Texas 8 month old  Walking Horse 

Question: No problem ... I just wanted to know in training a young filly without a round pen is there a preferred way to train her to lunge??

From Panelist Liz

Hi ,

I do have 2 round pens here and last year I decided to teach my yearling walker to lunge with out using one first thing  just for a brush up on myself.

I do use a hand tied rope halter so I do have more direct pressure on the face if I need it when they try to test by going away from you in an open space, and they usually will a couple of times only if you handle it right and keep control and they know that going away is not an option.

I start them out at a slow walk and just ask them to go out about 4 feet from me working both directions the first few lessons and increase over time. Get the signal for whoa right away using the voice ( they should know whoa command from just leading and stopping before lunging) and a tug release on the halter. When asking for a whoa on a lunge give the voice and tug release but also take a step from the hip to  toward the shoulder to signal whoa. To get them to move forward on the lunge I walk toward the hip . Not in to their space but to send them moving forward from me. I may need to use the end of my lunge
line to urge them forward by swinging it to the hindquarters. Don't get close enough in their space to receive a kick if one is coming. And use it with confidence and swing one time at first to see if that is all you need. Don't swing it at them fast and to scare them. You may also want to use a voice command such as "Come Up"  so later you can drop the aid of the rope to the back end to move forward and just raise your arm . If you only get 1/2 a circle the first time reward them and build  with each lesson to go to full circle. 

They will have no understanding at first of what you want. So reward any forward motion with a positive voice.  At this age you only have so long of attention span. Do not over work the lunging . Lots of short lessons at first and build from there. I will increase speed from a dog walk to a faster walk and then break the fast walk down into 2 speeds of
fast walk. I would go no faster at this age as the bones are still growing and so soft and lunging can be a lot of stress to a young frame. They can tend to pull and lean in so it can create stress on the shoulder and hips as well as the legs. You have a long time to work on this . And at this point it is just used to teach commands of moving forward , stopping, standing. I do not let them come to me when I ask for a stop. I wait a few seconds and go to them and then give a rub on the neck and then the forehead.

 A reminder to keep the rope up off the ground or draped to loose that they get a foot hung over it. Do not let the extra length of rope that you are not using lay on the ground around your feet the get  tangled and hung up in. Do not tie a lunge around your waist.  If at all possible do not let them break free and get away form you on a lunge or this can set up for it to happen again and become a learned behavior.

Drape the excess rope in big loops on your hand so you can feed it the length in and out as you need to. Do not wrap it around your palm. And last , wear gloves.

Have fun and enjoy your baby, remember she will still be that for a long time yet.


From Panelist Jonathan

As to my preferred way to train a 8 month old filly to lunge 
...... wait three years . 

The best workout I have found for a 8 month  weanling filly is sitting in her pasture watching her learn about being a  horse for the next 10 months with normal ground manner training ie: accepting a halter , picking up feet , grooming , earning her respect etc.etc. . Then I start advanced ground work for the next 10 months consisting of lead work out in the real world slowly incorporating  accepting a bit , saddle , cars , dogs , birds and paying close attention to me etc.etc. .

Now , I would consider working her in a very large circle .


From Panelist Erica

What I like to do is get your horse used to softening towards the line or your lead rope (I personally prefer to start out with a lead rope - all cotton - as it is too easy to get tangled in a long lunge line for what I start out with). My ultimate goal is to have my horse(s) calmly move around me at the walk, trot and eventually canter with slack in the line and with their head tilted towards me of their own accord. 

Also, when starting young horses (or at least with my babies) they seem to be bothered extremely by the lead snap on the side of their halter by their nose, so I move it to the
ring just above the throat latch and they work much calmer, happier and lighter. Before any lunge work, be sure to teach your horse to move forward from a hand gesture or short whip/crop, or even with the end of your lead... but don't be dependant on your lead as you will not always have it available should the horse stop unexpectedly. Next, being sure I have wrapped my horse's feet and am in good footing (not too deep as to tire them easily,
nor so shallow as to provide little padding) - I will send the horse off at a walk or slow jog. Now as we all know it can be difficult with a young horse to get a slow jog the first time lunging, but can be achieved quickly through clear cues and with patience. 

With the horse moving, I will leave slack in the line when they leave slack themselves, however if they take all the slack out and pull on the end as they move around I will give a small tug on the line and then put slack back in. Soon they learn to leave slack in the line themselves and will slowly develop their head turned slightly inwards towards me.  Please Note however, that I will not lunge ANY horse under the age of a year and a half as they are not emotionally or mentally able to understand all that an older horse can. They will often tune you out if they are too young, and there is a greater chance for injury in lunging a
horse too young, as well as the potential to injure any age horse while lunging. I will also move around with my horses as I lunge rather than standing in one spot with them pivoting around me. 

Erica Frei

From Panelist Laura

My personal feeling is that 8 months is too young to longe a horse.  The turns, especially at speed are hard on their little legs.  You might want to 
wait until your baby is at least 18 mos - 2 yrs or so. 

These horses live a long time and letting them get a little more mature before you start them will help keep them sounder for the rest of their life.   There's no need to hurry.  When your filly has matured more (closer to having her knees closed), take it easy on the longeing since it will still be hard on her legs.  At your filly's current age, you can work on things like leading, ground manners, trailer loading, clipping, baths, etc.  You can put blankets on her & despook her with various objects to help make her later training easier. 

If you have a gentle horse, you could do a little ponying (lead the baby off the older horse) to help introduce her to all sorts of things.  Enjoy your baby.


From Panelist Lee

I would do it at a walk, maybe a flat walk. Not anything faster.  Use a halter or longeing cavesson, and ask her to bend her nose toward the center of the longe circle, do lots of transitions between walk, flat walk, walk and halt, (whoa) and don't work her more than about 10 minutes, total time on the longe ( 5 min a side), for at least a year.  It will help a lot if you do this work in an enclosed area, a corral or even the corner of an arena -- it is not a good idea to just do it out in the wide open spaces. 

One trick to doing this with a halter, attach the longe line through the halter fittings at the noseband, run it under the jaw, and snap to the far side as you work her. This gives you better signal power for asking her to bend her head and neck slightly toward the center of the circle.

Have you taught a number of horses to  longe?  It helps a lot if you have!

Good luck,

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Carol


I highly reccommend Dr. Robert Miller's series on foal training, and also the Parelli Natural Horse man ship program.  Rather than longing in repetitive cirlcles, find creative ways to condition her to stimuli that she will encounter in the human world, and go over backing up, yeilding the hindquarters and forehand, even negotiate obstacles in hand.  Some circling is ok, just don't bore her. Thanks for your letter and happy playing!

Carol Camp Tosh

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