Does your horse just like to trot and canter on the lunge line? Would you like them to be able to just walk and warm up when lunging them? Sometimes we get little quirks with our horses that are often product of a previous training preference. Chip, for example, typically trots and canters while lunging, and when I ask him for “hoa” or “walk,” he turns in to meet me at the middle of the circle. Rose, on the other hand, will pleasantly walk on the line forever. Recently I have been training Chip to walk on the line. Read about his case studies here.
Because of this, I thought I’d share what has been working for me to get the speed-racer to move from trot-canter only on the line down to a calm walk:
- Get your horse into a small lunge circle (just the distance of the whip’s shaft between you and your horse).
- Pick an associative word for the walk. I’d choose “walk”. But whatever floats your boat.
- Use your associative word as your FIRST cue, because that’s what you want them to respond to.
- Then jiggle the lunge line. I try to jiggle outward, not pulling at all. But if you still have a hard time getting any response, pull inward a bit when jiggling the lunge line, almost as though you’re drawing them in, because that may be the only way to get their attention long enough to slow down.
- If/when they do try to come in towards you, flick the lunge line outward towards them and use the stiff part of the whip to maintain your distance. Make it clear that you want to keep that space between you and them.
- Remain in this dance – lunge line flicks when they try to trot away from you, and keeping distance with the whip when they try to walk towards you – until they understand that you just want them to keep walking. If they stop when you don’t ask them to, just wave the whip ever so gently at them, just enough so they get a little encouragement to keep moving.
- When you get that first step of walking within their proper circle, praise the heck out of them. Try to walk towards them as much as you can without them walking towards you, and pet them or whatever your reward system is with them.
- Continue to do this, increasing the duration before praising them until they associate the command with the walk on the line within their designated circle. Start to allow more and more slack, until you get to a normal lunge circle.
- Take some down time. Once they get it, don’t press it too much. Reward them by ending the session. Given time to think of what they did to deserve a reward will solidify the potency of the command and the great advantage towards them when they perform it correctly.
- Incorporate this into your normal lunge routine. Start by just doing this exercise for increasing time intervals either at the beginning or the end of your lunge session. I’d prefer the end of the lunge session, because you have their lack of energy in your favor. Then, try doing this at the beginning, middle and end of your lunging routine. For the horse that gets bored easily, throw the lunge walk in at unexpected times to keep his mind challenged and this command reinforced.
Soon they will be able to do this without the aid of the whip or by jiggling the lunge line. Continue to work towards just the voice command until it is routine. While this may not be an important command for some horse owners, it is overall another nuance of responsiveness and obedience. It is a good tool for reinforcing arena work when trying to lighten bit contact or for fine-tuning new exercises. It promotes trail safety, as it provides another aid when they are hot or jigging on the trail. Plus, it is good for a horse to understand that their workouts are meant to begin and end relaxed.
Was this helpful? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below.