Preparation for long reining
It is essential that you make sure that your horse is comfortable with the long reins before embarking on long-reining. It is far better if your horse never discovers that he can run off with the long reins; nasty accidents can happen if a horse bolts with long reins and then panics about them being behind them.
Work in a round pen, arena or a small well fenced paddock when you are preparing your horse and the first few times you long rein him.
1. I touch the horse with the end of the long reins all over his body – using the touch and move away technique if needed – and assess how the horse feels about the lines in general. I would want the horse to be relaxed about it before going any further.
2. I would attach just one line and then ask the horse to walk in a large circle with it dragging to one side. I would be on the same side as the line so that the horse can see that I am relaxed about it being there. I would make sure that I do this in both directions – the right side is often more worried than the left!
3. I would take the line behind the horse hindquarters and ask the horse to turn away from me and towards the pressure of the rope. If the horse can’t cope with the line being around his hindquarters I might spend some time de-sensitizing him to things around his hindquarters by passing a vet wrap bandage round from one stirrup to the other and then perhaps take him out for a walk.
4. Moving the head and shoulders away (one of the groundwork exercises you may have already done) - Once again establishing a neutral position on the way, I move along the horse until I am side by side with his bottom (imagine that your inside leg is taped to his) and then establish eye contact. I will often agitate the rope by rolling it towards the horse until he moves away. Once he moves forward I stop moving the rope but walk alongside his hindquarters. If the horse’s head comes round to me then I will put my hand up and push it out towards the horse’s head in order to send the head away. When I want the horse to turn towards me, I turn to face his bottom.
Horses can be long-reined very well in a Dually. It’s a good idea to put sheepskin over the rope section if your horse is susceptible to rubs. I tend not to long rein in a bit until the horse has not been accustomed to wearing a bit and trained to understand how it works. If you are new to long reining then you will want to wait until you feel really competent before long reining off a bit.
The main things to remember are:
1. When setting off throw one rein up towards the shoulder; use the same signal to increase speed and up your own energy too. Beware of throwing the rein up and pulling it back again – this will send a mixed signal to the horse.
2. For left turns put your hands together – take an armful of left rein, move to the right and raise your right hand up towards his head;
3. For right turns put your hands together, take an armful of right rein. Move to the left and raise your left hand up towards the head
4. To stop, stop your own body and when the horse commits himself to stopping give a release with the reins to say thank-you;
5. To stop him eating, agitate both reins against his sides until his head comes up – it is impossible to pull the head up
Emergency procedure – if he does try to take off, drop one rein and pull hard and low with the other.
Never go out on the road without another person with you to help to control the horse in an emergency. By law you should always have your horse under proper control and you could be legally responsible for the consequences of your horse’s behaviour out on the road – accordingly you should review your decision about a bit at this stage and make sure that the horse is responsive to the equipment that you use.
The benefits of long-reining
Note: By lunging I am referring to the practice of circling a horse around a fairly fixed point (a person) using one long rein attached to a cavesson, a bit or the headcollar. This includes lunging with and without side-reins.
Lunging is based on circles whereas long-reining can be done in any direction, forwards, backwards, left and right. It is also easy to direct pace and rhythm. Turns can be introduced to bring the horse’s adrenalin up or down. Lateral movements can be established using long reining. Too many circles are bad for horses especially young horses.
Long reining on a circle creates better balance than lunging because it supports both sides of the horse and any force is indirect (backwards and not sideways) whereas lunging creates a tangential force on the horses neck, encourages him to brace his neck against the force. Lunging is more likely to damage the muscles in the neck, back and pelvis. Horses that are lunged may canter disunited. Weighty lunging cavessons can also encourage the horse to tilt his head for counter-balance.
Long reining can be used to encourage the horse to move his weight back to his hocks and go into self-carriage through downward transitions and rein-back.
Long-reining allows you to have constant communication with the horse – enhancing your leadership. The horse’s movements can be directed by body language, traditional aids or voice commands or a consistent combination. Lunging horses can encourage them to “switch off” and distance themselves.
Long-reining recreates hand aids and therefore gets the horse used to “steering” and stopping and the proper feel of the bit /Dually. The reins can also be used to imitate leg aids when asking the horse to move away from pressure. Lunging does not mirror riding in any way.
Long reining desensitizes the horse to things around their back-legs, bottoms and in their blind-spot.
With the right safety precautions, you can long rein in the open or on roads as well as in a manege or round-pen. Horses can also be long reined over and through obstacles such as tarpaulin and cones, over trotting poles and small jumps. Long reining can be made very interesting and fun for the horse and handler.
Long reining also builds up confidence because the horse has to move ahead of you as it would when being ridden. It is also natural for horses to be “driven” as this is what the stallion in a herd would do.
A long reined horse has to take responsibility for its feet and choose (to some extent) where it walks. Asking a horse to pick its way through challenging terrain will help them to think about what they are doing and to build up special awareness.
Long reining can be used as a way of assessing a horse’s physical condition and performance. You can see how the horse is tracking up, check whether it is moving easily and evenly and whether there is any reluctance to turn in a certain direction or move in a given direction.
Long-reining is an excellent way of exercising a horse that cannot be ridden, needs variation in its work or is recovering from injury. Straight lines can be used where circling is not advised. Long-reining helps horses to build up their muscles. Long reining can be carried out on the flat or uphill and downhill and on most types of terrain.
Long-reining can be used to warm a horse up and decrease his energy levels before riding.
Long-reining is essential when training a horse to harness.