Many people contact me about longeing difficulties they are having with the horse. For some reason the horse just doesn't seem to get it - it races around like a nut, jerks arms out of sockets, provides yard-ski trips, turns to face, threatens, pulls away, you name it.
A lot of that is the direct result of how they introduce the horse to the longeing exercise. The great majority of horse people put their horse on the end of a long line and then try to get it going around in a circle in a consistent manner by any means possible.
And that works just enough so that folks just keep hanging on to it. It's kind of a "Well, thet's the way mah Daddy used to do it!" attitude. They expect a few hurdles and they figure eventually they'll get over them. And some do.
A good bunch of folks don't. No matter what they do the horse doesn't do it the way they want.
Teaching a horse to longe, for instance, requires a series of steps that start close in with the horse. As I said, most folks teach the longe by putting the horse out on the very end of the longe line and then begin trying to get it to circle.
If the horse will not longe correctly at 3 feet it will not longe correctly at 30 feet.
Actually, the very first longeing steps are but small changes in leading. And the finished longeing steps are nothing more than leading at a distance.
There is also another point that needs to be made here and that is the most skilled longers do not do a lot of mindless circling and they do not longe to lower the horse's energy level. If you use the longeing to take the edge off the horse it'll take more and more longeing because the horse's conditioning will increase.
I start the horse out at 2-3 feet from its side with the line held in the hand pointing in the direction of travel with my longe whip in the other hand. At this point I teach the horse two things - start and stop or "walk" and "whoa. That is all I'm interested in. I don't care what direction the horse goes, I stay at its side. Of course, when I'm this close I'm aware it can get mad and leave with a good kick to make its point but I have also taught it to give to pressure by this point so that if it does take off I can bend it around me lessening the danger.
Once it is responding well at 2-3 feet I let out another 2-3 feet and work the same thing at that distance. As the horse becomes used to that distance I double it again until it is starting and stopping obediently at the end of the line with me walking alongside.
If at any time there is a glitch or a set back I just go back to the last successful shorter distance and do a little more reinforcing.
Once the horse is responding at a walk out on the end of the line I then began incorporating turns into the sessions and we're quickly longeing in any pattern I want - circles, diamonds, squares, down all four sides of the arena, figure-eights.
Once we have this down then I begin asking for a little more speed which is almost always just a faster walk in the beginning. A faster walk leads into a trot, a faster trot leads into a canter or a lope. Throw a half-halt down the line to slow the horse and you are able to control the speed.
This is the easiest and quickest way to do it. It pretty much eliminates run-outs, uncontrolled mindless racing, spinning in to face you and a number of other annoyances that can crop up in early longeing training.
I cover all this in my "Longe 101" & Longe 101.2" videos that are available from my video inventory. For those whose horses tend to jerk you off your feet you may also want to click here to check out "Yielding To Pressure."
Click here to check out my very reasonably priced DVD inventory covering many of the subjects featured on my site's pages in greater depth.
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