This spring, I had the opportunity to participate in a clinic with Deb
Laderoute. Deb is the first woman to drive a four-in-hand for Canada
at the World Equestrian Games, and her experience and knowledge made
for a very educational weekend!
I had mentioned to Deb that I was trying to get a shoulder-in with Hawk
on the long lines, but was struggling. The next thing I knew, with Deb’s
help, Hawk was doing shoulder-in and haunches-in to both directions, even
his much stiffer right side. Very exciting! Not only will shoulder-in
help with his suppleness, but it’s a building block towards some more
collected, higher level dressage movements.
Click here for a short video of Hawk figuring out shoulder in on his stiff
Long lining can be a valuable training tool for all driving horses,
regardless of their experience. When training a horse to drive, we all
(I hope) do lots of ground driving to make sure our horses understand
the basic cues they need prior to actually pulling a cart, but long
lining can further prepare them, getting them used to contact, correct
bend, transitions, working off their hindquarters and, as a result,
proper head and neck carriage. Another advantage to long lining is that
you can see exactly how the horse responds to what you’re doing.
Work on the long lines can also be used to introduce a new concept to an
already broke horse. A couple years ago, when I wanted to start doing
some canter work with Hawk in preparation for moving up to Preliminary
in combined driving, I took him back to the long lines to establish a
canter cue. Once it was solid there, it was simple and straightforward to
transfer it to the cart.
You don’t need a lot of extra equipment to be able to long line your
horse. You can use the back saddle and crupper from your driving harness,
as well as your driving bridle (though many people prefer to work in an
‘open’, non-blinkered bridle, especially with a green horse). I use a
long lunge line as long-lines, with a second snap attached to the other
end. Buckle or tie down the tugs (shaft loops) and run your long lines
through there instead of the regular terrets. Keeping the reins low
allows you to control the horse’s hindquarters and prevent your horse
from turning to look at you and wrapping himself up like a present.
Long lining is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced as it can
be a struggle to figure out how to deal with the extra reins and a longer
whip, but the benefits to your horse are great! Unlike with lunging, you
have the outside rein to keep your horse on the circle, while you use
the inside rein to help him learn to balance and bend.
For those who are interested in learning about long-lining, here are
some of the books I enjoy:
Lungeing and Long-Reining by Jennie Loriston-Clarke
This is an excellent step-by-step book that covers everything from
equipment to introducing your horse to every step of the process. It
is aimed towards riding horses, but the stages of training are identical
until the point where they introduce a rider and we introduce a cart.
This book really covers everything, from halter training a foal, to
common lunging issues and how to fix them, to jumping and introducing
the higher level dressage movements. I had some difficulty tracking down
a copy of this book, but it is excellent! If you are only going to buy
one book on long-lining (unlike myself!) then this is the one to get!
Longeing & Long Lining the English & Western Horse by Cherry Hill
101 Longeing & Long Lining Exercises English & Western by Cherry Hill
As with all Cherry Hill books, these companion books are very
comprehensive, covering aspects of horse care in addition to setting
out a complete training program for your horse, always with an emphasis
on safety. The 101 Exercises book is on a spiral ring, designed to be
hung on a nearby fence and easily referenced. Each exercise includes a
diagram and description, as well as information on what the benefits
are and how to resolve potential problems you may encounter.
Long Reining - The Saumur Method by Philippe Karl
For those who are interested in training towards the high school
dressage movements this is the best book I’ve found on the subject.
Often books simply describe what the movements are, with very little
information on training to achieve them. This one is far more
comprehensive. The book begins with the history of classical dressage,
and very interesting information and diagrams on the mechanics of the
horse’s movement. Starting with initial training on the lunge and
long-lines and progressing to the advanced movements, the book outlines
the methods used at the French National School of Equitation, with many
photographs to accompany the explanations.