Lunge a Horse in Side Reins

ArticleHow to - horse trainingFriday 15 January 2010
How to Lunge a Horse

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One of the most common tools used in English equestrian disciplines such as dressage are the side reins. They are used when a trainer is working a horse with a lunge line and is training a horse to lunge. They enable the horse to build up muscles along the top line without the need for a rider. They are connected to either the buckles on a saddle or to the rings on a lunging surcingle. This guide will help you learn how to lunge your horse using side reins.

Lunging Your Horse Using Side Reins


1.    Once the horse is tacked up, remove the reins from a regular bridle and snaffle bit and clip a lunge line to the bit ring. Move on to attach the rings to either the saddle or surcingle. You are now ready to begin training the horse to lunge.

2.    Begin by warming up the horse and loosening its muscles. To do this, lunge your horse at a walk, trot and canter for between five and ten minutes. Do this without using the side reins. Only you are truly familiar with your horse and you know how long it will take for him to warm up and for his circulation to increase, it may be longer than ten minutes.

3.    It is now time to reattach the side reins to the horse’s bit. When lunging your horse, keep the reins fairly short. A useful guide is that they should be loose enough to allow the horse some play when it moves its head but short enough so that the nose of the horse is forced to be slightly tucked.

4.    Command the horse to start walking while you are stood back behind his shoulders. When a horse is first introduced to side reins and you have begun training the horse to lunge, he may not realise that he can in fact move. If this is the case, use a lunging whip to encourage him on the first few occasions. Complete several laps of the lunging circle to allow the horse to get used to the side reins. It is not uncommon for a horse to sling his head up or duck it down to test the reins. It is important not to let yourself get frustrated when you are lunging your horse as both of you are still learning.

5.    When you feel that the horse is comfortable with the new arrangement of the side reins ask him to trot. The time it takes for the horse to get comfortable can vary; you know your horse best and will be able to tell when this is. Allow the horse some space so that he can move around the circle but keep the lunge line taut.

6.    The best method for training a horse to lunge is to repeat the process above several times in each direction so that the horse can get used to it. The amount of time spent in the reins can be increased over time.

Tips & Advice


•    It is important when training a horse to lunge not to overwork the horse, make sure training sessions last no longer than 20 or so minutes

•    Make the circle bigger by walking with the horse while lunging. This helps to avoid and stress on the tendons and ligaments in the horse’s leg.

•    To create a bend in the lunge line, make the inside rein one notch shorter than the outside.

•    Under no circumstances should you ride a horse with side reins.

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