Lunging is used by horseback riders as an effective tool to begin the education of a young horse and provide development for the older horse. It is often used as an introduction to the saddle, it has a great deal of benefits for the youngster and trainer, including building up strength and balance in preparation for taking a rider. It can be a lengthy and occasionally frustrating process for your horse to accept the wearing of lunging equipment for the first time.
Try to create positive associations between your horse and the lunging equipment, introduce it gradually and without making too much fuss. It is to be assumed that the youngster is accepting being touched all over whilst being groomed, and preferably capable of picking up all four feet when asked. At this stage the horse is ready to be introduced to the lunge cavesson, as the horse should be used to wearing a head collar, the lunge cavesson should not be a huge step up, especially seeing as it can be unfastened and placed over his head, although he should be allowed to see and sniff it so that he is aware of it. It is best not to tie your horse up whilst fitting the new lunging equipment as he could pull back and frighten himself which would create a negative experience.
Introducing the lunge roller is more likely to be a new experience for the horse. In the wild, the back of the horse is a vulnerable area, and an easy target for predators. For this reason, it is important to familiarise the horse with the roller, by letting him touch and sniff it in his own time. Once relaxed in its presence you can touch the horse on the chest or shoulder first with the equipment so you can judge his reaction to it. If he tenses, take more time repeating the process until he relaxes. Eventually, you will be able to slide the roller up the shoulder and lay it gently across his back, keep hold of it so that it doesn’t fall and frighten him. This procedure may take several sessions, but it is best to keep them short but positive.
When the horse is comfortable with the lunge roller on his back, you can begin to do start the buckling up procedure but be aware of any indication of fear from your horse as you bring it up around his girth. This can be alarming at first! Fasten it loosely on the first few holes on the girthing straps to start with, being again careful it doesn’t fall or slide underneath his belly, as your hard work could be wasted.
Once your young horse has become accustomed to his lunging equipment it is time to start moving with the tack on, attach a lunge line to the cavesson, and begin to move him around. Leading with the lunging equipment on will allow him to become used to the sensation of movement from the lunge roller. Keep the work varied so that he doesn’t become bored, by asking him to move his forehand and quarters away from you, and backing him up, these activities will benefit you when you begin the lunging process.
Any issues that arise when introducing lunging equipment are best dealt with by going back to the stage where the horse was comfortable. If each fitting stage of the lunging equipment has been firmly established your horse will be able to pick up from there and progress.