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Longing to Tune Up Your Horse

Sep 14, 2008
Horses often become dead to the aids over time. They are not as responsive and get bored of what they are doing under saddle. Sometimes this can be corrected under saddle, but often a horse becomes hard in the mouth, or otherwise will not listen to a rider. In this situation, it can be useful to tune him up on the longe line.

Proper longing for training should always be done in full tack. Tack up your horse as you usually would before longing him. If you can, tie up the stirrups so that they do not bang on his sides. The longe line should not be attached to one side of the bit. Instead it should go through the near ring, over the poll, and clip onto the far ring of the bit.

It is safest to longe in an enclosed area. A longing ring or round pen is best, but an arena will work just as well. The important thing is that your horse cannot break away from you and escape, and that the walls will help you to balance and contain your horse.

The most common problem with horses who are dead to the aids is that they expect the same thing every time. They have decided that it isn't worth listening any more, because they already know what to expect. You need to break this mentality by asking your horse to do the unexpected. The easiest way to do this is with transitions.

Start out by asking your horse for basic transitions. Ask him for halt/walk/halt transitions, being firm with your aids, and not allowing him to get away with wandering after you ask for the transition. Use your whip to encourage him to move on immediately after you ask for the upwards transition. Do not allow him to poke along in his walk, but encourage him to step lively.

As soon as possible, start mixing things up by adding trot/walk/trot transitions. You should vary how long your horse is allowed to trot, keeping a minimum of 4 strides, and a maximum of a full time around the ring between transitions. Once your horse starts anticipating the trot transitions, mix it up by asking for a halt instead. Always try to choose the transition your horse least expects. This way he will need to listen to you, instead of purely doing his own thing.

Mix things up even further by adding trot/canter/trot transitions, once again limiting how long the canter is. If your horse anticipates the downward transition by slowing his gait, ask him to pick up more pace and canter several times around the ring.

Another technique is to add some more difficult transitions such as the trot/halt/trot and the walk/canter/walk. The more you mix it up, the more your horse will have to listen to you.

Finally, you need to transfer these lessons on the longe line to working under saddle. While riding, start asking your horse for more transitions. Do not let him get away with slow transitions. Use a crop if necessary to get his attention. The rule is "whisper", "tell", "demand". Your first aids should always be feather light, but don't be afraid to use more force if your horse doesn't listen.

By mixing things up, you are returning the authority of the ride to yourself. You will be the one in charge, and your horse will need to listen in order to know what to do. Eventually, it will only take a whisper to get your horse's attention, and you will have a far more pleasant ride.
About the Author
Lydia K Kelly is a writer for HorseClicks, classifieds of horses for sale New Jersey, horses for sale New Mexico, horses for sale New York and other states. Lydia is also a featured author at www.ArticleKing.com
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