is lunging bad for a horse

Is Lunging Bad for a Horse? – Read this BEFORE You Try Lunging

There are a lot of ways to make sure your horse is getting enough exercise. A common activity used to exercise and train horses is lunging. But is lunging bad for a horse? If you do it right, lunging is not bad for a horse. Instead, lunging is really good for your horse!

There are many precautions you can take to help make lunging safe for you and your horse. There are different ways to lunge a horse, and you should keep those sessions brief. When done correctly, lunging can have many benefits to your horse’s health. 

Is Lunging Bad for a Horse?

When used in moderation, lunging is not bad for your horse. However, if you do not lunge safely, both you and your horse can be at risk for injury. Over lunging your horse can be hard on their body. And there are a lot of potential hazards to look for when lunging. If you have never lunged a horse before consider having someone experienced help you for the first time.

Lunging can be extremely beneficial to your horse’s fitness and training. It can be used to help with behavioral problems and help strengthen your bond. And with many different types of lunging the possibilities are endless!

How to Safely Lunge Your Horse

There are several things you can do to help make lunging your horse safe for both of you. To help keep yourself and your horse safe:

Stay out of the “Kick Zone”

Make sure you are standing far enough away from your horse. Horses may kick out when being lunged so make sure you are standing far enough away that they cannot accidentally kick you. If your horse tends to get close to you when lunging you should carry a lunge whip to help keep him at a safe distance.

Keep Control of the Line

Don’t let the lunge line wrap around your hand. One hand should be holding the line directly attached to the horse. Your other hand should hold the excess end of the line. The excess line should be held in large loops, or folded up like an accordion. Keep the end of the line organized so that it does not wrap around your legs or torso. You also don’t want to you don’t step on it, trip on it, or allow it to get caught on your spurs.

Wear Proper Clothes

Wearing gloves can help protect your hands from rope burn in case your horse tries to pull away. If you have a particularly unruly horse you may want to wear a helmet and safety vest. You should always wear closed toes boots when working with horses.

Stay on Safe Ground

Make sure you are lunging your horse on proper footing. Horses like to buck and play when being lunged. If your footing is slippery, muddy, or steep it can increase the chances of your horse falling down, especially if they have excess energy. You should never lunge your horse on concrete. 

Protect their Legs

You can make lunging safer for your horse by using protective gear on their legs. You can choose to protect only their front legs or all four. Horses carry more weight on their front legs so they are more prone to injury. Some common protective gear for a horse’s legs include:

  • Polo wraps
  • Splint boots
  • Brush boots
  • Sports medicine boots
  • Bell boots

How Long Should You Lunge Your Horse For?

You should keep lunging sessions short. Lunging sessions should be 20 minutes maximum.  Horses are grazing animals and their bodies evolved to roam slowly. They have the athleticism to evade predators with short bursts of energy, speed, and evasive tactics. Horses are not built to move repeatedly in small circles for long amounts of time.

If you lunge your horse for too long you will increase the likelihood of stress injuries to their legs. The soft tissues in your horse’s legs, such as the suspensory ligaments, are prone to inflammation and small tears. Over lunging a horse can aggravate old injuries or cause new ones if you are not careful.

Some people lunge their horses to get the excess energy out of them before they ride. Some horses are “cold-backed” and always let out a buck or two before they are ready to go to work. If you have a horse that occasionally needs a light lunge session before you ride, that is common.

However, if you find yourself having to lunge your horse for long amounts of time before every ride, you are actually making your horse more fit with each lunging session. Over time, this will increase how long you need to lunge your horse before they are ready to be ridden.

This is something that can be detrimental to your relationship with your horse. This is something that is often overlooked when wondering – is lunging bad for a horse? If you find yourself in this cycle, consider trying other activities, such as hand walking or working at liberty, to get your horse focused before your rides. 

Common Mistakes People Make When Lunging Horses

Some common mistakes people make when lunging horses include:

Making the Horse Too Tired

If you are planning to ride your horse after you lunge, make sure you do not get your horse too tired. If you lunge your horse for too long, or too intensely, your horse may not have enough energy to perform strenuous activities. 

Being Distracted

Try not to get distracted when lunging your horse. You should never talk on the phone, text, or watch other people when lunging a horse. If you get distracted, even for a moment, you could miss a signal from your horse that could put you in danger. 

Lunging Too Closely to Others

You should never lunge your horse close to others. You should be well away from mounted riders, other lunging horses, or those on foot. Even if you have excellent lunging skills, people and horses are prone to the unpredictable and you don’t want your lunging horse to get their line caught around someone else. 

Benefits of Lunging Your Horse

There are many benefits to consider when wondering – is lunging bad for a horse. When done correctly, lunging is a great training tool. It can help you build a better relationship with your horse. You can use lunging to introduce your horse to new things such as carrying a saddle or rider for the first time. Lunging can help a horse lose weight and get into shape, or be used during rehabilitation. It can help your horse develop their balance and frame. There are several different types of lunging, each with their own benefits. Some common types of lunging include:

Free Lunging

This is usually done in a round pen or small paddock. When free lunging you do not use lunge lines. You use a lunge whip or long rope, voice cues, and your body language to ask the horse to change pace, turn around, and stop. You have less control with free lunging since you have no direct contact with your horse. This type of lunging is extremely beneficial for developing your bond and communication with your horse. 

Classical Lunging

When most people think of lunging a horse they think of classical lunging. With classical lunging you use one lunge line attached to a halter, lunging cavesson, or bridle. You ask your horse to go in a large circle around you while you stay in a small circle, pivoting to constantly face your horse. Depending on how you have connected your lunge line, you may have to switch the line when you switch directions. Many people prefer to carry a lunge whip for more control. This type of lunging is the most versatile. 

Two-Line Lunging

This type of lunging involves two lines and a surcingle. One line is threaded through a ring on the left side of the surcingle and connected to the left side of the horse’s bit. The other line is threaded through a ring on the right side of the surcingle and connected to the right side of the horse’s bit. When lunging, your horse will have an inside line and an outside line that runs along the side of his body and then behind him. This type of lunging gives you the most control. You hold one line in each hand. With two line lunging you can start developing your horse’s balance and frame of carriage.


To wrap it all up… Lunging is not bad for your horse as long as you take safety precautions, and keep your lunging sessions brief. When done properly, lunging can be an extremely beneficial tool for keeping your horse fit.  If you have never lunged a horse before or are having trouble lunging your horse, consider having a professional help you. 

is lunging bad for horses

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