Training Exercises: Longe

caspian stallion lunging

There are three types of longing:
Round Penning
Line-longing
Liberty Longing

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.

The sequence of training is:
Round Penning
De-sensitizing
Disengaging the Rear
BAck Up
Disengaging the Front
Line-longing
Liberty Longing

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 canter 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.

horse longing slowlyJust a bit of personal observation here: Many many people believe that hopped-up liberty lunging is the way to start the day. They believe he must be “put through his paces” or “worn down”. Without it, many riders don’t feel confident to mount their horse. My experience has been that horses who walk into a round pen and are expected to lunge endlessly get excited before they ever get started. They anticipate the lunge, get light on their feet, start twirling and being overly sensitive before your day begins. Why they need to be put into a frenzy of right-brain activity before they come down to left-brain control evades me. I don’t believe in it.

I expect a horse to be haltered, then led to the round pen in a controlled manner. If that means going through the stall door or paddock gate repeatedly, honoring your request to do it gently, then stop there and get the respect you want at that time. Upon arrival at the round pen, he should ask me what I would like him to do before he anticipates a hot activity. If you MUST ask your horse to lunge before a ride, ask that it be done at a walk with several “whoa’s”. Then get to the business of riding.

If you want to train, get to training – not running. If part of his training is learning gaits and gait transitions during a lunging exercise, do it later in the process instead of at the very beginning. Ask for attention and up-close control during the first half of the lesson; gait transitions in the last half.

Move on to Line Longing

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