Horse Training

Fun on the Longe

July 7, 2009

Most horsemen agree: The instructional uses of the longe line are countless.

By Kathy Reimer of the Certified Horsemanship Association

Exercises on the longe can be a great way to improve your riding.

Exercises on the longe can be a great way to improve your riding.

Regardless of how inexperienced or advanced a rider is, the longe line is an excellent tool to improve position and control. It can help you develop feel for your horse’s movements and allows your instructor to receive more feedback as to how much you understand.

Here are some things to consider before longeing a rider:

  • Is your horse quiet and obedient on the longe line?
  • Does the horse have fairly smooth gaits?
  • Is he responsive to voice commands?
  • Is your tack and longeing equipment in good condition?
  • If you like these tips for improving your horsemanship, see what other helpful hints are available with the Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship report.

Are you skilled in longeing? This means that when longeing:

  • Your longe line never touches the ground.
  • You can stop the horse immediately and get to the rider quickly.
  • You can organize your longe line and longe whip without getting tangled up or accidentally coiling the line around your hand.
  • You wear gloves.
  • You longe in an enclosed area.

Many instructors who are used to teaching group lessons are able to use games and competition, as well as the dynamics of the group to keep the lesson lively and entertaining. On the longe line with one rider, the dynamic is different but many games can still be used. Instead of competing against other riders, the rider competes with his own performance, trying to improve upon it each time he plays the game. Many games and exercises used in group lessons can be adapted for the longe line rider. Below are some ideas to help keep longe line lessons creative and fun while allowing the rider to improve skills.

1.    Exercises: While the horse is moving, have the rider let go of the reins and perform arm circles, side swings, etc. to increase his balance and confidence. Try having the rider close his eyes for a short time or drop and pick up his stirrups without looking down.

2.    Touch the Part: Ask the rider to touch various parts of the horse (i.e. crest, poll, dock, barrel etc.), which stretches his muscles as well as helps him learn the parts of the horse.

3.    Red Light, Green Light: The instructor counts how many seconds it takes for the rider to stop while using the correct aids and then tries it again to see if the rider can break his record. (Using a “yellow light” between green and red can help the students prepare the horse for the transition so it is not so abrupt.)

4.    Ride-A-Buck: The rider is given a piece of paper or Monopoly money to put under his thigh and is put through some different gaits and transitions to see how long he can go without losing his money.

5.    Virtual Trail Ride: Have the rider imagine that he is on a trail ride and tell him of obstacles coming up that he must deal with. For example: “You’re coming to a steep hill so go into two-point position to take the weight off your horse’s back … You’ve come to a creek so give your horse a long rein so he can have a drink of water … There’s a low branch coming up, duck forward underneath it … You hear a bear growl behind you, shorten your reins and pick up a fast trot,” etc.

You can get more training ideas and tips when you read the Training Your Horse for a Better Relationship report.

6.    Simon Says: Have riders do various exercises, i.e. touching parts of the horse or saddle, sing, lengthen and shorten reins, take feet out of stirrups, perform transitions, etc. Start off slowly and increase the commands more rapidly as the game goes on. Instead of “Simon,” try using your name or the horse’s name.

7.    Name That Footfall: See how long it takes the rider to identify when a certain hoof is hitting the ground.

These are just a few examples of the activities you can do. We hope some of them will stir your imagination and lead to many fun and effective lessons on the longe line.