lunging a horse has some advantages and there are multiple purposes for lunging, there are also a few things to keep in mind.
Lunging a Horse – Risks to Consider
Many like to lunge their horses to “let off steam” before riding them. While, in theory, this is a good idea, there is a possibility for a risk to the horse.
Running around uncontrollably, jumping and leaping on the lunge line presents a great opportunity for injury.
The horse can fall down, get away from the person lunging or misplace a step, causing a risk for many injuries. While this is rare, there’s still a risk.
Also, in some cases, lunging a horse increases excitement instead of calming them.
When done excessively, or on a daily basis, it also carries possibilities to lameness.
Small circles in place increase stress on the lower joints. This is mainly an issue in the showjumping and hunter world, but it is not a matter to take lightly among dressage riders either.
Lunging a horse can cause synovitis in fetlocks and digital tendon sheaths when done excessively (Dressage Today, Dec 6, 2017).
Though these injuries when lunging a horse are rare, they still increase the risk of lameness, and should always be considered when developing a training program for a horse.
Lunging a Horse – Benefits to Consider
Equine veterinarians use lunging as a tool to observe a horse without the rider. This allows the veterinarians to evaluate the horse’s movement.
Also, in many cases that involve forelimb lameness, lunging a horse will accentuate it, which helps veterinarians diagnose the problem.
Lunging can also be therapeutic to some degree. While lunging a horse without any help from side reins or other systems usually does more harm than good, using a chambon, degogue or other lunging systems can be physical therapy for horses with back pain or tightness.
This allows the horse to move freely and attain better movement and mobility in the back.
Remember, that if you choose to use a lunging system, it should only be used by an experienced trainer or under a supervision of an experienced trainer.
Lunge with Purpose
Lunging a horse should always be done on a circle that they are comfortable with.
Young horses with no or little balance should be given at least an 18 meter circle. More balanced horses can lunge on a smaller circle.
Lungeing should also never last too long – I personally believe that 30 minutes is a maximum time for longing.
You should think about the frequency of lunging, too: a horse should not need lunging multiple times every week on a regular basis.
Just like when riding, you should have a purpose and a goal. Lunging can be beneficial and can be used for example:
- For the rider – rider can practice their seat and balance.
- For the horse – when using a lunging system, such as chambon, it can be very therapeutic for the horse’s back.
Just like with anything else, moderation is key.
Lunging can be a great tool with training, but it should be done with purpose and with a manner that will benefit the horse, and not put them in risk.
Remember, that many lameness injuries develop over time – thus you may not see problems with the horse in short-term, but problems can appear after months or years of excessive lunging.
If you’re in doubt, speak with an equine veterinarian or an experienced trainer.
Christa is a professional horse groom, dressage rider and a trainer. She has trained young horses and riders throughout Europe and USA in dressage and showjumping. Christa and her students have won multiple championships and titles. You can read more from her blog, www.piaffestyle.com.