An alternative to longeing or riding, long lining can be an effective warm-up and a helpful training tool. With practice, anyone can develop this skill. To be a good long liner, a person needs to be able to balance his horse on the bit at walk, trot and canter when longeing, "read" the horse to know when he needs to improve his balance, know when to give and have a feel for the energy flowing through his hands. These prerequisites, along with the desire to see the horse balanced, are the start to effective long lining.
Beth Baumert, Dressage Today's technical editor, spoke with popular dressage judge Bo Jen? at a clinic and gathered these insights about long lining.
Beth Baumert: Can you say something about the ease with which horses give you collection while using long lines? Most riders, even those with very good help, never get the quality of collection you're getting with some of these horses even in one day.
Bo Jen?: In my opinion your riding can easily go one step ahead when you ask for collection with long lines. The horse will probably be more in front of the leg and more correctly collected than you can get him from riding.
BB: Is it that the weight of the rider is not impeding him in long lines?
BJ: It depends upon who is long lining and who is riding. I have a horse that doesn't like long lining, and he can do everything well with the rider. It depends on the horse. The horse I'm referring to is mentally strong, and he wants to protect himself. He knows his rider and is confident under saddle. But most horses do better collection with long lining when they haven't learned collection from the back. If the horse has learned it under saddle, it might take a bit of time to get his attention.
BB Technically the lines just give you control over the forehand, right?
BJ: No, although it may appear that way. The lines, the whip, your voice and body placement actually give you control over the placement of the whole body.
BB: Can you explain how you go from flexion to bending? Since the long liner has no leg, what makes the bend?
BJ: You have to be sure the horse understands the half halt on the outside rein, because that, along with the inside flexion, gives you bend. If the shoulders come in and the haunches don't go out, there is bend. Always start in the direction in which it is easy for the horse to flex. You can do it on a circle or on a straight line from a corner.
BB: What about half pass, haunches-in and revers?
BJ: These movements don't develop any more collection than shoulder-in. Shoulder-in is very necessary, but half pass is more for exhibitions. It's a bonus. You can try it in walk, but it's not so easy because the aids are very confusing. If you have a very educated horse that has done half pass under saddle, you can try it, but it is a whole different art.
If you want to try half pass, start with leg yield and change the flexion to the direction of travel. When that's easy, you can ask for even more flexion and then the bending comes with the flexion. When you can do it in walk, try it in trot. You can also do haunches-in on the wall in preparation for half passes.
For more about long lining, see the three-part series, "The Art of Long Lining," in Dressage Today magazine, April-June 2008. To order back issues, call 301-977-3900.
Bo Jen? is an FEI "C" judge, a judge educator in his native Sweden and a member of the International Dressage Trainer's Club. He began at Flyinge, the famous Swedish national stud, in 1973, where he learned from Maj. Anders Lindgren and Walter Christensen. Jen? is still deeply involved at Flyinge, and he continues to give many clinics in Scandinavia and throughout the United States.