What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Understand what long lining is
- Be clear on the necessary ‘prerequisites’
- The benefits of having a competent ‘helper’
- Get started with the basics in long lining
Have you ever tried your hand at long lining? Many riders feel that the ‘barrier to entry’ is just a little too high for them to be successful with it. After all, there are now two ropes to get tangled up in…!
I feel that while long lining does require a certain level of skill from the rider (or the long liner), this is something that can be learned quite easily. This is especially true if there are a few key elements in place first.
In this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast I will explain what long lining is and how it can help both you and your horse. I will also go into detail about those ‘pre requisites’.
What is Long Lining?
The simplest way to describe long lining is to describe it as a ‘cross’ between lunging and riding. It literally uses elements from both schooling methods. It then combines them in a way that has the potential to be really beneficial to both horse and riders training and development.
An accurate ‘this is long lining’ description is that you are on the ground, more behind than beside your horse. There is a lunge line or long line in each hand. These lines travel from each of your hands to the corresponding bit rings on your horse’s bridle.
When long lining, you are behind the horse. Either directly behind or to the left or the right. Your position in relation to your horse depends on a few different factors, which I will discuss later.
While long lining, you are asking your horse to move forward ahead of you. Through your aids, you can ask him to go straight or to circle, bend or turn. Long lining also allows you to ask for transitions and you can work your horse over ground poles.
How Long Lining ‘Merges’ Lunging and Riding
When you are lunging, you are facing the side of your horse. If the lunge circle was a pizza, you are at the centre of that pizza and your horse is out at the ‘crust’. Your lunge line and lunging whip then make up the sides of your pizza slice.
Understanding how to communicate with your horse while lunging is an essential skill for long lining. Just like when lunging, your position and body language make up a huge part of the overall conversation when long lining.
However, as mentioned, you are asking these questions from a different perspective. Behind rather than beside. Meaning that you can use this different perspective to learn more about your horse and his way of going.
The riding element comes from the long lines themselves. They ‘should’ create a consistent contact between you and your horse. They are similar to the reins when riding.
Just like your reins when your ride, you have a responsibility to be clear, soft and consistent with your end of this contact when you long line.
The Prerequisites for Long Lining
I feel very strongly that riders should have a very good working knowledge and application of the principles of lunging before even thinking about long lining. If you are still getting tangled up in the lunge rope or lunge line, I would strongly suggest holding off long lining for a while!
In order for you to establish and maintain a consistent contact, you do need to develop your abilities to handle the long lines – before your horse’s mouth is connected to the other end!
I also feel that your horse needs to understand some of the basic principles of lunging as well. This will allow him to already have a basic understanding as to your requests while long lining. The basics are stopping, starting and basic transitions up and down. Yes, it will mostly be between halt and walk when long lining, but he does need to know how you are asking for both of those things!
A horse and rider who feel confident on the lunge will make the transition to long lining a lot easier. They will both be more at ease as it will feel more familiar to them.
Good groundwork is the other element which I feel is essential to successful long lining . Groundwork allows you to establish boundaries. It helps both horse and rider communicate better, because it requires a mutual respect.
What You Will Need to Get Started
From here, once the basics of lunging and groundwork are well established, I would say that you can begin turning your attention to including long lining in your schooling schedule. The big question that comes up here is ‘what will i need?’. I am a big believer in keeping things as simple as possible…
The big essential is to have two long lines or lunge ropes. Obviously one will attach to either side of your horse and run to your two corresponding hands.
Many riders will choose to use a roller or surcingle that has rings on it. You can use either of those. Or you can just use your saddle. What is important is that the long lines pass through either a ring, as with the roller, or the stirrup iron if using a saddle. If the line does not pass through, long lining becomes dangerous as the line can get tangled up in the horses legs.
If you are using a saddle, it is essential to first secure your stirrups to make sure they don’t bounce about. You can secure them to each other, via an extra stirrup leather, under your horses belly. I also feel that you should consider the length of your stirrups. If they are too long, they have the potential to bang against your horses elbows or shoulders.
I also feel that a good fitting helmet and gloves are essential for the rider (or long liner). You will be working at the ‘business end’ of your horse and often horses initially do not enjoy the feeling of the ‘outside line’ touching their hind quarters.
The Benefits of a Competent Helper
You should also ensure that any helpers you ‘rope in’, are also kitted out in full safety attire! I often feel that having a helper on the ground with you is one of the simplest and quickest ways to confidently begin long lining.
Your helper should be confident, knowledgable and be able to follow your directions! They are there to assist both you and your horse have a successful introduction to long lining.
Often you will find that your horse is a little less than confident stepping forwards on his own. Up to this point he will probably have had a rider either beside him or with him when he is schooling or working.
Now you are asking him to go forth alone! Take the lead. And he might not feel confident about doing that. This is where your helper can walk beside him initially to get the ball rolling.
Shifting Your Mindset
One of the biggest shifts that has to occur for both horse and rider in order to successfully long line is that of perspective. He is now out there ‘alone’. You are now ‘behind’ rather than beside or with.
Both you and your horse can benefit when working with the right helper. They can initially take over the ‘controls’, which will allow you both to get settled in.
Once you are both beginning to feel more comfortable, those ‘controls’ can start transitions from the helper to you. It is important that there is a transition period, otherwise your horse will become very confused.
But, slowly your helper will play more of a supporting role to your lead role… And your horse will feel more confident about stepping out alone and in front; leading the charge!
Happy Long Lining
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