How can I train my horse to keep his head straight on the lunge line?

I am having problems with my Arabian gelding dropping his shoulder on the lunge. He can sometimes end up almost on a 45degree angle when on a circle. When I am riding him he responds to my rein & legs to carry himself properly but I don’t know how to fix it when he is on the end of a rope.

He is 18yrs old with a dressage background but when I got him 18mths ago he had been doing nothing in a paddock for several years. It took many months before he could even trot a straight line without tripping over his own feet. He is now doing really well except for him wanting to counter flex on circles all the time.

I need him to stop relying on me to correct him as he is also an RDA horse & his riders don’t always have enough strength &/or control of their limbs to fix it or they just don’t notice & let him do it. He competes in RDA dressage & receives reasonable scores with his rider but they could be so much better if he would flex the right way on his circles. I have tried explaining to her the leg & rein aids to bend him correctly but due to her disability she isn’t strong enough in her legs or balanced enough through her core.

If you have any tips, tricks or exercises I could try I would be most appreciative.


If I am understanding you correctly than when you are lunging your horse, lets say counter-clockwise, he is traveling with his shoulder in toward you and his head out to the right, correct?

If that is the case then here is what I recommend. I would double-check that you are able to do basic groundwork skills with him such as asking him to move his shoulder away from you as you walk around him (with him at least somewhat pivoting on his hind end) and that you can ask him to move his hips away from you (with him pivoting on his front end) and that you can whip around him (showing emotional control). If all of those thing work then you can move on.

Put him on a shorter rope, maybe a 15 foot, and begin lunging him around you at a walk or trot. Keep him in close enough to you that you can touch him with the stiff part of your stick and string or lunge whip (or even a long driving whip). The goal here is to have him walking around you. If he wants to jog/trot you can let him although it will be difficult on the small circle-he should figure out that it is hard eventually and slow down. Because he is in close enough that you can touch him, lets say 4-6 feet from you then as he circles I want you to gently pull his head in while using the stiff part of the stick and string to tap his shoulder out. Can you picture that?

Remember that if he has been carrying his head six inches to the outside than you need to soften up when his head comes closer to you, even if that is still 5 inches to the outside. Eventually you should be able to pull his head in while keeping his shoulder out. He will need lots of repetition. If he has been doing it wrong for 18 years it won’t be solid over night. Eventually when he understands it you will be able to let him out on a longer line and he will respect you ‘suggesting’ to keep his shoulder out by gently flicking the loose end of the stick and string towards his shoulder.

It is not an over night fix but it will be a fun project!


  1. Chanida on January 23, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Thank you so much for answering! I tried this out on him this morning & he was starting to figure it out. Just being able to warm him up on the ground before I got on made a huge difference. Like you said, it wont happen over night but now I can see a light at the end of the tunnel 🙂 Thank you also for showing us those cone patterns at Equitana Sydney, I have been using them on him as well as some of the other horses & they are working a treat 🙂 Thanx again!

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