April 2010


Who hates the basics - you or your horse?

Start from the ground up to build balance and make the basics count

Learn at home with our Virtual Lesson Series


Introducing the
Virtual Lesson Series

Longeing in Balance
Part 1

Teach Longeing From the
Ground Up

Preparation for longeing - and other work - in correct posture

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“My horse hates to longe … detests dressage … loathes lateral work … can’t stand circles … grinds his teeth over groundwork.”

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I have heard someone tell me how much his or her horse hates some basic exercise. And I always think to myself, “Your horse hates it, or you hate it?”

Why in the world would a horse dislike any exercise he was carefully and respectfully taught to do? If the human thoughtfully plans and competently executes a progression of training exercises designed so each skill builds from what has been mastered before, most horses are pretty happy to play along.

Of course some skills will come more easily for each horse, depending on breed, conformation, temperament and experience. The build that makes rollbacks and spins a breeze might render extensions more of a challenge. The horse who loves to gallop cross country might find quiet, collected work more mentally difficult. But there’s no reason for any horse to take special exception to being asked to trot a correct 20-meter circle, to walk quietly when being led from the off side or to canter in civilized fashion over a pole.

More often, I believe, it’s the human who doesn’t like specific exercises. I see many horse owners shun any kind of groundwork because they buy the fiction that the only worthwhile work happens while mounted. Or they project their own discomfort with certain skills onto their horses because they never were taught or took the time to learn the nuances of the exercise. And what you don’t like, you’re not likely to teach your horse well, in detail and with patience and focus.    
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The longe line and roundpen are marvelous tools horsemen can employ to help horses learn all kinds of skills – balance, impulsion, lengthening and shortening of gaits, and so much more. But too many horses are sent out on the circle without having developed the basic skills they need to succeed in those exercises, to learn and develop strength, flexibility and self-carriage. They lack rhythm, correct bend and the ability to stretch and engage the topline; therefore, they are seldom able even to maintain straightness on a circle.

Experienced horse owners have all seen the results of this lack of preparation too many times – an off-balance horse racing around on the forehand with head up and back hollowed, while the handler either urges him forward or tries in vain to create some kind of control. And, just as often we’ve seen the other classic but undesirable longe posture, the horse counterbent at the neck, falling in on the inside shoulder and disengaged in the hindquarters. Self-carriage is impossible in those postures, which create unnecessary stress on the horse’s body and fail to prepare him to correctly carry a rider. (See the photos in the longeing introduction for posture examples.)

No matter what the background of the horses I work with – young or old, sound or recovering from injury, experienced or green – before they longe, they all get the benefit of some basic ground exercises that help prepare them to carry themselves in a circle. The principles behind these exercises are quite simple and rooted in common sense, and yet can make a profound difference in the quality of a horse’s balance, movement and even attitude. They are undertaken methodically, organized as a progression that starts with general flexibility and ends with a horse learning very specifically how to achieve self-carriage.                                                                                       read more    


Would you like to learn to help your horse develop the balance and posture necessary to perform ground and under- saddle exercises with balance, ease and brilliance? And would you like to do that with positive training techniques based on the realities of anatomy and biomechanics?

If your answer is "Yes!" you should try our Virtual Lesson Series, a multi-part progression of exercises that teach you and your horse how to release, relax and move correctly through the work that forms the basis of all riding disciplines. You'll get rounder circles, straighter lines and smoother transitions - and you and your horse will be working together physically and mentally.                                         
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