Thursday, February 17, 2011

Free Longeing

I've decided no more riding until I get a new saddle for Lilly (except maybe bareback). The Circle Y is on eBay, the work saddle is on Craigslist, and I'm hoping I can trade in the Collegiate when I purchase my new english saddle.

I contacted the tack shop today about having a saddle fitting done on Lilly but the saddle fitter wasn't available. I'm supposed to hear back from her within the next 24 hours. The website said to bring the horse to their shop, but I guess she'll also come out to your barn and bring a bunch of saddles with her. I'm not sure which option would be better... it would be nice to have her come to me but we would have more options if I went to her.

I decided to try free longeing Lilly in the round pen today. I've been dying for a round pen since I've had horses and I finally have one! I've been a bit slack in the longeing department with Lilly because in a regular arena she ends up dragging me all over the place and we never get much accomplished. In the round pen, she can't jerk me all over and have a good time... she has to maintain the circle and can only go as fast as the small circle will allow. I've never been one to longe before a ride, or longe at the show... I just ride instead, so we haven't done much longeing at all. Now that I'm doing it a bit more, I'm seeing the holes. :)

I thought it might take her a minute to catch on to the fact that we were longeing since there was no line, but she went right out to the rail and started walking. We started out going to the left and true to form she was faster than a speeding bullet. It didn't take her long to realize that it's hard work maintaining that size circle, so before long we had a pretty nice trot.

I've read that horses have a preferred gait. Lilly's preferred gait is definitely the trot and I think she'd trot forever if I let her. Even though I was asking for the walk, she wanted to trot, so each time she started to trot, I pushed her into a canter.

Once I had her responding and listening, I asked her to switch directions. She insisted on turning towards the rail instead of in to me and I'm not sure how to go about fixing that... maybe I should longe her in the round pen but still use a longe line? That way I can pull her in towards me? I'm not sure why she thought that was the proper way to change directions.

Going to the right was not nearly as successful as going to the left. Lilly's strong side is going left, and her weak side is going right. Today that was quite obvious. First, she refused to go right and kept turning into the rail to reverse directions. When I tried to get her turned back around going to the right, she decided to show off in hopes of taking my mind off what was really happening. She started doing beautiful side pass steps and wonderful backs that were very straight!

"Look at me, mom! Isn't this really good?"

It took a lot of work and a lot of help from my little friend the dressage whip poking her in the shoulder to get her turned around and moving forward and to the right. She finally got going in a canter but it was ICKY! She was bent so far to the outside that her nose was hitting the little spaces between the panels. I think once she thought about trying to escape, but then realized that wasn't a good idea. I have a surcingle but I sold my side reins... I wonder if double longeing her would help her bend to the inside? I do have driving lines.

After she had been moving around for a bit and behaving I asked her to stop and stand. Then I wiggled my fingers and told her to come to me. That's her favorite part of longeing and she has that exercise down!

Something I've noticed about Lilly is that she tends to stand a bit parked out. I always wondered if she was standing like that to take pressure off her ligament, or if it was more comfortable for her for another reason. My book has an exercise called "Lifting the Hind Legs" (which is pretty self explanatory) that I've been wanting to try with her because it's supposed to strengthen their hindquarters and help with posture. So while I had her in the round pen with my dressage whip, I decided to give it a try. It starts by teaching her to pick up her leg when I tap it with the whip, and then it progresses to a point where you're asking them to hold the leg up for 10 seconds.

I very rarely ever use whips... in fact, I don't even own a longe whip and only got my dressage whip last week, specifically for this exercise. Spurs are the same way. Anything that encourages forward motion is not needed with Lilly!

So I put her up against one of the panels and rubbed the whip on her leg. I wasn't sure how she'd react to having it touch her legs but she was fine. I started tapping lightly on her leg until she picked it up, then I praised and praised her. I tapped her ankle again and she picked her foot up right away. More praise! This time she turned around and gave me the best look... like she was saying, "Are you kidding me? THAT is what you wanted me to do!" I turned her around and we did the same thing on the right side. After just one tap she picked up her leg. I don't think she was impressed by the exercise.

