Longeing, Lunging and Lounging
by Debora Johnson
What Is Longeing?
The term longeing is used to describe a method for training young horses. I have seen three spellings: longeing, lunging and lounging. The meaning is the same. Longeing is also
used to exercise horses in a circle, such as a ring. A long strap (about 20-30 feet or 6-10 meters) is attached to the halter and the horse is made to travel in a large circle around the handler. This method is said to improve the horse's balance, encourage forward stride, and increase action. It also teaches direction, posture, yielding, and how to move off pressure. Some riders will longe their horses before riding to get some of the vim and vigor out of an excitable horse. I do not approve of this. A horse should take its lead from the rider. The rider should not have to try to tire a horse out before riding. Longeing is often used to retrain a horse who misbehaves. It may also be used when teaching students. The students are on the horse and asked to do various exercises on the moving horse, but the horse is being longed by an instructor.
- Hard hat
- Longe Line (20-30 feet)
- Halter or longeing cavesson (Fancy, but a halter and lead line are fine)
- Halter shank
- A ring or large open area
- Leg wraps or splint boots
- Insect repellant (for you and your horse)
How Do You Longe A Horse?
Basics should be taught to the horse before he is taught to longe. Horses should be able to lead from both sides, to stop, stand, and to back. It is also important that the animal be receptive to teaching and not a bad actor! I take the horse to the site of longeing so that he may be familiar with the area. Leading the horse around the ring site, or longeing site, helps to settle the horse. Speak softly to your horse and be reassuring. Don't rush. You may even want to groom your horse in this longeing area. Take insect repellant and use it so that your horse is as comfortable as possible and not distracted by biting insects.
Every one has their own method of longeing. I start with a smaller rope instead of the 20-30 foot rope. It is easier to handle. In fact, I use a long lead rope (about 10 feet). I use four aids: my voice, my free hand, the end of the lead/longe line, and the whip. I first ask the horse to back up, as he already has been taught this. That way your horse will succeed right away in this new arena. Lots of praise should always be given as he correctly performs what you ask. Then, I ask the horse to move in a direction by putting pressure on the lead rope. This should already be familiar to your horse, also, because he has been taught the basics of leading from both sides, standing, and backing. If, however, he does not respond, then I direct my free hand toward his hind quarters, urging him to impel forward. If that does not move him to respond, the end of the lead rope can be twirled directly toward his hind quarters just to help him understand what is wanted of him. The last effort should be light use of the whip. (Tap the ground toward the hindquarters of the horse) That usually works as a final try. Once I have the horse moving to my commands on the shorter lead rope, then I will move to a larger longe line.
- Wear a hard hat
- Wear Gloves
- Put on halter and lead rope/shorter longe line.
- Apply insect repellant.
- Put protective boots or leg wraps on the front legs of your horse.
- Snap the lead rope/shorter longe line to the inside cheek ring of the halter. When you reverse your horse's direction change the lead rope/shorter longe line to the other side of the halter cheek ring. Always work your horse in both directions. The term for longeing your horse in the other direction is "changing the rein."
- Hold the longe line in your left hand. (Horse impelling counterclockwise)
- Hold whip and longe line in your right hand. Start with a small longe line: about 10 feet. This gives you more control.
- If you are longing to the left, attach the longe line to the halter on the inside ring. The side ring nearest to you.
- Stand away from your horse so that he can circle around you, but on the extended lead rope. If he comes in toward you, use the back of the handle of your whip gently on his shoulder to move him back to the outer perimeter of his circle and away from you.
- Using your voice (cluck), free hand, longe line and whip ask your horse to move forward, in a circle, away from you.
- If your horse moves towards you and does not stay at the end of the lead line, then use your whip butt, gently, again. Point it at his shoulder to move him back out into the circle.
- As he moves forward, you move slowly in a small circle, but stay centered.
- Try to stay in back of your horse's hip.
- Keep him impelling forward at the walk.
How Do You Stop Your Horse?
- Say "Ho," or "Whoa," or whatever verbal aid you have taught your horse to stop.
- As you do so, move toward your horse's head to stop his forward movement.
- Move toward your horse while praising him. Take up slack on the longe line. (Coil it) Have the whip secured under your arm (not waving it around). I actually put the whip down before I go to my horse.
- Pet him. Let him relax.
- Reverse directions. Remember to change your lead rope to the opposite halter ring cheek side. Pick up your whip. Hold your line in the right hand. (Clockwise)
- Never rush or lose your temper. Take it slowly and calmly.
- Repeat this exercise at a forward walk until your horse completely understands forward impel and stop.
- No more than 20 minutes of training at a time, please. Always stop on a positive note.
- Repeat this exercise without adding anything new until your horse is completely comfortable.
I would like to mention, here, that walking is really important. Horses tend to get lazy at the walk and just plod on. I always encourage and teach my horses to walk with a forward moving walk. It keeps them alert, reduces stumbling, reduces constant legging to urge the horse forward, and covers more ground. I strive for a walk that would approximate 4-5 mph. Many hours are spent in the saddle at a walk. It should be comfortable and forward moving. It should not be annoying and plodding.
Trot and Canter
- To teach the trot, use the word "trot" and any aid along with it that you choose. Do not use the same aid twice. The horse needs to understand what each aid or word means. You can use the whip in some manner, (perhaps wave it slowly), but do not hit your horse with it ever!
- When you get your horse to understand trot, work on his way of going (how he moves). Work on collection. Your horse should have the proper head carriage, extend his gait, and not trot squarely. This often takes time and patience! Stay calm and he will eventually get it.
- To teach a canter, use the word "canter" and any aid along with it that you choose. Again, do not repeat previously used aids or words. In the canter it is important to have your horse pick up the correct lead (inside leg extended). If a horse is travelling in a circle and picks up the incorrect lead he can actually fall over because he cannot bend properly. Correct leads are very important for correct balance. Eventually your horse will travel with collection and proper head carriage. These are points that can be fine tuned later after you have learned the art of longeing. I fine tune in the saddle. Almost every horse has a favorite lead; it is sort of like people who favor their right hand or left hand. It is the rare person who can use both hands equally.
- Bolting with you attached to the longe line.
- Decreasing circle size
- Lameness (Never longe your horse if he is lame)
- Getting tangled in the longe line (you or your horse). Never wrap the extra longe line around your waist, your hand, or any part of you. Always be able to drop the longe line if you need to do so.
- Wear gloves and a helmet whenever you longe a horse. There is always the danger that your horse may try to rip the line out of your hands or some how cause you injury.
I hope that this will be helpful to you. Longeing has never been my favorite way of training. I do much of my training in the saddle after I have taught good ground manners, have "sacked out" my horses, and have them green broke. At this point in our lives, my husband and I trail ride. Consistent aids and verbal commands, over a period of time, can be learned just as well by your horse, given from the saddle. Horses like routine, but many sour on the ring and get really bored with ring riding and training.
Now that the winter is here I am unable to provide you with any pictures on how to longe. However, in the spring I will try to update this article with pictures illustrating how to longe.
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