Mississippi 19 month old Walker Mix being worked by beginner.

Question: When trying to get the gelding to lunge, he refuses to go out and continues to come back to the center of the circle.  He does not go away from the lunge whip and
if touched on the hind end with it he starts to buck and kick.  How do I teach him to lunge when he will not move away from me?

From Panelist Liz

I would put the whip away. The only time I use one for lunging is when rehabbing a horse that has learned to scare people to stop by coming at them aggressively, which comes from a poor handler teaching it in the first place.

It sounds like he just does not understand what you want. So in his youthful insecure confusion he comes to you. Start by just working with the leading and he probably has this just fine so when leading start to take one step farther away from him while leading. Do it very inconspicuously, if he comes back close to you just keep on leading and try taking that step away again. Once he is used to being that extra step the make it 2 steps away. Reward with a positive tone of voice for holding this position for even a few strides. Horses really respond to positive input  and you want to build his self confidence and let him know you are happy with what he is doing. For some horses breaking things down into small steps works better and build from there.

When getting to the lunging don't ask him to go way out from you. Ask for him to just go out 4 or 5 feet, even on the end of a lead rope works, and if he takes just 2 steps forward , reward him for it  and build from there. Take your time, for some horses it just takes longer than we humans would like . At 19 months and for a several years yet you have an adolescent mind you are working with. Short lessons are better and do not over work the lunging. He is to young to use it for conditioning. Too stressful on the body at this age and should be done at a walk only. But it is good to teach him to learn to listen for commands of whoa, stand and move up.  A lesson taught is forever ,a lesson forced  will make the future ones harder and take longer to come by.


From Panelist Laura

Since you don't have a round pen where you can do some free longeing (no line), you might need to back up a few steps to show the horse what you want. 

You could start out by leading your horse in circles, gradually making the circles larger and giving the horse more of the line to have him walk further away from you.  Do this from both sides.  When he's comfortable being led from either side, continue giving him more line until you can walk a small circle while he walks a larger circle.  Once he's at this point, he knows he's to go around you in a circle and you can start doing some actual longeing.


From Panelist Lee

This is an old trick that I learned from a really good book "Breaking and Training the Stock Horse" by Charles O Williamson.  If the horse won't stay away from you (whip broke or some other thing that makes him want to cling like velcro) -- find a long fishing pole or light dowel rod,  tie it  with short strips of cord so that one end is fixed under his jaw (assuming you are using a halter to longe him) and hold the other end, with your longe
line, in one hand -- ask by tapping on his hindquarters for him to go forward -- if he tries to turn toward you, use the rod to keep him away -- be sure to try to keep your body well behind the horse's shoulder when you ask him to go forward, and to use the longe whip only to tap the ground, or touch his hip with the end of the shaft.  He will get the idea pretty soon, and start circling out away from you, not clinging to your side.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Nancy

I will try to explain to you how to start your horse lungeing: 

With your horse on your right, tap him on his side with the whip (about  where your leg would hang if you were on him and tell him "Walk".  When you  say the word, "Walk", you will walk alongside of him.  Repeat this until he  understands that the tap on the side and the command means for him to walk.   Be sure to tell him, "Good boy" and pat him each time.  When he understands this thoroughly,  start stepping further away from him and start walking in a small circle while you give him the same commands as before.  Eventually you 
will remain in one spot with him moving around you at a walk.  You will repeat this to teach him to go the other direction.  It is also important that you face the horse at the correct angle.  If you face him too far towards his neck and head, you will be stopping him and he will face you.  You will form a "V" with your arm and lunge line forming one side of the "V" and your whip and whip arm the other side of the "V".  Your body will be the 
point of the "V" and you will be about at the middle of his body or between the middle of his body and his hip bone. 

If you have a round pen to work him in and your horse isn't inclined to panic, you can work him free in there and just drive him out to the perimeter of the pen with the whip, taking care not to frighten him.  You want him to respect the whip, but not be afraid of it.  The position of your body in relation to the horse will be the same, and also the command to walk.  Always let him know when he has done the correct thing and praise and pet him.  That is really your key to teaching the horse.

PS:  If he bucks or kicks at the touch of the whip, give him a good smack with it.  Bucking or kicking in response to a command must not be tolerated.  But also, be sure you have taught him what the touch means, as I explained above.  If he doesn't understand that he is to move forward at the touch of the whip, then he really has an excuse for bucking or kicking.

Nancy Cade

From Panelist Jonathan

It is quit obvious to me more ground work/bonding is needed here before lunging . I'd say about 6 months worth . This animal is striking back with bucks and kicks from fear , since it does not sound like you are hurting him . I just do not believe in working a very young animal like this in joint/muscle stressing circles . But , only time will tell if I am correct , but by then it could be too late .


From Panelist Steve

I do not lunge young Walkers, or any Walker for that matter. Vigorous lunging can be very hard on a Walker's joints, especially the hocks. The last thing we want to do on a Walker is injure its hocks. They are stressed enough with normal use. Light, very light lunging I guess is OK. However,  I also have experienced the negative feedback that comes with troubling a horse to move away from you. I don't know why anyone would want to do that
to a horse that enjoys your company.

I use Parelli's Six Games (i.e. minus the back-up for this very reason) in lieu of lunging.  I add some finishing round pen work when they are ready to be ridden. Then I teach back up from the saddle which is easier, less noxious and less confusing to the horse.

Steve Chasko

From Panelist Stella

The art of lunging involves alot of body language, the whip itself is secondary. Even horses well-trained and with years of experience lunging will quickly discover if their handler is not astute in these commands, and respond similarly to your horse. It is more difficult for a green horse to learn without more complete communication. The bucking and kicking stem mostly from his frustration in not being able to understand what it is you want, and why you are using the whip on him.It is rather difficult to verbally explain the ways to use your body 
language and its positioning effectively enough - I think your best option is to first find a person, either professional or experienced amateur, to teach you to lunge, preferably with an experienced horse first, and maybe also helping get yours started. Videos can also be helpful, especially if you can put them in slow motion to observe the subtleties in greater detail, but the advantage of a live human is that they can also correct your movements as you make them, which helps you learn faster, and avoid the possibility of confusing and frustrating your horse.

You want to particularly keep this initial training as free of problems and as easy and positive as possible for the young horse to maintain a willing, relaxed attitude right through later under saddle training. It is well worth the investment of extra time, trouble and perhaps lesson fees not to jeopardize the good relationship you have obviously built with him thus far, and it is far more difficult and time consuming to undo problems than it is 
to avoid creating them in the first place(even for professionals!). I can spend several paragraphs here describing how to use your body always at or behind the horse's hip, and use it to "send" the horse away from you, but it is by far more easily understood to observe the kinetics involved while someone shows and explains it to you, and is also able to observe you -in relation to your horse - to help you become also more aware of the 
dynamics that go on between the two of you kinetically, so that you not only know what to do, but when. Getting this education now will very much help you throughout the training process.


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