Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Lovely Weather Continues

Yesterday evening I took Spider out for an impromptu long-lining session. Since it wasn't really planned, I didn't have much of a clue as to what I wanted to work on. So, I winged it. Hilarity ensued.

So far, Spider and I haven't really done anything complicated on the long lines. We're both beginners at this, so we just do walk, stop, turn right, turn left. Sometimes I have him walk around the yard or down the driveway and back. Baby steps. Yesterday I decided to up the ante......that's right folks, we were going to trot. On the long lines.

So we started out with the usual novice stuff. Steering was good, brakes were good. We warmed up for a bit, we both needed to be loose for what was coming up. First things first, I decided to come up alongside of him instead of directly behind. I didn't really want to be behind him if things went horribly wrong. I ran the outside line behind his rump, right above his hocks, and walked beside him for a bit to get him used to the new configuration. Then I had to figure out how the heck to get him to trot.

You see, I don't really teach my horses voice commands. They learn "whoa" and "no" and I'll sing or talk softly to them if they're nervous, but other than that I don't direct them with my voice. In dressage, you're not allowed to talk during competition, so using voice commands is a bad habit to get into. One slip of the tongue in the show ring can get you disqualified. So there's my first problem.

Second problem: I have reins in both hands and no whip. Flapping the reins against his sides gets him to walk faster, but doesn't have the oomph necessary to get him to trot. Saying "trot" just makes him look at me. I knew I needed to get clever about this.

I'm a real stickler for ground manners, especially when it comes to leading a horse. I expect the horse to remain quietly by my side. If I slow down, he should slow down. If I speed up, so should he. So, I figured I would apply this same concept to trotting on longlines. Remember when I said "hilarity ensued"? This is where it comes in.

I was already walking alongside Spider, so I sped up to a jog and said "trot". He did not trot. As I sped up, it put pressure on the outside line, which is attached to the bit, and he stopped. I hadn't thought of this scenario, poor Spider! So we tried again. This time I jogged, said "trot", and flapped the reins. I could see the wheels turning in Spider's head. I believe he was thinking "What is wrong with her?" He tentatively trotted a few steps, but it was too late, I had already gotten ahead of him and yanked the outside line. I praised him anyway, hoping that maybe the seed was planted. We tried again. I jogged, said "trot" and flapped the reins like a madman. Third times a charm: he trotted! And so we went around the arena. Hopefully none of the neighbors were watching this spectacle: the obviously pregnant lunatic running around next to a horse yelling "Good Boy! Trot! Good Boy!" while flapping her arms like a crazed goose.

Today I decided to leave the long lining alone and just do regular lunge work. I wanted him to do some real work at the trot and canter, which is not going to happen with me waddling after him. We began with a little warmup with no side reins. Spider tried to pretend that he didn't know how to lunge at first, but I didn't buy it. With a few reminders he decided to just cooperate. Once he was loose I hooked up the side reins for some real work. Since he hasn't worked in some time, I had them fairly loose, putting him in a training/first level sort of frame. We started right, since it's his better direction. He wanted to suck back and get behind the vertical so I had to keep after him with the whip. Until I had him canter, that is. As soon as I asked for the canter he was off to the races! I had to laugh, he's really silly looking when he tries to gallop. It's just legs everywhere. Normally I don't let horses careen around on the lunge line, but I figured after not working for so long it felt good. I'm glad I allowed it, when he came back to a normal gait all the stiffness was gone and he was unstuck. We trotted a bit more to the right, then switched directions. The left was good from the start, I had him walk, trot and canter and called it a day. I probably should have had him go right again, just since he was so sticky in that direction, but what we did was a lot of work for him being out of shape. We can fix things later, but first he needs to get fit again.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll saddle up and see if I still fit in the saddle.


  1. We are snowed in with a raging blizzard and a broken heating. To say the least I am in a foul mood. But at least you made me laugh!
    Since I am riding Western I LOVE verbal cue and seat cues. It is superb when one does not need to use legs or hands for riding.

    Can you not hmmm in Dressage test? I think I read a post from Jean mentioning that she had a a very discreet verbal cue while riding test.

  2. Very descriptive. It's best not to have very attentive neighbors, I think.

  3. Long lining is one of the 'dressage' things that intimidates me quite a bit. Tried it once on my old throughbred mare who couldn't be phased by anything and I still was lost. I am impressed by your long lining abilities because they far surpass mine - even if you might have looked a little goofy! :D

  4. I use a "purr" in the dressage arena...something the judge cannot hear.

    OK, so Spider lunges. Good start for the long lining. Start teaching him the voice commands on the lunge and he'll pick them up quickly. When you ask for trot, give the verbal command.

    You can also use the whip when you long line, but from the sound of it, you are still in the "how the heck do I manage these reins" phase, so it might take a little time.

    I have always taught my horses verbal commands. But, in nearly all cases, I started off with almost totally green horses, so the verbal commands came first in the ground work and then became an aid to teach the body/leg/seat aids under saddle.

    By the way, where is the cameraman when you need him....must have been QUITE a show out there. *lol*


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