Saturday, February 21, 2009

Step Two: Long lining

I'm sorry to say I don't have many photo examples of long-lining (ground driving). I believe it's an essential step before mounting, because it teaches all the basic bit cues, as well as the go-forward cue of a touch on the rump from the buggy whip. Then, when the time comes to climb on, all that is new is the rider's weight in the saddle--they already know whoa, left, right, eeeasy. and the tap of the dressage whip on the rump.
This is Adagio--"Dodger." He's actually the older brother of both Maddie and Kate--out of Misty, Maddie's dam, and by Max Tardy, Kate's sire. This was at a private treaty sale, early in the spring of his two-year-old year. (Lousy lighting in the indoor accounts for the poor picture quality.)
I start with him on the lunge line, but you can just see the other line hanging off the horn on the far side of the saddle.
Next, I drop the second line from the far side and behind his hocks, and return to lunging circles, but now with some pressure on both sides of his mouth. Having been blanketed for a couple of months during the late winter (to start shedding them out), the babies are all well-accustomed to having the sensation of straps below their tails. Here the lines are run through a ring tied to the saddle strings, but sometimes I just run them through the stirrups (which I tie together under the horse's belly). Dodger is listening, soft in the bit, and bending nicely.
With the lunge line, the horse needs to turn inward to reverse; with the long lines, he has to turn to the outside. It is during one of these outside turns that I move in behind and just move them on forward. It may seem that I'm a bit too close, but having worked with all of my babies since they hit the ground, I am pretty attuned to their body language. I've never had one of mine kick out at me. I would probably be farther back on a horse I didn't know as well. We'll do some circles and serpentines at the walk to start off.

Then, depending on how fit I am, some similar trot work. I really like how Dodger is reaching forward into the bit and, again, bending on the curve.

At home, once I feel they've got the idea, I usually do my long-lining out in the neighborhood--either down the road or on the dirt irrigation-canal path. We stop at the neighbor's house and chat, for patience practice, and at the mailbox for compliance with objects. We ignore (hopefully) noisy dogs and chickens. We cross puddles and irrigation "creeklets." That way, when I do ride them out, again, nothing much is new except for the fact that I'm on board.

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  1. You make so much sense to me. I would really like to try long lining, but I have no experience with it whatsoever, and I don't want to mess up. How did you learn?

  2. dp--
    I tend to learn by doing. I had a very good friend in Montana who taught me driving. It's best, as with learning to ride, to put a beginning handler with an experienced horse. I would think Tonka would be great--wasn't he raced at one time? He should know what to do! (tho he may want to do it fast!)
    It's a matter of just building the skill set and instinctive body moves. It will feel really awkward at first (remember the first time you tried to lunge a horse?).
    One thing you want to make sure of is your safety: too long of lines is a hazard for getting your feet tangled up! I generally use two different colored lunge lines, and let them trail behind me, but for a beginner it might be better to go with "real" driving lines that are buckled together in a loop, like English reins. Then you stay at the back of the loop (no trailing on the ground to scoop you off your feet) and can let them slide left or right as needed on your circles and turns.
    If you try, let me know. Good luck!

  3. Very interesting, again. It's a long time since I was involved with the horse world, but I have never even heard of long lining. No internet in those days. It makes sense to me as well. Probably a very dumb question, but would it work with English saddle and bridle as well?

  4. Yes, it can be done with an English saddle, with the stirrups tied up. Some folks use a surcingle, either alone or over the saddle, but I like to be able to move right on with my session to weighting the stirrups, standing at the mounting block, and maybe leaning over their back and doing some "flapping and slapping." So I prefer the western saddle, as that is what I initially ride in (suede seat for grip, saddle horn for grab!).