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Q: Dear Mary,

Do you longe your horses? If so, when would you do it?


A: First of all what is longeing? At its most basic it is having the horse move in circles around the handler. The handler uses a longe line and usually a longe whip to control the horse. We will ignore "free longeing" here as most people do not have the facility in which to do it.

Longeing can be either very beneficial or very detrimental to the horse, depending on how it is done. Traveling in relatively small circles for any length of time and especially with speed can cause severe damage to the joints and soft tissue of a horseís leg. Young horses are especially vulnerable to this.

Do I longe my horses? Most definitely!

When would I do it? I longe a horse when I need to assess his soundness. Making the horse walk and trot at the same speed in both directions and on varied footing can be an invaluable tool to help the trainer and vet decide if the horse is "off" and if so to pinpoint the exact location of the injury.

I longe a horse when I want to see how he moves without a rider. Does he drag his feet? Does he carry his head to the outside? Always to the left both directions? Does he readily take both leads?

I longe a horse to give him controlled exercise especially after he has been confined to his stall due to injury, bad weather, etc. Notice the word controlled!

As part of the training process I longe the horse to teach him verbal commands and accustom him to wearing tack. I might have someone longe a horse with me on him the first time I ride him or trot him. I might longe a green horse with tack on before I mount. This enables me to both assess his frame of mind and to work him down a little if necessary.

Mostly I use longeing to control a horse being ridden by a student of mine. This relieves the beginner rider of needing to learn how to stay on the horse and how to steer at the same time. It enables a more advanced rider develop confidence and an independent seat by practicing various exercises without relying on the reins.

I do not longe very young horses. They learn all they need to know quickly enough that I usually wait to teach them to longe when I begin their training for riding. I might teach one as a 2-year old but once taught I would avoid longeing him very much and would keep it down to a trot until serious training begins.

I try to avoid longing for exercise very much. Usually I can find an alternative such as hand walking/jogging or ponying from another horse. The horse must be controllable or the longeing becomes dangerous and damaging.

Since horses become bored with traveling in circles I donít dwell on longeing in the training process. I use it to accomplish what I need and then move on. After all, we are training the horse to be ridden, not to be longed. I rarely longe a horse that has been under saddle more than a couple weeks.

I feel that a person that needs to longe his horse before each ride month after month and even year after year has a problem. The horse usually either isnít getting enough exercise, isnít suitable for the riderís abilities or isnít trained well enough to consistently react in the proper way. It is better to longe than to get thrown but I would look for the reason for needing the longeing and try to deal with that as soon as possible.

I hope this answers your question. How a horse is longed is very important but will have to be covered another time.

Mrs. Mary Bayard
Owner/trainer Dodge Creek Stables
The American Blacksmith
Oakland, Oregon


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This entire web site is copyright © protected.  © 1996-2001 Geronimo & Mary Bayard, © 2001-2008 Mary Fitzpatrick
All rights reserved. Contact Mary for reproduction information & permission.