dancing horses

dancing horses

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In which Steele learns about longeing..

I had originally titled this post 'In which Steele learns to longe'. But then I realized that this would be false.

I know that he's just two and that his joints are growing and too much on a 20 metre circle is not a good idea. However, a little would be beneficial for his training until he can do more. The other incentive has been the #$@% weather. It's been terrible- rain, rain, and, just to relieve the tedium, rain. As a result the horses turnout has been curtailed.

Monday there was more than 30 mm of rain so I left them in for the day. Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was hay. :) The next day was just cloudy but the fields were too soaked to risk them being out, so I let them into the small paddock only. Again, Irish was not impressed. Steele was okay because there was 3 kinds of hay: in his stall, in Irish's stall and in the hay box.

I realized that when I came home that they needed to blow off some steam. Unfortunately my riding ring is not fenced (that's on the list for the spring). So I decided that today would be a good time to broach the concept of longeing. According to Wikepedia:
Longeing has many benefits for both horses and riders.
For a young or green (inexperienced) horse, longeing is used to teach a horse to respond to voice commands and the trainer's body language, to accustom them to the feel of a saddle and bridle, and to begin their introduction to the feel of reins and bit pressure. In many training stables, a horse is first introduced on the longe to nearly everything it is going to be asked to do under saddle, including movement at all gaits, response to hand and voice commands (called riding aids), and remaining calm in unusual or stressful situations.
On horses of any age or level of experience, longeing is used to exercise a horse when it cannot be ridden, or when additional work is needed to develop balance, rhythm, and to improve the horse's gaits. It is also useful to help settle a horse before riding, especially a high-strung horse, a young horse, or a horse that has been confined more than usual. However, longeingfor long periods or with the intent to tire a horse out can cause joint strain. It can be used to "blow off steam" or "get the bucks out" before a rider gets on, though proper turnout or liberty work is a better alternative, because the a longeing session is training time, not play time.
The whip is not used to hit the horse but to encourage him to move along.
Steele pranced passaged beside me all the way up to the ring. It was so cute- he obviously wanted to go but knew that he had to stay beside me. As we got nearer he began to blow while he pranced passaged (sounds more dressage-y, don't you think?).

Once we were in the ring I swapped out the leadline for the longe line. I also had my longe whip. In full disclosure I am an effective longer but not a graceful one. I often get messed up trying to manage the line and the whip and keep my body in the correct posture. If I was a superhero my name would be 'The Entangler'. Give me any length of rope, string, hose etc and I will give you a gordian know without even trying! Ed doesn't even bother asking me to wrap up extension cords- he just sighs and takes care of it. I once was rolling up a hose and I felt some resistance. When I looked up I had it wrapped around d'Arcy (my border collie) and was dragging him along. He looked confused but resigned. So I cannot master the art of keeping the longe line perfectly coiled. I have learned though to keep myself clear of it.

But I digress.

I started with simply leading Steele along and then gradually letting out the line and moving away from him. He was a bit confused and came in towards me- I simply kept going and encouraging him to walk along. Once he got the idea I picked up the whip to keep him moving along. Our circle was quite large with me moving around about 5 feet to the inside. It was funny- I waggled the end of the whip and he stopped dead and looked behind me. He knows about longe whips but he wanted to turn around and check it out. I chirped and said 'walk along'. He would go and then slow up, I waggled the whip, he would look and want to go back and we'd repeat. Finally he figured that I wanted him to keep going and he decided to humour me. I let him pick the pace he wanted to go. When he picked up the trot I let him go on for a few rounds and then used my voice and body language to get him back to walk. When he wanted to go too far from the longe line I used a gentle pulses to keep him on the track I chose. Once he took off cantering, I simply went with him, pulsing the line, after a bit he slowed to a trot and then a walk. All the time I was telling him what a good boy he was. :)

After a few minutes I asked him to 'whoa'.
He stopped dead and looked at me. 'now what?'
I wanted to change direction. Up to now we'd been going to the left.
I asked him to move to the other side.
I then hit a big hole in our training.
'uh, mom? you're on the wrong side'
I had forgotten to teach him to lead from the right side. 

So I went back to the idea that he was to lead on the right, forget the longeing.
"walk along' I said brightly and strode off.
He stopped, waited for me to get ahead and then moved to the left.
I stopped, repositioned us and tried again.
He walked a bit with me looking confused and a little miffed. He stopped and this time dodged around me to put me in the 'right' spot.

After a few of these he finally figured out that I actually meant him to go this way with me on the wrong side.
'fine, but it's weird.' 
After a bit of walking I moved away. He slowed down, I waggled the whip. He tried to turn around, I chirped and he walked ahead. I told him he was genius. After a bit I asked him to 'trot' and then jogged a bit beside him. We'd been doing that on the lead line so he knew what I wanted. He trotted off and then scooted into a canter. I let him go a bit and then asked him to trot. He did. After a few rounds to the right, I stopped him, praised him profusely and put the lead line on. We headed to eat some grass and then a nice groom.

I was reflecting on how smart he was and how quickly he caught on.

I'm pretty sure that he was reflecting on how much work he has ahead teaching me.
'she is sweet but a bit slow'


  1. He is getting all grown up. Just think of what you will be doing a year from now. I was also shocked at how fast Dickie picked up on lunging. I started by just doing it at the end of a lead rope then graduated to the lunge line. We just do it for short periods but it is a good way to use his brain.

  2. LOL! Chrome was the exact same way when I started leading him on the right. :) He eventually got so used to me leading him on the left (I actually lead that way more often than the other I guess because I'm used to dogs heeling on the left dunno) I had to reteach him to lead on my right hehe. Now he does both perfectly. :D I finally got my round pen set up so I'm going to start practicing longeing soon. :D


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