Sunday, July 15, 2012

How I learned to love long-lining

Sure, I've always believed in the theory of long-lining -- its benefits for the horse as a training and conditioning tool, etc. I have the equipment. I've been to the clinics on long lining and nodded in approval as horses schooled shoulder-in and piaffe without a rider.

But Riley? And me? Well, I think I've blogged about our lungeing challenges. Ri, for better or worse, calls the shots. He wants to change directions, he does. He wants to turn and face me rather than move around me, he does. I make an issue of it, he "charges" a bit toward me.

He has my number, and he has my letter, and it's L for Lungeing Loser. One day, I asked my trainer if she would try long-lining Ri.  I watched as she dealt with the same issues, but more effectively than I.  Where I refused to move/position myself around Ri when he turned to face me in "standoff mode"  --he's supposed to position himself around me, right?--my trainer just quietly moved to herself in lungeline position over and over, and she made timely use of the whip to get him forward. He'd go a few strides then turn toward her again, but she was more persistent.  Ri got tired of moving away and facing her. Then they were in business.

And we've never looked back. I can long-line Ri now, and it is an amazing and educational experience for me. What have I learned?
  • Ri can do it all without me. Forget my leg, my seat, my upper body, I can flick a whip behind him and suddenly he's moving through his body, into the bridle, and on that outside rein, bending around me.
  • My hands are getting an education.  Just a teensy bit more feel on that outside rein, a few sponge-y squeezes on the inside, and he looks amazing.  Long-lining is quite the education in minimal hand interference.
  • Ri is a fast learner. First session, with no "training" on my part other than observation, we're doing shoulder-in along the wall. 
  • Ri has a balanced canter. If he was gallumphing around on a lunge-line in a halter, on the long line he canters in a teacup and transitions lightly into a trot.
I'm a believer!


  1. I've always believed the "light hands" you discover while long-lining are partly due to the weight of the reins making any rein aid feel much heavier to the horse.

    But yes, isn't it amazing what they can do without the human body disturbing them?!?

  2. I would love to learn how to long-line properly. I found when I tried it I got way too handsy and was in my horse's mouth way too much and couldn't figure out how to fix that. I think there is so much you can do in long-lines but the transition from saddle to ground isn't one I've been able to figure out yet.

  3. I too love long lining. I started both Toby and Tucker that way and when they finally started under saddle, they knew how to steer, stop go, and everything. Need to work Chance a bit more that way, but he's such fun on the trails, I get distracted all the time.

    The other cool thing, as you note, is that you get to watch your horse and see him go. When they are working correctly on the lines, it's a special pleasure to see for yourself.

  4. I love long lining. I come from Saddlebredland, and that is the first step in all training. On long lines I can work my horse AND enjoy watching him. And never leave the ground: Bonus!

  5. That is so awesome!

    I think that the outside rein in long-lining is invaluable. I agree that one's hands learn a great deal as well. I like it too and need to practice more often.


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