Monday, February 9, 2009

Long Lining - Cues with the Lines

For review in this series on ground work, we started the subject of long lining with More on Ground Work - Long Lining In that post we talked about the equipment used to long line (sometimes called ground driving) horses.

In Ground Work - Some Long Lining Basics we went over the different ways in which the lines can be run. We also went over a brief explanation of some of the reasons for those different choices.

In Frame versus Function we discussed what we actually want to accomplish with the lines. Making sure we start off with building blocks the horse can understand so that we can actually teach our horse to use itself to its utmost potential.

There is one more thing I would like to address before I go into the specifics on starting young horses in the long lines. I thought it would be appropriate to first talk about how Richard and I use the lines, themselves, to get the desired response from the horse. Since the horse learns more easily with a consistent cue repeated over and over in the same fashion, having an "format" on how to use the lines will help make things clearer for the horse.

I was taught both in riding and long lining the inside rein was for head set (frame) and the outside for speed (impulsion). In the case of long lining on a circle the inside rein is also for steering. To reverse directions, of course, that would change to the outside rein to convert the horse over to circle in the opposite direction and the rein would become the "new" inside rein.

When it comes to speed, most people I know think about slowing down, half halts, that kind of thing with that outside rein. But in the beginning of the long lining process those kinds of cues are farther down the road. I think it's safe to say Richard and I both believe that outside rein is the one most important in the long lining process since it is the one used for to create impulsion.

Since impulsion is the key to frame, you must have that impulsion before you ever think about slowing the horse down or rounding it up. Using that outside line to drive the horse forward will usually get the desired response. Sometimes a longe whip might be added to that equation to increase impulsion as well.

To help the horse to understand what type of impulsion we might be asking for, Richard likes to keep that outside line resting over the hock of the horse for both the walk and the trot. If he wants the horse to increase impulsion, Richard "flicks" the horse on that curve of the hock with the outside line. The tap that occurs as the flick travels down the line and reached the hock tells the horse to step deeper underneath itself to get away from that pressure. The result is more impulsion from the horse.

Sometimes it will take several "flicks" for the horse to step deeper but that's ok. Being consistent and not letting up until the horse "gives" more forward movement will help the horse understand exactly what the request means.

If the horse should break into the canter/lope, Richard brings the horse back down (usually with his voice in a "whup!" sound) to the desired walk or trot making sure that line stays resting on that hock. Then he will ask again repeating the process until he gets the requested response from the horse.

When asking for the canter or lope Richard allows the line to drop down below the hock onto the back of the cannon bone/lower leg. Once the line is in this new position he will send that "flick" down the line to ask for this new gait.

Again the horse might require more than a single "flick" to achieve the desired gait. Richard just keeps asking until the horse gets it. Then the cuing stops. The release of the pressure of the cue is another clue for the horse about the desired response. With consistency the horse will soon figure out that the cue lower on the leg means the canter or lope.

To bring the horse down from the canter back to a trot, Richard uses his voice and a "whup" tone. Then he flips the line back up to the horse's hock to continue working at either the walk or the trot.

Cuing the horse with a different placement of the line against his/her leg gives the horse another clue as to what is being asked. That "flick" of a line isn't necessarily about faster or breaking gait but about stepping deeper and the position of the line is about the gait being requested.

This picture has the line run across that curve above the hock. I tried to get one at the canter but everything is too blurry to tell. I still haven't figured out how to change the settings on my new camera to fix this.

Before we begin on the process of starting a young horse in the long lines, are there any questions on any of the posts up to this point?

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  1. This is very helpful. My two biggest problems with Gabbrielle (when longeing on a single line while I stand in the center) are that I have to stand way back and focus on her tail, because as soon as I turn my head or torso toward her shoulders or take a step closer, she stops and turns to face me. Also, I'm trying to teach her to lope in a controlled manner, but each time I move her up to the lope, she gets all spastic on me and her legs shoot out in all directions as she slips on the ground trying to go as fast as she can. As soon as I say "easy" to slow her down, she stops abruptly and turns to face me.

  2. NuzzMuzz, Sounds like she is really paying attention. That's a good thing. Lots of horses are sensitive about approaching their shoulder or crossing their path with a look.

    Also, what you are describing as getting all spastic on you sounds like what Vee was doing. It turned out to be caused by her short striding at the lope causing a problem with her balance. When we got her moving deep underneath herself where she belonged, she was able to slow down and have more control to lope.

    I wonder if Gabbrielle might be doing something similiar. If so, the use of the long lines and really pushing Vee under herself with that outside line at the walk, trot, and canter really fixed the problem. We spent lots of time on it getting her to the point she stopped that short stride.

  3. I love line driving my colts. I think it's really helpful, and I always do it when breaking a colt. I used it on my now four year old gelding, and I belive it helps out with a lot of other things down the road. I like to set up cones and such to go around, once we get more advance. I will start out in the round pen and then I move to an arena, where I do small "obsitcal" type coarses!!

  4. Amen girl! I love starting my young horses on a long line. Keep up the great advice. I love to review ideas to keep them fresh and you sum them up quite nicely!

  5. You've done a great job of describing how these long lines help in training a young horse.
    My question is: When are you and Richard coming down to help me?
    You two are a great asset to our blogging community. Thank you for all of your valuable time.

  6. Andrea, I agree with you that long lining can be useful at all stages of a horse's training. It can be particularly useful in fixing issues too. Richard and I both utilize obstacles as well.

    Danielle, Long lining is a great tool in starting young horses. I think it makes things much easier for the horse to learn without having to deal with the weight of a rider.

    Molly, ROFL, I don't know about us coming to you, but you're sure more than welcome to come visit us for some one on one.

    I'm glad that these posts are helpful to you. If you do any work with Bella in the lines.......get pics!