I used to look on in amazement as trainers were free lungeing their horses in the round pen, especially at their ability to make their horse turn into the circle. My young horse was dragging me around on the lunge line, and I finally hired a trainer to help me. After about 10 minutes of the trainer watching me and correcting my moves, I finally got it. Here is how it works:
1. Preparing Stand in the middle of the round pen with a whip in your left hand and make your horse go to your right. Run him for a while by slightly cracking the whip on the ground. Then prepare for the turn. Change the whip from your left hand to your right hand and step slightly back and to the right. Move the whip into the horse’s pass. He will slow down and eventually stop.
2. Turning He will try to turn around by moving his head towards the outside of the circle and bringing his back legs into the circle. If he moves fast, you need to jump to the left of him and try to prevent him from continuing his move by cracking the whip on his left. If you are too late and he is already running to the left, let him go and try again. It took me a while to understand what to do at the very moment when he slows down. You must continue to move backwards and invite him into your space. He will eventually understand that he must turn towards you.
3. Completing When he turns towards you, use your whip on his right and step towards him. He will turn to your left. Don’t be discouraged if he does not follow your command. You may have to do each of the steps more dramatically for him to understand. Continue to practice on both sides. In the beginning you may forget to change the whip from one hand to the other or forget to step backwards and sideways, or you may be doing your moves too slowly. Just keep trying, and it will work eventually. Practice your moves in reverse to the other side.
My trainer and I want to accomplish two things with this exercise: to get my horse to understand and follow my body language, and to have him act the same way on the lunge line as he does in the round pen so that lungeing is no longer a tug of war but a gentle exercise. We are making progress. My trainer tells me that eventually the movements do not have to be so grand anymore. The horse will interpret smaller movements, like the changing of the whip from one hand to the other or taking one step back and to the side as a command to turn into the circle. I can’t wait to see how my horse does on the lunge line after trying this in the round pen for a while.
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