The careful art of long lining. Long lining or long reining is the next step in a type of in-hand distance work that starts with simple lunging. Following on from the work on the lunge, work on the long reigns offers countless more possibilities. Now the trainer can improve the bend, elevation and different school figures and work on the numerous gaits of high school movements. It also opens up possibilities in the training of the young horse. When the young horse still has underdeveloped spinal bones there is a danger of permanent damage if they are made to carry too much weight too early regardless of the size and height of the youngster. With long reining, training can continue on the ground and develop the basic concepts that will eventually be used when he is old enough to ride. But long reining isn't for the untrained. It is delicate since the lines are now connected directly to the mouth or nose; both very sensitive areas with the capability of causing great pain if not done properly.
There are a few different ways of long reining, all produce a level of training but not all of them consider the horse's well being. This post is an overview of these different ways and the results those ways will produce; these images are being used under fair and free education policy and will only be used as such. I'll let you figure which one is best.... In the image above the classical French and Austrian style of long reigning is presented. Both reigns are in front of the handler, the surcingle is present and the reigns are put through the correct rings. This considers the horse's comfort in training, the placement of the hands while riding and the handler's ability to change the horse's direction or slow him at a moment's notice. This is the style I have personally been trained in during my time in Canada and have had great success with it; although until recently I didn't give it as much credit as I should have and could have avoided a couple of broken bones if I did. In the image to the right the same classical style is presented but with the handler positioned behind the horse within the proper 6ft box she must stay within before tossing the far reign over the horse's back and present like the image above.
The classical masters use a very controlled method of long reining that is presented at only the highest levels of training. The horse used in the picture to the right has been trained by the classical methods explained at the start of this post. The reins are shortened and the handler stays within the 6ft box behind or just to the side of the horse where the pressure on the reins don't confuse the horse.
In the two images to the left and the image below is the American and German adaptation to long reining. The reins are attached lower on the surcingle, where side reigns would be attached, and the far reign taken around the haunches of the horse. This setup confuses the horse since the rein pressure is not equal on both sides as well as causing the horse's own movement to pull on the outside reign with every stride forward, causing pain and confusion. If the handler needs to release the outside rein there is a danger of the horse becoming tangled in it which will cause pain, panic and damage to the mouth or nose depending on what the reins are attached to. I am not a fan of this method since there is a high risk of confusion and fear within the horse since there is pain present in the nature of the setup.
The third setup is similar to the second (as seen to the left) but there is no surcingle present to hold the reins in place, so they freely hang. This setup is also too similar to lunging position and can cause too much sideways pressure on the inside reign which can also pull the bit through the mouth in the even the horse responds to the outside rein; to prevent this more pressure is needed on the outside rein to keep the bit in place. Since there is no direct reason for this pressure the horse becomes confused. There is also an increased danger of the outside rein becoming tangled in the moving legs of the horse. If the rein becomes tangled and the handler simply drops the rein to avoid injury the horse can still step on that rein and forcefully turn his head to the side while he moves forward causing serious injury to either the jaw or the nose; both very sensitive areas to begin with. People who use this method will argue that this is the same as the classical masters who don't use a surcingle for rein placement. Or they don't need the "fancy" equipment to do the same thing
The image to the left is a simple surcingle with three side rings and center top rings. The top rings are used to attach the crupper and bearing rein is needed. The bearing rein is an antiquated piece of equipment no longer used by responsible horsemen; but the ring remains. The first side ring is used to place the long reins. The adjacent ring on the opposite side is within the ascribed 10 inch box the rider's hands will be once eventually mounted. The second set of rings (like the center set) are used to attach driving equipment and breastplate. The third ring near the girth is used to attach either side reins or guide driving lines from the breastplate to whatever the horse is dragging or pulling; not used with the classical method of long reining.
Long reining or long lining can be incredibly beneficial or incredibly destructive. It is the responsibility of the handler or trainer to use this knowledge to help the development of the horse and not use it to harm. If the handler or trainer does not have the requisite knowledge to successfully use this method then it is also their responsibility to learn or not use it at all.
23 Years of horse handling and training experience. Have been a classical journeyman trainer for 15 years. Trains both specifically bred and rescue horses. Believes every horse can benefit from classical training at some level.