Longeing gets its name from the long line; the horse is attached to this long line go around the person in a circle. The horse is worked in all three gaits and learns to respond to the body language and the aides of the person. The word “longe” means “long” in French. Although it is often spelled “lunging” that is an anglo-cized version of the word. Longeing is a longstanding part of traditional horsemanship.
The benefits of longeing for the horses are many:
- A good way to introduce training to a young horse.
- Help horse be healthier physically and mentally.
- Improve the quality of movement, such as balance, coordination, rhythm and strength.
- Warm up the horse before riding or to exercise the horse without riding.
The intensity and the length of the longeing should be customized to each horse based on their physical and mental aptitudes. It can be a way for a horse to be introduced to work to start, after a lay up or time off.
The benefits of longeing for people:
- Establishes a constructive relationship between horse and rider.
- Allows the person to see their horse moving, providing valuable insight into how their horse is working and the horses’ weakness to improve.
- An opportunity to learn how horses listen and respond to our body language and intentions with or without aids.
We need to make the work vigorous enough to help our horses get fit and confident in the right way, but not so long of a session that tires our horses out or is too difficult type of work for them. That can lead to physical break down and be a demoralizing or fearful experience for the horses.
Excessive or forceful longeing also sends the wrong message to the horse that work in the arena will be done in a hectic and unfocused way. The right message is that all work, whether in the arena or not should be done with calm focus where both horse and person are attentive to the activities at hand. This means that our aids to the horse must be constructive but not domineering.
There are many types of equipment that can be helpful for us to achieve our goals with our horses in longeing, but equipment that overly manipulates horses into certain positions should be avoided since they can lead to injury and incorrect muscular development.
Longeing is one of the many important aspects of the training process.