She was very sweet today. I'm having so much fun working with her again. :)


  1. Sounds like fun! I don't have a round pen so can't comment on that.

  2. Glad you had a nice workout. Coupla things:

    "It didn't take her long to realize that it's hard work maintaining that size circle, so before long we had a pretty nice trot." Cuz she was bored.

    "Even though I was asking for the walk, she wanted to trot, so each time she started to trot, I pushed her into a canter." Ask for a reverse. Much more work for her to turn that bus around. Reverse often, and mean it.

    "She insisted on turning towards the rail instead of in to me" Instinct causes this.

    "I'm not sure how to go about fixing that" Anderson has a whole bunch of stuff on this. I'm not one to care which way they go, just Go.

    Longeing is a huge deal to me. Huge. It opens a line of communication between you and the horse. Body language, and the ability to speak it in horse terms is a very rewarding thing. When the both of you "get" it, it can be amazing.

  3. I like to have a lunge whip, not so much for forward, but to keep them out on the rail. Paj is good, but Reggie will get a little too close to the human without a lunge whip, and that's not safe.

  4. I was even in short sleeves, Kate, so we had a good time!

    Thanks for the comments, Cedar. Is bored bad or good? She's always so forward, that I was really enjoying the slower trot.

    About the turning, I don't care which way she goes either, but I wasn't sure if turning into the rail was a big no-no or not. I won't worry about it either then. It'll be a lot easier to use the reverse to communicate with her than pushing her into a canter anyway because I think she enjoys the canter part of it.

    I can definitely see how it could be quite rewarding and a great tool for many reasons. Now that I have a round pen to work in, I believe I'll be doing it more.

  5. I miss your comment, Terry! Maybe it's because Lilly is such a bad girl on the longe line, but I find it gets in my way and I prefer to just use the end of the longe line instead. I can see how it would come in handy for more well behaved horses. :)

  6. Clinton Anderson talks a lot about turning in towards you as opposed to the outside - I'm not sure that there's really a benefit either way. Just make her MOVE.

    I'm no so sure that bored = bad. When they trot so forward so fast, they are usually strung out to a degree so you're encouraging the muscles to develop incorrectly. If she slows it down, she's probably (hopefully) collecting in and therefore training the right muscles the right way.

    Good luck on selling your saddles. I HATE saddle fitting.

  7. Ha! Lucky you! Milo just did not "get" it when I asked for him to pick up his hind legs with that exercise. I think its all that Clinton Anderson desensitizing I did with him...

  8. I have gone back and forth with the longing. When I worked for the WP trainer, we longed and longed and longed...

    I was pretty thrilled when I moved to the reining/cutting place and No longing!

    I teach all my horses to longe, at least to the point they won't drag me around, just in case I ever went somewhere and needed to do that with them. But I haven't worried about the finer aspects of it until recently. I'm back to working on those.

    I think CVPH is spot on.

    I'm a 'reasons' person. If I'm going to do something I like to know why I'm doing it and what the benefits are. When Lilly doesn't want to listen to your cue to walk, she has tuned you out. She is just out there doing what she wants, so by forcing her to change directions, you are accomplishing 2 things-first she has to pay attention to you and second it makes her learn to rock back on her hindquarter and gather up. Speed control comes when a horse learns to rock back on their hindquarter and balance themselves. If you are getting her to roll-back over her hindquarter it will help strengthen her loin and all of her hindquarter. I don't really care whether a horse rolls back to the inside or into the fence at first, but as they progress, I do prefer them to roll to the inside. I look at it as having gained control of moving my horse around. (I like Clinton Anderson, but a lot of us were doing the very same things when he was still in diapers-LOL ;-)

  9. Sorry-I hope you don't mind if I prattle on a little more...

    Lilly bracing to the inside going to the right, just means she is unbalanced. I lot of horses do this when they begin working in round pens.

    If I'm free working a horse and I see they are doing this, I work on a lot of transitions to help them build balance. If Lilly can trot the round pen going to the right and is upright, you can ask her to pick up the lope, let her lope a few strides and as soon as you notice her bracing, ask her or let her break to a trot. When she regains her balance and upright position, ask for the lope transition again. Up, down, up, down. If you just mess with that exercise you'll get the feel for it.

