Lungeing is not a replacement to horse riding; it is an effective equestrian training tool that can, when used correctly, help establish a number of key principles. These principles will ultimately affect your horse's way of going, its balance, obedience, rhythm, collection, outline, patience and in due course, will help to develop an open line of communication between you and your horse.
This article is not designed to explain the correct way to lunge, nor is it intended to give a pros and cons view of lungeing and the art of horsemanship. Instead, the aim is to assess the different lungeing and training aids that are available on the market, how they differ and to establish the principles that lie behind each training tool.
Lungeing Tools & Aids
The basic tools for lungeing comprise of a 20m lunge line (rein), lungeing whip, cavesson or head collar, a pair of gloves and a horse. With these pieces of equipment one can happily lunge a horse in the most rudimentary sense of the word. However, as noted above, with the advent of equestrian understanding, horsemanship, horse riding styles and training, there are a number of additional tools for that you can use.
Depending what you are lungeing the horse in these attach to the girth or roller, and then onto the bit. The aim of the side rein is to maintain the horse's outline by supporting him/her with a steady contact on the bit.
The Chambon runs from the girth or roller, forks about half way up, whereby it attaches to the horse's bridle at the base of the ears. From here it runs through a pulley to attach to the bit. Its primary use is to show the horse that it can move whilst reaching forward and down with its head and neck. It works by the bit pulling against the horse's lips when it raises its head, and falling away from the horse's lips when the horse lowers its head.
Pessoa Training Aid
The oft copied Pessoa Training Aid is at first sight, a frighteningly complex array of ropes and pulleys, but with a small amount of persistence its uses become apparent. The set up comprises a system of ropes that fit under the tail to the top rung of a roller, and from there, another series of ropes that attach to the bit on a pulley and lastly attach either at the side loops of the roller or between the horse's front legs. The idea of this aid is to ensure the back muscles are encouraged to work in a lower position, developing muscles at the base of the neck and over the topline. Subsequently the horse is encouraged to work forward into an outline, using its hindquarters and not retract into an over bent, short choppy trot.
Effective tools means effective use
The uses of lungeing should not be overlooked, whatever equestrian activity you are into, be it eventing, showjumping, dressage, polo, hacking in the country or just enjoy the simple pleasures of horse riding, the use of lungeing can be of great help – but only if its done correctly.
There are a few key principles, regardless of training aid, that you should abide by. Firstly don't overwork your horse, for a fit and healthy experienced adult horse just 20 minutes should be enough. If it is a young horse, 5-7 minutes is what you should be working at in order to avoid putting pressure on joints that are still developing.
Also, ensure the horse is booted up to protect its legs and that you have gloves on to protect your hands from possible rope burn. Any equipment you use should be fitted properly, including cavesson, roller and training aid. Make sure you vary the work on the circles and do equal amounts on each rein, and finally ensure that the surface is flat and even and you warm up and warm down without any aids attachments.