We already looked at round-pen longing of a very new horse, which is used to get his feet moving and teach him that we have control of his feet. It teaches him to respect us as leader. He learns to watch for our hand signal to direct him to move and what direction to move. We allow him to stop, and give him room to feel safe facing us.
Line-longing is built on round-penning PLUS disengaging the front and rear. With the horse on a 14′ lead line, we signal the direction and speed of travel (he already knows this signal from round penning) and send his front away from us (understands moving his front away from pressure) until he is circling at the end of the rope.
Then we use the rear-disengage maneuver (taught during previous exercise) to stop him with his face toward us. Line-longing cannot be done until the horse understands the cue to move away with his front in the direction we indicate and the cue to swivel his rear away from us on the halt.
Liberty-longing is without a lead. Many people confuse liberty-longing with round penning because they look alike on the surface. However, they are very different.
When round penning, the horse knows NO cues at all and is not accustomed to you, your tools, or how to take instructions.
Liberty-longing follows much of the same format as line-longing: Send him in the requested direction at the requested speed and then stop him with his rear to the fence and his face toward the handler. The horse already knows how to take the cue to move around the ring when you point the direction. He knows how to increase his speed when requested. And he knows how to disengage his rear to end the maneuver facing you.
Each lesson builds on the previous cues.
THE biggest mistakes I see novice trainers make is the constant pressuring of a horse in the round pen – whether it is round-penning, line-longing or liberty longing. Waving, whipping, threatening constantly as the horse trots or canters around the edge of the pen wildly.
In fact, many horses come into the round pen totally uncontrolled and crazy because they know it is the place where they will be forced to run around until they are tired. I don’t know if the trainers do it because it looks impressive or because it makes them feel powerful, or because they believe they can really wear a horse down, or they just have poor timing and judgement about the application of pressure.
It is my opinion that this type of exercise is counter-productive to training. After “Basic Round Penning” is accomplished, there is little need for fast-paced longing until you begin to methodically set the cantor pace. Hot horses tend to get hotter as their adrenaline and endorphins rise. Once that happens, you MUST wear them out to get control because you have flooded the “thinking” brain with the chemicals of the “reactive” non-reasoning brain.
A horse learns from the release of pressure not the constant application of it. If you pressure relentlessly, your horse will learn nothing. He will no longer look for the way to end it. He will either become a total fruit cake or a de-sensitized mess who never looks for a clue to good behavior.
My philosophy is that a horse should enter the round pen as controlled as possible, make a couple of gentle circles on the fence, practice a lot of “whoa”, pace changes and direction changes (just to refresh his respect for you), then get to the business of training – not running.
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