If you want to long-rein your horse but are not sure how to get started, then follow our simple guide!
Long-reining is where the handler places themselves behind the horse, with a lunge line in each hand attached to the bit for control. If you know how to ride, then you can quickly learn how to long-rein as well. It is like riding from the ground as you need feel, contact and the correct body position to do it correctly. However, if possible, practising the techniques on a quiet, experienced horse is recommended.
Long-reining is seen as an intermediate step from leading a horse to riding one and is an excellent way of ensuring a young horse understands the basic aids before a rider is put on board. Much can also be gained from long-reining an established horse, allowing the handler to work on specific areas and address any problems that may arise when ridden under saddle.
If your horse can be lunged, then he is ready to start long reining as he will be used to the voice commands and accustomed to wearing a bridle, saddle or a roller. One of the advantages of long reining, as opposed to lunging, is that you can work on straightness, a fundamental part of your horse’s training and one that is difficult to achieve.
Long-reining has numerous benefits for both horse and rider:
When long reining for the first few times, make sure you have someone to assist you who is competent in handling horses.
Start slowly at first, treating your horse as though he has never long-reined before. Sessions can last for around ten minutes, to begin with, building up gradually to about half-an-hour.
The key to good long-reining is your position.
Have your assistant by your horse’s head the whole time to provide reassurance and to reinforce your commands. The lead rope can be unclipped, once your horse is confident.
Once your horse is moving around the school, start to ask for changes of rein:
To change direction:
As you wind down your long-reining session ask your horse to halt. Gently bring the right rein over the top of your horse's back and walk to his left side, standing by the head. The lines are then unclipped and removed from the bit and the saddle or roller.
Here we look at some of the problems you may encounter while long reining and how to correct them.
By being behind your horse, you are in a position to drive him forwards. If your horse lacks impulsion, use your voice along with little flicks of the lunge lines against his sides. If this doesn’t work, carry a lunge whip to reinforce your aids. Do lots of transitions and use your voice to praise him when he responds. A lazy horse will also benefit from going outside to liven him up a little before working in the arena.
Although you want your horse to be forward going, you don’t want to be hanging on for dear life either! Make sure you are walking at a pace that allows you to keep up with him but as with riding, don’t let him pull. Make lots of transitions from walk to halt, changing the rein often as well as performing school figures to help him soften into the contact.
If your horse goes above the bit in a hollow outline, try fitting a pair of side reins loosely, so he has a stable contact to work into along with the long lines.
A stiff horse benefits enormously from doing suppling exercises without the added weight of a rider. Do lots of school figures including serpentines with 6 to 8 loops, maintaining impulsion for effective results.
Add variety to your long reining sessions by steering in and out of cones, stopping in between poles and going over poles.
Once your horse is confident in the arena and you have control of his brakes and steering, you can think about taking him outside but not on the road. Venturing out is hugely beneficial to a young or spooky horse as they must face situations on their own, thus gaining confidence.
Make sure you have your assistant with you, starting off the same as you did in the arena with a lead rope clipped to the bit to give both you and your horse reassurance. When your horse appears confident, the lead rope can be unclipped, and your helper can walk by his side.
By long-reining your horse regularly, you can help improve his way of going, teaching him to engage and strengthen the back and become more balanced. Many exercises taught from the ground aids the learning process when riding.