June 2019

Long Reining-Beyond Basics

Back in March I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to the Intelligent Horsemanship quarterly magazine. I immediately said 'yes please'.

My thoughts were for an article showing more advanced long reining techniques for those who want to go on and include lateral work into their training and starting to long rein in a more classical style.

So I chose two very simple but effective exercises which are the foundation for all other work and broke each down into a step by step guide showing how to mobilise the horse's hind quarters and forehand in a way that promotes self-carriage and encourages the horse to take more responsibility for his own balance.

The excellent photos used for this article were taken by friend and sponsored (Scenar Southwest) event rider Isabelle Geran. (below).

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Here is an extract from the article:

In 1989 I was fortunate enough to see the Spanish Riding School perform at Wembley. Apart from the beauty and elegance of the Lipizzaner’s in their ridden display, the part of the performance that resonated most for me was the demonstration of Classical Long Reining. I remember thinking ‘I’d love to be able to do that’. The apparent ease with which the magnificent white stallion flowed through the movements with imperceptible aids from his handler blew me away.

I have worked with horses all my career, mainly eventers early on, and apart from a brief introduction to the very basics, long reining did not feature in my work. It was to be many years before I began to use long reining on a regular basis.

It was in 1997 that I first became aware of Monty Roberts and the methods he teaches, when I attended a demo where a pupil of his was using Join Up and long reining in a round pen to start a young horse. I immediately went home and began practicing on my own (very troubled) new horse. I achieved my first Join up the very next day.

I spent the next few years running my own yard, taking horses in for starting and schooling and producing children’s ponies. This is where I began to hone my skills with the long reins, realising that I could school and rebalance troubled horses and youngsters before I ever sat on their backs, which gave them a real head start. I gradually began to add elements that I would use in ridden work, encouraging horses to step through and engage the inside hind leg, to bend correctly and start to work in self-carriage.  This led on to thinking about lateral work on the long reins, encouraging the horse to step away from the inside rein and ultimately the leg once ridden, as even on a 20m circle, the horse needs to place his inside hind foot under his body in order to remain balanced. Even for the happy hacker, if the rider can leg yield easily into the side of the road or a gateway, it makes for a much safer ride.

My own horse at the time was extremely difficult under saddle, having been trained in an abusive way previously, however on the long reins – because he had no negative associations – he excelled. I was able to practice more advanced movements, working out how and where to place the reins to achieve what I was looking for. I could see exactly where he was placing his feet, how he was loading his limbs and where his balance needed to be.

I began to use what I’d learnt on client’s horses and realised how much more quickly their education progressed once they had been shown how to balance themselves. This seemed to boost their confidence too, as I firmly believe that an unbalanced horse feels vulnerable.

I spent 15 years in all helping horses with problems before moving on to purely classical training, which is what I now specialise in. In recent years I have been able to train my ex racehorse (Double Demon) to an even higher level on the long reins. Working closer to him in a more classical style creates even more finesse, with him mirroring my own movements, so that the aids a barely visible.

We have taken part in many long reining demos, including the Southwest Equine Fair, and Double Demon (Monty to his friends) has helped many students get a taste of more advanced long reining.

If you would like to read the full article but are not yet an IH member, you can go to www.intelligenthorsemanship.co.uk to join.