If you want to improve your riding skills and make your horse more responsive, lunging before a ride is a great option. If you lunge before you ride, you will also increase both your and your horse’s fitness!
Lunging a horse before riding has many health benefits for you and your horse. These health benefits can help all riders, no matter how good they are. Today, we are going to help you take advantage of these benefits by sharing with you:
- How lunging a horse before your lesson can make you a better rider
- How lunging a horse before riding by yourself can improve your horse’s form
- How lunging your horse instead of riding can increase your horse’s fitness and form
How Lunging Before Your Lesson can Make You a Better Rider
If you take riding lessons, talk to your instructor about starting your lesson with a short lunge. Having your instructor lunge your horse while you are riding can greatly improve your riding skill and increase your strength. Lunging increases your skill and strength by:
Loosening your muscles: When you lunge before starting your lesson, you will find your muscles relax from the movement. Your horses’ muscles will also warm up and become looser for your ride. You would be amazed how much muscle stiffness can affect how well you ride.
I feel the most difference in a sitting trot. If I try a sitting trot when my horse or I are stiff, the sitting trot is bouncy and uncomfortable. However, if I do a sitting trot after warming up both of our muscles, there are days the trot is so smooth that it feels like a fast walk.
Improve your balance: Balance is improved by practicing and strengthening your muscles. You can do both these things by removing your stirrups while you are on the lunge. It is amazing how many high-level competition riders fall off their horse once you remove their stirrups.
When you ride, you should be able to keep your balance in each gate without using your stirrups. However, that requires the rider to have well-defined core and leg muscles. Practicing without stirrups will increase the strength of both muscle groups and teach you not to rely on your stirrups.
6 Reasons to Lunge Your Horse Before Riding Solo
If you don’t take regular lessons and don’t have someone that can lunge you and your horse, you can still get some great benefits from lunging your horse before you get on him. Lunge your horse for 5 minutes in each direction before you ride to:
- Loosen your horse’s muscles: Ensuring that you warm up your horse before completing a full workout is essential because:
- It warms up your horse’s muscles so that they are less likely to injure themselves while you are riding
- It relaxes your horse and will make your ride smoother
- Improves your horse’s form: By lunging your horse often, you will help your horse develop better balance and a smoother gate. You should be careful to avoid hyperflexion of your horse’s neck when using lunging aids. 1
- Helps improve your horse’s responsiveness: When you lunge a horse, the only way you can control them is through one rope, one lunge whip, your body language, and your voice. By talking to your horse when you prompt them to increase/decrease their speed, you are teaching them to respond to voice commands. Your horse’s ability to respond to voice commands can be beneficial while riding.
- Ensures that your equipment is right: Putting your gear on your horse and then lunging them is a great way to ensure that your horse’s equipment fits properly and that you placed it correctly.
One of my previous horses hated having her girth tightened and would hold her breath to make her stomach bigger (and her girth looser). So I used a quick lunge to make her breathe so I could tighten the girth before riding. If I didn’t, I would find myself slipping off the side of my horse along with my saddle.
- Do a health check: When you lunge a horse, you can get a good look at the way your horse moves. This provides a perfect opportunity to see if your horse favors any of their legs, whether their gate is funny, or if they seem ‘off’. If they are injured or seem off, you can delay your ride and provide any medical treatment needed.
- Calm your horse: Some people will use lunging to calm their horse before a ride. My sister is an incredibly good rider, but she had trouble with one of my horses. This horse got very excited about going for a ride and would do little bucks in the first 5-10 minutes. Lunging the horse for 10 minutes before riding meant all her bucks and excitement were out of her system, and she was much easier (and safer) to handle.
Why You Should Consider Replacing Some of Your Rides with a Lunging Session
Lunging is also a great replacement workout if you don’t want, or can’t, ride for the day. A few bonuses include:
Your workout is faster: It is incredibly hard for a horse to work in a circle. This means your horse can complete an entire workout in just 20 minutes (10 minutes on each side).
Works on non-physical cues: This includes voice cues, as discussed earlier. However, it also includes your body language. For example, pointing your index finger toward the ground on your left side to indicate that your horse should step to its left.
Build your bond: Riding builds your bond with your horse. However, we can also get caught up in working on technique and treating riding more like a job. By lunging your horse, you communicate with them in a new way. This will increase your bond and make your partnership better.
It’s the perfect time to teach your horse a new skill: To make things interesting, you could also teach your horse tricks while doing groundwork with them. Some people teach their horses to paint. Others teach them to line dance. Use your imagination and spend time with your horse doing something new.
Final Thoughts on Lunging Before Riding
Lunging your horse before you ride is a great way to increase your fitness, help your horse become more responsive, and build a stronger bond between you and your mount. It also helps you break up your routine and makes your time with your horse more interesting.
Comment below with your favorite way to make lunging fun!
Research sources used for this article:
- Van Denderen, J. G. (2011). Do horses show more stress during riding, lunging or working on a treadmill? Utrecht University Student Theses.