Use Longeing Correctly

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For years I've watched people longe horses and been surprised at the various techniques used. I've seen a lot of near-crashes, too, especially when you get two or three folks longeing and a couple more riding. it's pretty much an accident waiting to happen. (Praise goes to those boarding and show facilities who have designated longeing areas.) The most amazing thing to me, however, is that it seems more people longe their horses so they can ride them rather than as part of their training.

don't start yelling. I'm not saying you shouldn't get the kicks and bucks out, if you must, especially if you?ve got a high-spirited horse without adequate turnout. If you need to longe in order to ride your horse safely, by all means do it. But pay attention to what you're doing. You may very well just be adding to the problem by making the horse increasingly fit, and the longeing sessions will continue to get longer by necessity.

Longeing?s original purpose wasn?t to let a horse can run like crazy in a circle and waste energy. In fact, I think that's the last thing you want your horse to do. The tiny longeing circle ? even if the horse is out a full 30 feet from you ? can put strain on the horse's legs, especially at the canter. If you must longe your horse before you ride him, make the longeing session focus on control and settling down to work. And no longeing session should go beyond 20 to 30 minutes for any reason.

Longeing also can be used to judge a horse's soundness, and many veterinarians prefer this method over a hand-held trot, because it reduces the chance the handler will interfere with the horse's movement.

However, the true purpose of longeing is training. I sincerely hope the article in this month's issue by Performance Editor John Strassburger will help more people take advantage of it and/or improve their technique. Longeing isn?t as easy as it looks, but done well it can really improve your horse.

First and foremost, longeing will help build balance in your horse. If He's careening around the corners of the arena like a cartoon character running on a slant, proper longeing can help improve carriage, which he needs to bend. (And if you're not sure, get on a balanced horse who bends and ride him; trust me, you'll never want to go back to ?no bend? turns.) Longeing benefits both made and green horses, but you?ve got to know how to do it.

I know Associate Editor Margaret Freeman gives longeing lessons to students. I don't mean a lesson with the rider on the longe ? that's another topic completely ? I mean a lesson on how to longe your horse the right way. If you know someone in your area who longes their horses correctly, ask about a lesson or two, and be sure you have the right equipment, which means a 30- to 35-foot longe line and a whip with a long lash. Skip side-reins unless you know how to use them.

If you use longeing for its intended purpose, your horse will become more confident. you'll find it encourages the development and engagement of the hindquarters, and it will help him move in a good frame. And these are all qualities we want in our horses, regardless of our riding discipline.

Cynthia Foley
Editor-in-Chief