KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

Longe Line Logic

Round penning and longeing are two of the most important activities which you have available to you to establish yourself as the leader in your horse-human partnership. They provide a controlled environment where you can "tune up" the horse's attitude and at the same time establish your dominance in terms which the horse understands and naturally accepts... and more importantly, that the horse naturally and instinctively wants to follow.

This is the environment where you are stronger, faster and more agile than that 1000 pound horse... at least as perceived in the mind of the horse. The superior athlete gains respect in the horse world and the round pen and longe line provide relatively safe avenues through which you can earn this respect with relatively little force.

  TAKING THE MYSTERY OUT OF THE LONGE LINE

Before we discuss some specific uses of the longe line, you should review Round Corral Logic, where we discuss stance, active and passive hands, operating in the pocket and the drive line. Understanding these principles will make this section more sensible to you.

We're not trying to wear the horse down on the longe line. There may be times when a fresh horse needs to burn off excess energy, however our primary focus in longeing is to get the horse mentally and physically prepared for riding or other work. We want him to be attentive, thinking about where he is in relationship to the handler, what the handler is doing and paying attention to how he himself is moving. Longeing isn't about driving the horse around in fast, mindless circles. It's about tuning up the horse's body while at the same time waking up his mind.

To give you an idea what we're talking about, we'll take you through a longe line workout with "Junior," a 6 month old paint colt. We will start working horses at 6 months. At that age we won't do high impact work, we keep the lessons short and we try to keep them fun. If the youngster's attention starts to fall off after a bit of work, we ease up and wrap up the lesson. We also don't do a large number of repetitive lessons with these youngsters. This is kindergarten "introductory" stuff. A few short lessons, then some follow-up work a couple of times per month doesn't seem to make them sour and they have a fantastic head start when it's time to seriously start them. They have been through the drills, so we just shape 'em up, saddle up and have a great time.

This is Junior's third lesson. He has seen some of these maneuvers before. As I step up to him, my left arm is going to be outstretched to the left to "guide him off" and I will be twirling the free end of the rope overhand with my right hand. I am not going to strike Junior, but I will send energy with the twirling rope along the axis of the illustrated blue line to a point behind the "drive line," which runs down the center of the shoulder.

I don't twirl the rope at his rump. While he might also walk off if I do that, he might just as easily disengage his hind end away from me in order to face me, then if I'm not careful I'll be chasing his hind end around in a small circle and from the air it will look more like he is longeing me.

By working off the shoulder and stepping forward, I can get Junior to take up the slack in the rope and generally move away from me. I am still twirling the rope overhand along that "blue line." He is stepping away from me in front, and as you can see (note the blue arrow) he is also stepping across in front of his right hind with his left hind. Junior is actually doing a little bit of a forward side-pass in response to my actions. Note the float (slack) in the rope. He is walking off calmly; I'm not scaring him away.

If I didn't pay out sufficient line to Junior as he walked off or if I directed too much energy toward his hind end at this point he would simply disengage and face me. So the secret here is to send the front end of the horse into motion. (The rest of the horse will follow.)

Note my control (left) hand is suggesting movement to the left while my active (right) hand is still applying pressure just behind the drive line. If you notice the float in the rope (blue arrow), the slack is slanted to my left, indicating that the horse is moving forward and that my handling supports that forward movement. For the most part I am going to guide him forward with suggestions from my left hand. I will apply pressure by twirling the rope with my right hand only so long as he needs it. There's no point in nagging him to move forward when he's already doing it! However, if I want him to pick up speed or if he starts to fall off in his forward momentum, I'll remind him with a twirl or two.

Once he is moving forward well, I will feed him some more slack in the line and take up a position just behind the drive line. This is known as being "in the pocket." I'm really farther away from Junior than this image shows, and over time as he becomes more skilled and confident at this work, I want to increase the distance between us until I am nearly in the center of the round corral with him working smartly at the fence line. Until then, I will walk a circle which is slightly smaller than his to support him and to keep from starting him out on too tight of an arc.

This last image is another view of moving the horse forward. I am directing the rope slightly forward and into that spot behind the drive line. I can still control Junior's head if he does something silly. The twirling rope never touches him unless he crowds me, in which case he touches it! If he starts to ignore it, I will twirl it faster until it "sings." As Junior gets better, I will feed him more line and my twirling end will become much smaller. As he gains experience, he will need much less aid, eventually moving off and responding to just the movement of my hand.

I had to start this section out with some action sequences to catch your interest. The next part will discuss techniques of how to properly hold the rope (it does make a difference), followed by more advanced maneuvers.

Continue to Part Two


Important Note: If you take on the project of developing an untrained horse, everybody will want to give you advice. Don't act on any advice, including the ideas offered in this site, unless it makes sense to you and fits your individual situation. Your abilities and the sensitivities of your horse(s) may differ from the examples given. Be alert and rational with your actions so neither you nor your horse will get hurt. This information is offered as illustrations of what we do and the reader must apply common sense since he or she is solely responsible for his or her actions.

Happy trails!


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