George Stubbs, Pumpkin with a Stable Lad


...if I have always worked honestly, my horse will carry me to the end of the world.

E.F. Seidler


Lungeing Seminar, 30th October 2009, Cologne


This seminar presented the lungeing techniques required by the FN for the 'lungeing test', and was based on the guidelines set out in the FN's Richtlinien für Reiten und Fahren Band 6: Longieren. The first half of the seminar consisted of theory (and discussion of what the judges are looking for when taking the German lungeing Tests), and the afternoon was spent in practice - every participant had a chance to lunge a horse for between 5-10 minutes, and was able to try (or watch) different techniques and exercises. Some of my notes are below.

Body language is very important. Stand up straight, put your shoulders back. There should be 'tension' in your muscles. Normally, you should stand facing the horse with your arms, body and the horse making a 'triangle'.

To slow the horse, turn your back to the direction of travel, loosen your body. If this doesn't work, you can try stepping in front of him a little to slow him. Sometimes, letting them have some more lunge line will slow them down.

To get him to move more forward, you can turn to face the direction of travel. You can step one step to him, and one behind him to try to encourage him forward if he really doesn't want to move.

To get him to move out on the circle, you can try pointing the whip at the shoulder, if this doesn't work, you can try stepping towards him.

The horse reacts to your voice. Try to make sure that he learns your voice commands.

Whilst lungeing can be used for increasing fitness, it is also a very good form of ground work. What we want are effective transitions. The transitions should be sharp - teach him to react to commands now. A good test is to canter a quarter circle, trot a quarter circle, canter a quarter circle, trot a quarter circle etc. For this exercise, the transitions must happen immediately.

The horse should not be afraid of the whip. Stroke the horse with it, and praise him with your voice. Teach him that the lash is also not scarey. You need to make sure that he is not scared of the whip from head to tail, as you might want to move the whip in front of him to act as a brake at some point.

If you can, try to get a whip that is long enough to reach the horse when it is out on the circle. They learn very quickly when they are out of reach, and sometimes don't take you seriously. Unfortunately, as the longer whips don't tend to fit into cabinets, they tend to go missing quite often.

If you attach a lunge line to the bit, it only works if you use side reins to stop the bit from being pulled through the mouth. The line should be attached to the near side bit-ring. Other methods of attachment, including to a clip attaching to both bit rings, "have no use".

Cavessons are also good for lungeing, and can be fitted alone, or over a bridle. Care must be taken that they fit properly, and that they don't rub. Many people have cavessons made to fit each of their horses. If you use a cavesson, you don't have to use auxilliary reins; if you do use auxilliary reins, they can be attached to the bit, or to the side rings on the cavesson.

The lecturer recommended using Dreieckz├╝gel ('triangle' reins) which attach to the girth between the horse's front legs, run up through the bit and back to the girth (or lowest ring on the roller). Another way of using the reins is as Lauffer reins, where the reins run from one of the lower rings on the roller, through the bit and back to a higher ring on the roller. The Lauffer rein set up is totally flexible (e.g. height adjustable).

The lecturer felt that normal straight sidereins are not the best option for training horses, as they are stiff and don't allow a horse to bend, and the horse can't stretch. They are good, however, for a stable, trained horse - such as one being used to lunge a beginner rider.

The Triangle reins are all leather, and the horse is given limits, but these limits are still flexible. The poll can bend, and the horse can move forwards-upwards. In the Lauffer set up, they can be placed a bit higher for a more trained horse. Therefore, some people prefer to start out with this set up.

The lecturer stated that the FN recommends the Chambon and Gogue only for professional trainers. The lecturer personally felt that more benefit can be achieved by double lungeing and in-hand work.

Auxilliary reins (side reins, triangle/Lauffer reins etc) should not be used at the walk. In the trot and canter, they should be short enough that they have an effect. Horses shorten themselves quite considerably in these gaits, and it often appears that the horse is too far behind the vertical when you attach the reins at the halt. If the reins have been adjusted incorrectly (too short or too long), you will see this after one or two circles, and should adjust the length immediately (particularly if too short).

Both reins should be the same length.

Teach the horse to "halt" and to stand on one spot.

When the horse is walking, his hind foot should be able to land at least two hoof prints in front of the imprint of his fore foot. This is the aim. Of course, some horses can get three or four hoof lengths in front of the imprint - make your horse walk freely to the limit e.g. the best walk that you can get without breaking into trot, or getting gait defects, or having the hind quarters fall out. Treat the walk as a serious gait, and work on it.

In the trot, look for the inner hind foot landing in the imprint of the inner fore foot. Again, look for the best trot that you can get without rushing, getting gait defects, hind quarter falling out. Look for the 'triangle' between the front and hind legs.

If the horse canters on the wrong lead, ask him to trot and then try again. Don't let him continue on the incorrect lead. Do the transition to canter from a relaxed (not rushed) trot. Don't chase the horse into the higher gait.

Don't spend a massive amount of time in the canter. Do lots of transitions, to trot, and then (eventually) to walk and halt.

At the start, you could do 5 circles at the trot, then start to change (2 trot, 1 walk, half something else).

Change directions every 5-10 minutes. When asking for a change in direction, one way is to ask the horse to halt on the circle. Walk to the horse, clip the lunge rein to the other bit side, and ask the horse for a change on the forehand.

lungeing is not a treadmill - it is good for fitness, but it is a very good training tool. Horses spend ca. 93% or their time in the walk, and ca. 7% in trot and canter - mostly on a straight line.

If the horse doesn't want to halt, what can you do?

  1. Try using your body language (turn your back to the direction of travel).
  2. Try walking a step in front of the horse.
  3. Try pointing the whip in front of the horse (you can cross it in front of you).
  4. Try cutting him off by walking to him to cut him off.
  5. Try cutting him off by directing him towards a wall.

If the horse needs an entire circle to do a transition, this is not an effect. He needs to do all transitions NOW. If he doesn't react to your voice, encourage him with your body, or the whip. Good transitions will have a good effect on transitions.

If you are lungeing in an arena or a paddock, you can 'move' the circle to ask the horse for a little extension; as the horse approaches a tangent to a wall, you can walk down the centre line of the arena a little (the horse will trot in a straight line). When you stop again, the horse will continue trotting on a circle (i.e. the centre of the circle is shifted).

Exercises such as decreasing and increasing the circle are good for increasing collection as the horse needs to step under more with the inner hind. As you push the horse out onto the larger circle again, ask for more activity. When you push the horse out, they will often snort - which is a sign of relaxation.

The horse should have bandages or boots. Bandages don't support the tendons, but protect the legs from brushing or overreach. Gloves will protect your hands from rope burn, and good strong boots are also important.