Safe, Successful Lunging with Side-Reins

Photo by Lorraine Jackson.

This video is horrible. The trainer must have no experience in introducing side-reins for lunging. Let me give you some tips on how to lunge a horse.

1. Make sure your horse understands how to circle around you in both directions with no side-reins. How you attach the lungeline depends on your horse. You can use a lunging cavesson, attach directly to the bit, run through the inside bit ring and go either over the top of the head or over the noseband and attach to the bit on the other side of the mouth. Your chosen method should depend on how naughty or fresh you expect your horse to be. Your horse must NEVER LEARN TO TURN HIS BUTT TO YOU AND PULL AWAY.

2. If you have never lunged before always start in an enclosed area. Make sure you have the lungeline carefully assembled in the hand closest to the horse’s head and keep the lungeline in that hand so it will unravel quickly and cleanly. Use a lunge whip to encourage the horse forward as necessary and be quick to drop it the horse is over reactive. Consider the horse the base of the triangle and your lungeline and whip the sides. If your horse turns to see you when you stop, to not punish but be quick to safely gather up the slack in the lungeline. If your horse turns towards you while being lunged run quickly towards his hip with the lash of the whip flicking to encourage him back on the circle. You may even have to flick the lash at his shoulder while still facing his hip.

3. Before you attach side-reins stand next to your horse and ask for a yield to the bit pressure with you holding the rein. Always release as soon as the horse gives a ‘try’ for what you are asking. Repeat many times on both sides.

4. Use side-reins with elastic or a rubber ring on horses that have never worn them before. Attach so loose that there is no restriction on the head and neck and that the horse just gets used to the weight of the reins and can lunge happily with that.

5. Once loose side-reins are accepted, you can snug them up one hole at a time, do more circles, snug up again etc. until you get the long and round outline you are looking for.

6. Once your horse is in dressage training and used to being lunged you can adjust the sidereins higher on the saddle or surcingle to achieve a more uphill and rounder frame. IT TAKES TIME.

7. NEVER TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE EYE OF THE HORSE YOU ARE LUNGING. Their eye will tell you if they understand, are challenging your authority or are scared.

Kim Keppick is a BHS II Certified Instructor, Pony Club A graduate, represented Ireland in International competition all before age 19 when she came to America to work for Karen O’Connor. Kim was with Karen for close to 10 years riding and competing horses in her training and was longlisted for the Irish Olympic Team in 1988 with Morning Glo. Kim has since built a thriving career teaching “riders how to train their own horses” with students who have won USDF Gold Medals and competed with success through all the levels – Intro to Grand Prix. She is also the founder of Rein-Aid.