Why should you lunge your horse before you ride? Lunging takes time and requires extra equipment that you must haul down to the arena and put away later. For those on a time crunch, lunging may seem unnecessary, but this is an important first step for a successful training session.
Remember, horses are athletes and need to prepare physically and mentally for training, just like human athletes. Lunging gives your horse a chance to get into a “work” mindset and warm up his muscles. You have the chance to evaluate your horse’s attitude and your own mindset. With both of you physically and mentally ready to ride, you set your training session up for success.
Even though my horses are 11 and 18, I still take the time to lunge them before every ride. Both are well-broke enough to throw a saddle on and ride into the desert, but I have found that spending 15 to 20 minutes on the lunge line relaxes both of us and prepares us for work.
The right equipment will help you get the most out of your lunging session. See exactly what you need in Improve Your Horse's Balance and Topline with the Right Lunging Equipment.
I evaluate four points before every ride – the horse’s way of going, the horse’s attitude, tack fit, and my own mindset.
Way of Going
The first point I evaluate when I lunge is the horse’s way of going. My horse might have been sound the day before, but that does not guarantee that she is sound today. I have one who is especially accident prone, so I evaluate her closely to make sure she is sound. I do not want little soundness issues to turn into big issues.
I start my lunging session by looking at the overall picture and then narrow down anything that seems “off.” To do this, I check the following points:
The horse’s attitude is just as important as his way of going. A sound horse with a bad attitude is not fun to ride. I ride mares, and they are prone to bad attitude days, especially when they are in heat. A 20-minute lunging session gives them the chance to work out their bad attitude on the lunge line before we start our ride, and sometimes they are so off that I decide to skip a ride and try again the next day. (As a woman, I do understand that sometimes they do not feel their best, and I can work with that.)
Lunging also gives your horse the chance to go from a “play” to a “work” mindset. This is especially important with young horses and stallions.
This is what I check while evaluating my horse’s attitude:
If I am going to ride, I always lunge my horse in the tack that I will use. This gives me the opportunity to evaluate how my tack fits my horse and notice any rubbing or pinching spots before the horse bucks due to discomfort.
Proper tack fit is important to prevent long-term soundness issues. Horses are athletes and their bodies change over time. Tack that previously fit properly may not anymore, so I check my tack fit every time I ride.
This is what I look for:
The last point I evaluate when I lunge my horse is my own attitude. Honest self-evaluation is hard, but well worth it for a successful ride. I cannot expect my horse to perform well if I am not in the right mindset. My horse responds to my attitude, so I must get myself in the right mindset before I put my foot in the stirrup. A lunging session gives me a chance to evaluate myself and make any attitude adjustments before I ride. If I cannot change my attitude and I notice it negatively affecting my horse, sometimes I decide not to ride and give myself the time to fix what is bothering me.
This is what I evaluate with my own attitude:
A Good Mindset for Horse and Rider
The lists above seem like a lot to evaluate in a short lunging session, but really, these evaluations take very little time unless you need to narrow down a problem. You know your horse, so you will recognize if something is not quite right. After that, you can spend the remainder of your lunging session warming up your horse’s body and getting him into a work mindset. Taking the time to lunge your horse before every ride and doing a thorough evaluation sets you up for success.
What do you evaluate when you lunge your horse? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.