I clearly remember many, many years when I was doing my GCSE in Horsemanship (Yes, it was a thing, an actual school exam, equivalent to O levels, in Horses) at the local riding school. It was a two year course, a few hours a week and counted as one of your exams. Our instructor introduced us to long lining, and I was hooked.
She used her own mare, as none of the school ponies had been taught how to work on lines, but she was a firm believer. So, we all had a go at driving her mare around and around the indoor. Looking back, it was basic, Irish lining, but it planted the seed.
Roll on, over the years and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some true long lining geniuses who showed me what an amazing, powerful, art form it really is. Many of these people weren’t great teachers. They’d be working a horse, with me watching intently, and then hand me the reins. Initially, those poor horses had to try and decipher my fumbled attempts. This was the first, and truly one of the best lessons in conscious / unconscious competence.
These trainers had no idea how good they were at doing this, and generally no idea how to teach it. I bumbled my way along, and found my way on unconscious competence, over the years.
A few years ago, someone who I have utmost respect for, as a trainer and teacher, asked me to teach her to long line. I said, uh, I don’t think I can. I pick up the reins and it’s like coming home. I can see the horse isn’t straight, or is twisting, or loading a limb, and I can fix it. But, I don’t necessarily know how I did it. So began a process. I did teach her to long line. I’d do a bit, she’d watch and talk through what she thought I was doing. She’d do a bit, I’d watch and see what I could change in her body, with my words. My turn again, I’d focus on certain bits of my body, or where my attention was going. And, we made progress.
One day, her horse wasn’t doing a movement well or easily. I took the reins, and couldn’t solve the issue either. When I thought about why not, I realized that I was actually trying to put what I was doing into words, I couldn’t do anything right. As soon as I just let the thought go and trusted my instinct, the horse performed the movement beautifully.
So, why am I going on about all this now?
Long lining is such a vital part of my toolkit. Most issues can be resolved on the lines, and humans improve as riders too. Their hands get softer, their eye improves and clarity sinks in. Many people work their horses in hand, and then under saddle, but this crucial link is missed out, making the horse’s life and understanding more difficult. Long lining done badly can be incredibly harmful. And having ropes down, around the hocks is dangerous, but done correctly, and with the reins held up by the withers, its magic.
I have been teaching this more and more over the past few years, and everyone who discovers this skill is hooked.
Why I am talking about this now? Finally I’ve made a plan to teach this online… It’s in two sections, this, first section is explaining the basics – what it means, equipment you need, how to start. Next section will be the skills to start to change and improve your horse’s way of going. I’m excited to be able to share this magic, hope you’ll join me for the ride!
Sign up NOW! Part Two is just around the corner!