The second reason would be for exercise. Working your horse on the lunge line is a perfect solution for those days when you maybe don't have time or the energy to fully tack up and ride. There are many different pieces of equipment that can help teach your horse how to hold themselves properly. We will go over those in posts to come.
Another important reason to know how to lunge is when you need to for the vet. Many times lamenesses only show up on a circle and knowing what you are doing and having your horse know whats happening is key to helping the vet.
Depending on which direction your horse is going determines what hand you hold the lunge. Now, I am right handed so it is much more comfortable for me to hold the lunge line in my right hand. However, in order to safely lead my horse around the circle I have to change it up. When I am lunging to the left, counterclockwise, then the line needs to be in my left hand. Therefore, when I am lunging to the right, clockwise, the line needs to be in my right hand.
There are two reasons for holding the lunge line like this. The first is because you need to lead your horse around the circle. If you hold the lunge in the opposite hand, the line then "crosses" your body and you end up actually signaling to your horse to slow down and move backwards, instead of telling your horse to move forward around the circle.
The second reason is because you should be holding the lunge whip in your other hand. I will always bring a lunge whip with me, even if my horse is too energetic. I may just drop it in the center of my circle and not use it, but if I need one I want to have one handy.
Holding a whip is not ever supposed to scare or cause injury to your horse! The main reasons are to tell your horse to continue to move forward and as a way to keep space between yourself and an energetic outburst. Many times I have had to use the lunge whip to keep a horse away from me because they are bucking and playing and they don't realize how close they are to me and that a stray hoof could easily hit me.
Safety should always come first for you and your horse any time you handle them. Notice how I have wrapped all four of my horse's legs in polo wraps to keep them protected just in case. As always, you should be wearing closed toed shoes and gloves are a smart choice as well.
Look! Even husbands can do it!
Walking with your horse also forces you to do another SUPER important thing! Pay attention to what your horse is doing! Many times people will just let their horse out on a large circle and let them have at it and stop watching. Working your horse on too small of a circle can be dangerous, especially if they are wild. They can slip and fall down or strain one of the tendons in their legs because you weren't paying attention. If you are aware of what your horse is doing on the lunge line you can help them avoid rocks or deep spots in the footing or you can help them work through a "scary" area of the ring. You can also make sure your horse stays balanced and uses themselves properly. Many horses will fall off their leads at the canter and it is your job to make sure they keep working correctly, even if you are just trying to burn off some steam.
Before I wrap up there is just one more thing you need to do every time you lunge your horse. Go both ways! Horse's are more comfortable going one direction, but it is your job to make sure they get worked evenly. Many times I will think the horse I'm lunging is quiet now, only to change directions and realize they still have bucks they wanted to get out. Also, if you are lunging for exercise it is important to build each side of muscles evenly.
Whew! That was a long one, but it is all very important to a safe and successful lunge. If you have any questions at all please feel free to contact me! And in case you are interested below is a video of me walk, trot and cantering my horse on the lunge line.
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