What is a Pessoa Lunging System and How to Use It

Guest post by Louise from In Due Horse.

I was recently shown how to use a Pessoa lunging system on my horse and loved it! I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you all about it as I think it is an excellent training aid.

I had seen the system being used in magazines and on instagram, but didn’t ever think about using one as I didn’t know how. When my friend offered to show me how to use it I jumped at the chance and really do think it is a brilliant alternative to riding on those days that you don’t have much time or the inclination to.

Each time I use it I feel it has benefited my horse greatly and that she has worked as hard or possibly harder than she would of if I had ridden her.

Pessoa Lunging System – Photo Credit: Amazon.com

The Pessoa lunging system was invented by American showjumper Nelson Pessoa. The idea of the Pessoa is to help position your horse to work nicely in an outline by helping him build up muscles by working in the correct position and using his back muscles.

Now, it looks quite complicated. Don’t let this put you off.

I would advice that the first few times you use the system that you should do it with someone that knows what they are doing to avoid you fitting it incorrectly.

However when I was shown I was actually surprised at how easy it was to fit. The system consists of a surcingle that has some ropes, clips and pulleys attached to it and a breaching strap that goes around the horses hind quarters.

The breaching strap is there to keep everything in place and if you can imagine the lines run from the surcingle forwards and backwards.

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Equipment you will need:

  • Lunge line Surcingle with D rings (and a saddle pad if you desire for under the surcingle).
  • Bridle or lunging cavesson (the horse must be wearing a bit)
  • Pessoa

To fit the Pessoa

First you will need to fit your normal lunging equipment. Your horse will need to be wearing a bridle with a bit. (I use my bridle as I don’t have a lunging cavesson & either remove the reins or twist them up out of the way and pop them through the throatlash.

Then you will fit your surcingle. It must have D rings for the clips. Once your horse is in his lunging kit you can start putting on the Pessoa.

To avoid trailing lines, you can attach the front lines first to the bit without attaching them to the surcingle. Then attach the breaching strap. You can do this by placing it on your horses back, attach the lines to the surcingle whilst it is resting on his back, then pull it backwards gently behind him.

Then you can adjust the lines as necessary. This can be quite scary for your horse if he has never worn it before so please be careful when doing this part!

Then you attach the lines at the front. There are two clips on these lines. The ones that move/slide you attach to the bit. Then you take the other end and attach them to the D Ring underneath the surcingle.

Imagine they look like draw reins, as the idea is that you are getting your horse to work with his head lower than his withers. When I use it, as my horse is not used to having her head held in any position, I actually just attach the front parts to the bit once my horse has warmed up, when she is going nicely I then attach the clips to the bit and get her working in an outline.

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If you don’t want to attach the clips to the bit you can easily clip these lines to the side of the surcingle and safely work without any trailing lines. When you do want to attach the lines to the bit the idea is that the lines go slack when the horse’s head is in the correct position.

It is not strapping it down uncomfortably. The great thing about the Pessoa is that all of the lines are adjustable, so if your horse is young or not used to working in an outline you can adjust the lines to be looser or the opposite if you horse is used to working at an advanced level.

Pessoa describes that when your horse is using their equipment it is like horse Pilates!

Using their system just gets the horse to balance and gradually build up a top line. As it is a pull and release system it helps the horse to work in a better position to build up muscles and increase the use of the horse’s back muscles.

For young horses it is great to guide them into the correct shape to work in an outline. To get your horse used to all these lines, you should do your first few sessions in walk and gradually increase the time and speed in these sessions as your horse gets used to it.

It’s not uncommon for your horse to try to move away from the lines, so be careful at first. I would recommend lunging in your helmet and gloves (as you always should of course!).

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When your horse gets used to it I’m sure you will see that the Pessoa really gets them working beautifully. It is lovely to see my horse working in an outline that I can’t always obtain on her back!

Please do remember that if you do start using the Pessoa use it as an aid, don’t over use it. Just use as part of your horse’s exercise routine. It should not replace you riding it is meant to be as well as!

Pessoa advice to use it twice a week, but I must admit I use it more once a month. Of course this will totally be a personal decision. Just don’t over do it!

For more information about using the Pessoa you can watch the Official Pessoa training aid video on Youtube under Fieldhouse Riding or you can read more information about it on pessoausa.com.

All the information I have based my article on was from the official Pessoa website. I would like to add that I have no connection with this brand.

I wanted to share my good experience of using this product with you and hope that you have found it useful.

Louise writes the Equestrian lifestyle blog In Due Horse. Louise is English but these days is based in France. Louise has ridden since she is 5 years old and has loved horses since then. A self proclaimed Horse Nerd! To follow her adventures in France or check out her other articles follow her blog at induehorse.com and on facebook and instagram @induehorse.

1 Comment

  1. Maria pietri
    April 22, 2020 / 2:31 pm

    I just started to use the Pessoa system for lunging and I like it, one thing I wanted to mention is that if your horse is young or not framed you will need to attach the rein parts of the system lower to be effective, between the front leg under the chest , on the lowest ring of the cir-single not on the sides, when the horse will more be experienced you attach them to the side like side reins ( like the photo provided) and even to the top where the riders hands would be.

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