How to get your horse to canter while lunging (even without a round pen)

When you start working with horses from the ground, one of the common issues you are likely to encounter is that your horse will refuse to canter while lunging. 

Most horses just speed up their trot and start pulling on the lunge line trying to get outside of the circle. Or some other horses might just stop and turn towards you, refusing to go.

Why dont they want to canter?

Canter on the circle is quite difficult for young horses, and they are just looking for any way to get rid of it.

Of course, young horses canter in the pasture and they enjoy it.


However, they usually just canter in straight lines, which is much easier than cantering on a tight circle.

When you ask for canter while lunging you are asking your horse to do something new and actually very tiring, at least in the beggining. 

Here is how to make it a lot easier to get your horse to canter while lunging

If you have a round pen, everything gets a whole lot easier. 

Just let your horse trot around the round pen. It doesn’t matter if you have him on the lunge line or not.  Walk inside of the roundpen

Get your horse to go on a smaller circle and walk next to him. Use your lunging whip to urge him to get to canter. The important bit here is the way you use your whip to ask your horse for canter. You should always be moving the whip in the direction in which you want your horse to be going.

That means you are going to be moving the whip from the back to the front. You should not be moving it up and down. It is better to be moving in the direction in which you want your horse to be moving because this way it is easier to increase the pressure in case your horse doesnt go to canter on low pressure.

Continue doing these steps until your horse goes to canter

  1. I start by just indicating the movement with the whip. Moving it from the back to the front of my horses movement. I do not touch my horse with the whip.
  2. If my horse doesnt go to canter I ask him again using a bit more pressure. However the second time I ask I still do not touch my horse with the whip.
  3. If my horse still doesnt react and still doesnt go to canter, I ask again and this time I gently touch him with the whip.

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If necessary I keep asking my horse again and again every one second, increasing the pressure each time I ask. As soon as my horse gets to canter, I immediately stop asking. However I keep my whip ready to urge my horse again in case he slows down back to trot by himself.

If you work with a young horse that is not used to cantering in a roundpen, it is enough if he does just one circle in each direction.

Then each training session you can for a little bit more and get your horse to canter for a little longer.

What if I do not have a roundpen?

Things become a lot more complicated if you do not have a roundpen.  In that case your horse has to be really good with troting on lunge line. 

That means that he should be trotting around on a nice round circle, without pulling out of the circle and tensioning the lunge line. He also shouldnt be pushing himself inside of the circle, making it smaller. You should be able to get him to trot around in slow trot and also in faster trot. You should not have to keep urging him to maintain a faster trot. Your horse should be able to maintain the pace you set by himself.

Here is a little trick to make things easier

When you start asking for canter for the first time without a roundpen, it is very beneficial if you can find at least some type of fence. For example a corner of the ring. You want your horse to be close to some kind of a barier on the outside of the circle inn the moment in which you ask him for canter. If you ask your horse for canter while he is going by the corner of the ring he is not going to be able to make circle bigger and it will be easier for him to understand what you are asking.

In the roundpen I want my horse to do one full circle in canter. If I do not have a roundpen, I am going to be ok with just half a circle the first time i ask for canter.

Do not expect this to be very easy, learning canter in the roundpen or on a lunge line is quite difficult for you and for your horse as well. 

How to get your horse to canter while lunging (even without a round pen)
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