Longeing: It’s not just to keep from dying anymore!

When I learned to ride, and particularly in my teens as I was learning to train and ride more difficult horses, I learned to longe as a means of survival. I boarded where they didn’t turn out for you, so my horses maybe got a little turnout a few days a week, if I could manage to grab one of the whole four turnouts (at a barn with 60+ horses). So, throwing them out on the longe and letting them buck and fart around kept me from eating dirt, particularly with the really cold backed gelding!

By the time I was 19, I was boarding at an AQHA show barn and while I did plenty of longeing there for the same reason, I learned reason #2 for longeing: fitting up yearlings. So I worked off my board by letting previously unhandled yearlings drag me around the arena. My primary accomplishment from this time period is learning to yank the line sharply down and to the side and throw them on their side if they tried to bolt off and drag me.

(Yes, yes, sorry, I was young and dumb and did what the Big Name Trainer told me to do.)

And of course I did the usual longeing with tack on prior to riding greenies. Figured if they stopped trying to buck the saddle off their back, it was safe to get on! I once had a mare who bucked so hard on the longe she broke the cinch and the saddle flew off. (Surprisingly, that mare turned out to be easy to ride. She just played HARD on the longe.)

Mugwump has blogged rather extensively about longeing as an actual training tool. She doesn’t allow hers to buck and fart around and she actually has a pretty interesting method for disciplining that kind of behavior out of them, which if I tried it, would probably wind up with my getting myself macrame’d tightly to a panicked horse’s side. I am 41 years old and can’t do shit with a rope and I know better than to start trying now. But it works for her, so go Mugs and the rest of you who can handle ropes! I still figure I am having a good day if I can longline without tripping myself.

I have, however, evolved to the point where I do see longeing as a training tool and not merely a substitute for turnout and am trying to resolve specific problems with my horses that way. Drama, the POA pony, was only broke to walk and trot under her previous owner. She started out having a lot of trouble holding her lead on the longe line so I have been using longeing to fit her up at the canter before I try it under saddle. If she gets disunited or switches leads, I break her to the trot and we re-start. She has been doing wonderfully and I can see her becoming more balanced and stronger. It makes so much more sense to start our canter work this way rather than with my weight for her to deal with!

Casper, the paint filly, has had some trouble connecting the idea of leg pressure + go forward. She was confused and resistant. Since she had started to longe well, we started longeing her with a rider and it’s working great. She knows how to longe and feels confident that she’s doing the right thing if she obeys the commands of the person on the ground. It’s made so much more sense to use a little “ground support” than have a senseless fight with a confused greenie who simply wasn’t getting it.

The VLC, as I’ve noted before, definitely prefers to go to the right, so with him, I’ve been working on the left lead on the longe. He doesn’t mind taking the lead, but he doesn’t bend/balance himself as well that direction so I’m letting him work on that without my weight. He’s such a big galoot and I can see that it’s hard for him to manage himself sometimes. He totally does NOT get how big he is. He reminds me of the big dog whose wagging tail knocks everything over, except with him, it’s his nose!

I’m always concerned about centrifugal force and “torquing” the neck, so I always longe at the far end of the line, so the horse is taking a big circle of half of the arena. I know a lot of people who only round pen because they want to avoid the force on the horse’s neck, and I kind of went through that phase myself, but ultimately it’s two different things. You have more control with the line and I think even the horses feel more like they’re working with the line – as opposed to feeling like they are turned out.

So what do you think? Are you okay with them “playing” on the longe or is it always work time? (I’m still a bit undecided. I still kind of feel like longeing gives them the chance to buck and have it be okay if you’re in a situation where turnout is impossible, let’s say at a show, and I like giving them a chance to “vent” acceptably.) Are you/have you used longeing as a training tool, and if so, how? What kinds of issues have you fixed on the longe? Or are you anti-longeing and think it’s too hard on them? (Well, it definitely can be, the way I’ve seen some people do it with the horse going 95mph on a teeny circle in deep footing!). Thoughts?

Published in: on September 30, 2008 at 6:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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