5 Safety Considerations When Lungeing

John Borys photo

With the COVD-19 outbreak, many barns have ceased riding activities, but are still allowing boarders to come lunge their horses in lieu of adding more stress and training horses to the plate of barn owners, managers, and grooms who are likely already overrun with an increase in required work. US Equestrian Dressage Technical Delegate, Jean Kraus lists her top five safety violations, she sees most often at shows, for you to  keep in mind while practicing your lungeing.

Attaching side reins in the barn.

Walking your horse to the arena with side reins already attached is a serious horsemanship no-no. If your horse were to spook, or get loose somehow, he could be seriously impaired in his ability to stay balanced and on his feet, or to see objects that he might run into. Wait until you reach the arena to connect your side reins to the bit.

Lungeing with dangling stirrups.

Some riders claim that this makes their horse more sensitive to the leg once they are mounted, but in actuality, the stirrups banging on his sides while being lunged is both distracting and desensitizing. It can cause him to bruise, which is the opposite of what you want for your precious friend. Secure your stirrups before lungeing so they can’t slide down and bang on his sides – he’ll thank you by remaining sensitive to your leg once you’re back in the saddle!

Lungeing without gloves.

While many people prefer to lunge without gloves, this is a dangerous practice, as your lungeline can get pulled through your hand and tear the skin open if your horse bolts or spooks. Lungeing with gloves will protect your hands, and give you a better grip on the lungeline, giving you better control over your horse.

Looping the lungeline around your hand.

This is one of the biggest and most dangerous cardinal sins of lungeing. Many of us roll or loop the lungeline for storage, and don’t reorganize it before attaching it to our horse’s bridle. This is extremely dangerous, even with the quietest of horse’s, and could result in you getting dragged. If the line is trailing on the ground and your horse bolts and the lunge gets tangled around your foot, or if the line is looped around your hand, and the horse bolts, you can get dragged as the lungeline can quickly become tangled around your arm. A dragging lungeline may also become tangled around your horse’s leg, creating panic, and potentially a severe injury. Instead, fold the lungeline back and forth across your palm to hold it. This will slide easily as you send the horse into a larger circle, or bring him back into a smaller circle, and prevent knots from forming.

Not being wary of the “Strike Zone”.

Horses rarely kick people intentionally, but in times like this when horses are not getting exercised regularly or as intensely as they are used to, they may have pent up energy that they can’t contain when they get on the lungeline. Sometimes even the quietest, sweetest horse feels the need to let out a big happy buck, and with that comes flying back feet. When sending your horse out to a bigger circle at the beginning of your session, be very aware of what body language your horse is using. Is he fidgety while adjusting the sidereins, or is he standing completely still? Is she looking around with interest, or does she seem to be eyeballing that bush by the gate? These clues can be indicators of what may be to come, but even if your horse isn’t exhibiting any signs that they might kick up their heels, always be prepared. Having a lunge whip on hand, whether you need it for transitions or not, can be a great safety tool for extending your safety circle.

As with riding, always be careful, and enjoy your horse as much as you can in any way you can right now. Happy trails!

This list was compiled from Jean Kraus’ article Too Many Horse People Are Living Dangerously, in the September/October 2019 issue of USDF Connection. Read the full article in the USDF Education Library here.

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