The first five steps of the 21 Steps to Broke include:
Halter Pressure & Tying
1st Saddling & Sacking Out Under Saddle
Today I'm starting off with the lunging. Although it seems tiring to do circle after circle, it helps relax them and they begin to learn pressure and how to react to it in an appropriate way. It may seem like lunging is so basic, and it is, but it's a great starter in getting your horse to listen to you.
I remember the first lunging session with Ike. When I would use the lead rope by waving it toward him he wouldn't go in circles around me. Instead he would only move is hips away from me and keep his head facing me. If this is the case with you and your horse, you want to create a pressure on his head to get him to turn and start to circle you. One option is to take the lead rope off (if your in a round pen.. no corners allowed in this exercise) and lunge the horse around the perimeter of the round pen. If the horse is halter trained I prefer to start lunging with it on because it helps in keeping the horses attention on you and not looking over the fence as if he's trying to get away from you.
The pressure I use is to hold my hand up high enough and leave enough slack in the lead rope so he can move away from you to start going around you. With your hand in the air (you may have to make pushing movements towards his head to shy it away from facing you a little) you want to also create the pressure on his hips to ask him to move his feet. It takes some time so don't get frustrated! Let him start off at a walk/or trot or however he starts to move around you, let him stay at that pace without pressuring him unless he attempts to stop, then you will increase pressure by swinging your lead rope to keep him moving. By letting him stay at that pace at first without additional pressure lets him realize that he's doing the right thing by moving around you and it rewards him for a correct response.
Once he is moving around in both directions you can ask for faster paces like the trot or lope. Make sure to release the pressure once he is at the pace you want so he understands he's doing the right thing. Only add pressure when he begins to break down (slow down or stop) or you want him to pick up the pace.
backwards in a 45 degree angle. If you still have the halter and lead rope on like I prefer, you can tug on the lead rope a little to help guide the horses head towards you and set him up to turn the other direction.
You do not want to pressure or drive your horse until he has reached a certain point facing you or else he may continue to go in the wrong direction. Once he is at the point of facing you, you can add pressure to his right side by swinging your rope of using a training whip (is nice to have a longer extension instead of just swinging a rope) and it will drive him to continue moving but in the opposite direction. Do not let your horse cut you off by running right next to you to go the other direction. This is dangerous and he could easily kick a leg out and get you or even hit you with his body (run you over basically) when running by. In this case use your training whip (different terms-clinician whip or carrot stick) and when they start to come towards the center and get to close to you use the whip and poke them in the neck, shoulder or side and it should cause them to move outward away from you. Do this over and over when you lunge and change directions and they will begin to learn NOT to go to the center of the pen when turning around. Your horse should pivot on his hind legs and arch his body to turn around and go the other direction... not get in your "bubble".
Once you have the turns down I recommend doing about 150-200 inside turns. Don't do all of these in one session though. Only work your horse for 30 minutes at the most with a couple breaks if he's getting worked up. This will also allow him to process everything. Try to do anywhere from 25-50 turns a session for each day.
Don't get frustrated if your horse take a few sessions even to get the inside turn down. Some horses are ornery and wont turn in toward you for a while. Sometimes it's the horses attitude or not understanding the cue, and sometimes the cue isn't being done correctly by us. I'm guilty of this sometimes. It takes practice on your part also to pay attention to where your body is and how it's being used for different cues. Your arms and even facial expressions can affect the horse.
In my pictures you can also see that I have protective boots on my horses. If your horse is to a point where you can put them on them I recommend it so that it protects the vital tendons and ligaments in the legs. If you can't put them on your horse or don't have any it's ok but I do recommend them.
You can also see that I have a surcingle on him. This is one of my steps to prepare him for the feel of a cinch. It gives him the idea of a cinch without the weight of the saddle just yet. I left the surcingle reins on it to dangle while he moved to aid in a "sacking out" tool.
I hope this helps you in your beginning lunging with your horse. Lunging isn't only for the beginner. It's also good for a seasoned horse to go back to basics sometimes too. It gives him a different job to do and it will only add to his foundation and keep him relaxed and continue to respond to pressure. It's fun to keep it up over time and someday you'll get to where you only have to move your body slightly and they'll respond to you like he's reading your mind!
Once you have your turns down you can also work on just getting your horse to stop, turn and face you and walk to you.
If you have any questions or comment about anything please leave a message below or contact me in the tab above. I'd love to hear back from you!