    If you want to help her figure it out a little. You can saddle her with your work saddle, bridle her and run your right bridle rein through the cinch ring and tie it with a slip knot. Start out with no bend in her neck, just take the slack out of the rein so she has to keep her head straight. Just loop the other bridle rein around the horn and leave plenty of slack in it. As Lilly learns to travel in a straighter frame going to the right, you can add a little bend by taking more slack out of the inside rein. It's just a little at a time and the process can take a couple of weeks or more. I can do pictures if you want?

  10. I really appreciate everyone's comments and suggestions! Looks like I have a lot of work to do, but I feel much better about all this now that I have a round pen to work her in. I can definitely see the benefits to showing her how to longe properly... I'm sure it will help us both when she's saddled up!

    Thanks, Jill. I look forward to the day where Lilly is bored and plodding around the round pen. LOL

    Is Milo getting the hang of it now? Lilly's first attempt was more of a stomp like she was telling me to stop, but then after that she would just pick up her foot.

    Thanks Cowgirl!! I guess I'm going to have to find out what works best with Lilly. She definitely likes to do her own thing when we're longeing, so I need to find a way to get her attention back on me.

    After all that time off, I know she's lost a lot of muscle tone, so this will probably take us a while but I have a lot of options and ideas for her now.

    I really appreciate it!

  11. I'm a round-pen newb, for sure, but I found that just a few sessions made a positive impact on my relationship with Junior. When I did the clinic on round penning with the Equine Behaviorist, she stressed the body language of the horse. Turning away from you is more disrespectful and evasive than turning in towards you. Turning away is more fearful or defensive, while facing you is kind of like asking for their next instruction - showing they are paying attention and working with you willingly, rather than just being defensive to your movements. Horses, if they can't get away, will try to put their rear (kicking power) towards the danger. I watched the Anderson DVD's and it seemed like he was saying the same thing. But like I said, I'm a newb. :)

    I also watched this series:
    which was suggested by my reader, Breathe. I found it interesting and informative.

  12. Well, BrownEyed Cowgirls summed it up better than I think I could have.

    To address your question about bored; what I meant was that she slowed down because she got comfy (bored). Not because of what you asked of her. Round penning and lounging is not something you can learn over the net, nor from watching some marketing genius's video. It comes with time and practice and understanding of why you are doing what and when to do that what. Make sense?

    Anyway, keep working at it. Change directions often, but do it for a reason, not because you read it here. If she's too rushy, change. If she's looking at the birdies, change. Your body language is HUGEly important during this. Know where your shoulders are, your hands, your eyes, your rope or whip. Realize what level of energy is created when these things are in a different position.

    I'm rambling. Google Marv Walker. Email him for his writings called "The Bonder". Read, rinse, repeat.

    Too address Silly Pony and the evasiveness: well Hell Yeah. YOU are the Alpha with the rope or whip and all the demands. There will be evasiveness. Grab a lawn chair and watch herd dynamics for a few hours (days, weeks) and see the evasiveness to the Alpha. There's not a lot of "ok, I'll face your bad ass ears and pig eyes and big teeth until you direct me." Nuh-uh. They don't work that way.

    Again with the rambling...

    Anyway, in2paints: keep trying, keep asking, and never stop learning.

  13. And another thing: round penning is NOT just standing in the middle waggling a rope or whip and clucking. It can be a darned high level of activity, especially in the beginning. Feet are supposed to move NOW. Your energy needs to make that happen NOW.

    Enjoy the workout. The results are worth it.

  14. I have to disagree with the comment above. There is a HUGE difference between a horse who turns toward you and one that turns away. A horse turning away from you is one that is evading you and turning as a result. A horse that turns toward you is accepting your leadership and listening to your cue while demonstrating trust.

    I wish I had a round pen because the liberty work was really awesome for my relationship with Oz. I'm not an NH follower, but free longeing is one of my favorite concepts. Traditional longeing is something I rarely do except to teach an unbalanced horse to work in a frame, but round pen work is AWESOME for finesse and obedience.

  15. Thanks again everyone for the comments. That's why I enjoy this blog so much... so many ideas and opinions and it's pretty amazing how such different ideas can work for a variety of different horses.

    I think I like the idea of "round penning" more than longeing and I'm soaking all this in!