By: Larissa Cox
Turning and facing in, or walking in towards you while on the lunge is a common problem for horses. There are several ways to help correct this problem, and in a short time, your horse should be moving forward on the circle well!
Before you start, make sure you are using the correct equipment. Make sure to use a long lunge line, so you can adjust the size of the circle. I like to use a 30′ cotton lunge line.
It’s also good practice to use a lunging cavesson or a bridle while lunging, and attach the lunge line to either the middle ring of the cavesson, or both sides of the bit. I also like to use a lunging surcingle to attach side reins or something that works the horse head-to-tail, like the Equi-Ami or Pessoa Lunging System. Finally, carry a lunging whip, that can be used as an extension of your arm, to drive the horse forward.
When you start lunging, it’s important to habituate the horse to your final position on the lunging circle, which should be around the girth. If your horse has a habit of facing in towards you, always begin by walking the horse in hand, with you by his shoulder. Slowly start letting out the lunge line, while encouraging the horse to move forward with the whip. This is a very good way to begin, because if the horse tries to stop and turn in, you are in a position to keep walking beside the horse, mirroring desired etiquette and the direction of travel. Keep lengthened the lunge line until you are in the centre of the circle. Keep the whip pointing at the hip of the horse to encourage him to move forward.
If the horse stops and turns towards you during the lunging session, take up the slack in the line, and start the process again, where you walk beside the horse and slowly let the line out.
It’s very important that you do not try whipping the horse around his head in an effort to get him to turn back on the circle. This is a very sensitive area for the horse and not only can spook the horse, but also send contradictory signals, leading to a confused and upset horse that hates being lunged.
Instead, be patient and consistent in your training with this walking forward technique. Remember to respond quickly, and not to stop and pat the horse – immediately walk forward on the circle, then slowly let the line out.
Finally, when ending the lunging session, end the way you began. Slowly start taking the slack up in the lunge line, to the point where you are walking beside the horse, then stop walking and bring your horse to a halt. This way, you are never encouraging the horse to stop and face you at any point during the lunging session, keeping the horse moving forward along the direction of travel.
Good luck and happy lunging!