Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bo Jena clinic: Learning long lining I

Bo Jena long lines stallion Davidoff Hit
On Valentine's Day I attended a long lining clinic with Bo Jena at Scott Hassler's home base/training facility Riveredge. My dressage GMO took a van-load of us to learn from the master. Bo Jena is a leading authority on long lining, and besides, I was eager to see the Riveredge (Hassler Dressage) facility.

The Riveredge facility is a whole 'nuther post. The Hasslers have designed a state of the art, spare no expense, palatial but ultra-functional home for their program.

But this is about long lining, and Bo Jena shows us what an art this is. I could never capture everything in the clinic, but will talk about the main some key points in his system.

Get your horse on the outside rein
Bo started each horse on the circle. Whether a pony, or a stallion, experienced or new to long lining, the first thing the horse had to learn is to be on the outside rein. It would be hard to overstate this as it's the basis for handler control--during this clinic, the handler was always positioned near the inside rein, and you don't want the horse to drop the inside shoulder and barrel into you. For some horses, in the beginning,  this meant that the horse was strongly bent to the outside when long lining on a circle. I was surprised at the decisive, sometimes strong use of outside rein aids to achieve this, but it's self-defense. As Bo said, control is critical, and without the outside rein contact "the horse can veer into you very quickly."

 It's okay if the horse isn't round at first, and believe me there were a lot of unpretty moments while the horse was still learning the idea of long lining. Support with the whip to keep them out on the circle and forward (forward is also a big deal). Bo never used force but he was very compelling, and I think he showed his expertise in his ability to gauge the horse and how much "pressure" (physical and psychological) they could tolerate. Long lining is a very psychological exercise. I had no idea.

The importance of safe handling practices was drilled home by a chestnut mare (shocker) that was balking, backing, and double-barreling during the session. LONG LINING CAN BE DANGEROUS...
  • You never stand directly behind the horse.
  • You never stand closer than the length of the whip.
  • Although only one long liner learner did this, you should wear a helmet when long lining.

More later!


  1. Did the clinician discuss the shoulder position of the handler?

    I had one lesson on line lining with my horse and I was amazed by how quickly he picked it up (I was much slower than him.). If I turned my shoulders to face him, he would stop. If I turned my shoulders in the direction that I wanted him to go, he would walk on or turn. The challenge was to only turn or face him intentionally, while managing lots of line and the whip. After a couple practice sessions I gave the trot a try and he looked amazing. I can see why long lining is so beneficial, but often a lost art: it is not easy and can put you in a vulnerable spot very quickly.

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  3. So jealous! I've heard about him and have really wanted to see him in action. I'm just starting to learn to long line my young horse and would love to improve and learn how to train more advanced movements.

  4. Long lining is great. I started long lining my horses when I was pregnant and riding became impractical. The trainer who taught me told me that her son used to long line all their young horses through their home village in England and also taught them to jump, running and jumping behind them. I have always had that image in my mind but never dared to try it.

  5. that does sound very nice, long lining is always something i've wanted to learn, but am in no hurry to teach myself on a horse that hasn't seen anything like ti before!

    nice to see you added wearing a helmet to your safety list, i for one always look over helmets when lunging/hand walking.

  6. I agree about the outside rein. If there is one thing long lining will teach you it is how effective, and necessary that outside contact is.

    Would love some lessons from a pro like that. I use long lining quite a bit and would love to do more "physical" things but my knees limit my mobility a bit.

    Great way to train a green horse too.

  7. Hi Stacey,
    I was at the clinic as well and thought Bo did a great job of explaining how to properly long line a horse. I also posted an article on my blog at http://myrhodora.com/2011/02/long-lining-clinic-with-bo-jena-at-hassler-dressage/. Would you mind if I added a link to your post as well?

  8. Kaye thanks so much for your post -- ill add you link to my post feel free to share mine. Icant wait to read yours (in a meeting now).

  9. I started learning long lining last year by ground driving a Shetland pony who is trained to drive. The thing that shocked me the most was the necessity of the outside rein. You can't long line without it. Well, you CAN, but when I tried, naughty pony always ended up facing me. :-) Good thing he was a veteran at the whole process and a good sport too. The other big shocker was that this new knowledge has definitely changed how I ride. I was always lady lazy with the outside rein, but now that I understand its importance, I use it more and (hopefully) more properly. Lucky you for getting to attend such a fabulous clinic!

  10. I follow your blog religiously and so imagine my surprise when it popped up that you were at my barn! :D I am one of the working students at Riveredge - my horse is living smack in the middle of the stallion wing! I totally would have introduced myself had I known! If you are planning on auditing any of the rest of the clinics this year you will have to let me know!

  11. Very interesting! I'm going to teach my colt to long line this fall, so good to know. And thanks for mentioning the helmet because I had forgotten about that (which I can't believe I did considering I've been knocked unconscious while leading a horse before duh!). I'll definitely be wearing it when I start long lining.


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