To Get the Most from this Lesson:
- Outfit your horse in a rope halter with a lead that's at least 14 feet long. I prefer my own halters, which have extra knots on the noseband for improved responsiveness, but any of the stiffer rope halters will do. If you don't have a training stick, you can make one of your own (using a sturdy, four-foot-long stick with a six-foot-long detachable rope string), or else use a dressage whip.
- Take the necessary time to teach your horse these maneuvers. Short training sessions every day (say, for 20 to 30 minutes) are preferable to longer, less frequent ones. If you can train only three days a week, make them consecutive days, to enable your horse to build on the prior day's lesson.
If you've followed my series in the January-March 2004 issues of Horse & Rider, you're learning to avoid fighting with your horse. When he does something you don't want, such as spooking or jigging, you take the energy he's created and redirect his feet to teach him something positive (e.g., how to be supple and more responsive). In the process, you kill his appetite for the wrong behavior.
Sometimes, though, if your horse is being particularly resistant, you may need a "time out" to relax him and sharpen his respectfulness. By controlling his feet in a series of turns that I call "longeing for respect," you activate the thinking side of his brain and remind him how he's supposed to respond to you: with lightness and willingness.
You can longe for respect before you head out on the trail (in fact, I recommend it), and you can carry a 14-foot lead with you (if you don't have a mecate rein) so you can repeat the exercise, if needed, during your ride. The respect and lightness you foster through longeing will carry over when you remount and ride on.
This time, I'll teach you the in-hand exercises that prepare your horse for my form of longeing. These exercises include desensitizing him to training tools, disengaging his hindquarters, disengaging his forequarters, and backing.
Next, in Longeing for Respect: Circling you'll learn how to use these in-hand skills to send your horse onto the longeing circle, and then have him stop and face you. In Longeing for Respect: Changing Directions, you'll complete the lesson by learning how to direct your horse in smooth, continuous, repeated turns on the hindquarters while on a circle. Or, read my entire 10-lesson series in Training on the Trail, available at HorseBooksEtc.com.
This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Horse & Rider.