Longeing Horses


Plain old fashion longeing caveson. 
Note the cheek strapping to prevent sliding/turning over.

Side reins should be loose,
commonly used to prevent head 
tossing side to side, mainly when
longeing the horse on his day off.

Two line longeing, 
requires some expertise.

Practical use of the longeing caveson in the assistance of breaking young horses for the cart as well as for the saddle. Horses must first be familiar with the caveson.

The following is advertised:
Leather Longe Rein (Vienna Rein). Used extensively in Germany instead of side reins. Attaches to surcingle, through bit and under girth. Encourages horse to round its back.
The horse should round his back due to the tucked under hind legs and not because of his head being down. This equipment will guarantee the so-called "rolling over the forehand" without the weight being distributed equally on all four legs. Very crippling and abusive and the use testifies to the incompetence of the rider/trainer.

The following is advertised:
Nylon Chambogue. Used with longe line to lower horse's head and neck by applying pressure to poll. Combines advantages of the chambon plus the gag bit.
I cannot image a more depressing picture of a horse than this one is. To a horseman/rider this is an outright horror and definitely qualifies as abuse!!

A practical attachment 
(bit/chin strap) for longeing
with the side reins (second photo from the top) or with a snaffle bit if your bridle/bit doesn't have a chinstrap
 (though it should have one )
Unfortunately this contraption has the center ring attached to the strap, which is definitely of no use for proper longeing, since it will pull on the outer part of the bit. The ring should be sliding on the strap. You may need to customize a little, or may find one that is made that way.

   Longeing a horse can prove very useful and it is often an important part in the education of young horses. However, in this day and age it is often misunderstood and misused to the point of abuse.

When and why to longe a horse.

      Longeing is most practical in the education of young riding horses, especially if they present certain difficulties in remount training. I believe that every horse should be taught how to go on a single longe line, because it will prove very useful in his future life. As helpful as it can be, it is also very dangerous to horses, especially young ones, particularly when handled by less experienced persons. Some horses can still get hurt despite handling by a decent trainer/rider; therefore it is practical and safe to provide longeing rings/areas especially designed for longeing horses.

     The rings should be about 60 feet (about 20m) wide, fenced in and the footing on the outer edge should be slanted, or banked, and deep enough to provide even impact for the horses feet (see "lateral stress").  Many horses are abused just by being longed in areas that are too small and not sufficiently deep, thus constantly landing on the side of their feet.
    The most common side effect from such longeing is sore stifles, which often go unnoticed until later stages of the soreness.
The bigger the horse, the tougher longeing is for him. Coldblooded horses or taller and heavier warmbloods should not be longed at all if possible, especially horses with large, wide hoofs and/or shorter pastern.

Practical uses for single line longeing of horses are:

  • Loosening up stiff horses before riding.
  • Breaking young horses (not always a suitable way of breaking a horse).
  • Calming down nervous horses before riding.
  • Before riding horses that present certain difficulties when ridden.
  • Presentation of the horse’s movements/gaits, examination of soundness etc.
  • Part of jumping education for difficult horses (not always suitable).
  • When one has difficulty for some reason or other in saddling the horse.
  • Exercising a horse on his day off from riding (once a week)
  • In correcting too one-sided horses (longeing is to be done equally in both directions of course). Most horses are slightly one sided, which is normal. Only in the tougher cases is longeing practical, providing the horse is not preferring one direction before the other due to unsoundness.

Not practical uses for single line longeing of horses are:

  • Every day longeing before riding, when horses present no difficulties.
  • Not suitable for warming up good riding horses (that should be done by riding alone)
  • Not suitable for dressage horses, racing horses and/or any horses that need to move in collected gaits under rider (in time, longeing tends to throw the horse on the forehand)
  • Very bad for off track pacers (they should not be either longed or ridden in limited spaces/sharp turns etc. unless they are converted to trot).
  • Many show/halter horses are chased around like idiots to build up their muscle, which of course only testifies to our decadence, since this insanity is done only for appearance sake and has nothing to do with the well being of the animal.
  • Young foals and horses during the first year of their life should not be longed at all as it presents a great danger to the animal. Only fools do that.

    Two-line longeing is practical mainly in education for the bit in difficult horses that either refuse to accept the bit or refuse to go forward on the bit/contact (rearing and such). The two-line longeing is not practical for any other purposes, as it will tend to dull the responsiveness of the horse to the bit. Longeing horses in this way needs certain pre-education and inexperienced folks should stay away from it. One important caution: be careful not to get the line caught under the horses tail (among other things).

    Abuse while longeing usually comes from misunderstanding of what it actually supposed to do to horses. The most misguided belief is that longeing is supposed to help in balancing the horse for the rider. This statement alone is self-contradictory.
    One cannot learn to balance a broom, or
any kind of thing for that matter, on his hand without having it on his hand. The opposite is true; longeing does not at all contribute to the balance of the horse for the rider, but it actually confuses the more advanced horses as they are constantly switching their movement between their natural, free way of going and then changing their form/balance for the rider.

     When we have well balanced horses, it is best that they know only the movement under/with the rider. Thus their newfound “artificial” balance becomes their so-called “second nature." For this reason it is not practical to turn the balanced horse out in the paddock/pasture and longeing was done only when absolutely necessary (once a week at the most, on his day off etc.).

     As it is today, most dressage horses (as much as any other riding horses) move on their forehand, especially under riders. This is due to the fact that most decent riders/trainers as well as most breeds of horses have simply vanished from the face of the earth. Unfortunately there are only a very few people that genuinely care about learning how to ride for the reason to get along with their horse as well as for his well being. Most folks want to learn how to ride for reasons of recognition and their name, while completely disregarding the well being of their horses (usually through ignorance).

    The way a horseman is longeing his horse will be his own presentation to the observers. One can tell a lot about the horseman in such cases. A person that is longeing a horse without proper equipment, like for example the necessary longeing whip, will present certain sloppiness about himself, or in other words the lack of class.
    The longeing on hard surfaces, small circles etc. will also show his lack of expertise as well as too frequent longeing of the horse will do the same.  Such a thing as
free longeing (without a line) was invented by people that could not longe a horse properly, thus the horse moves better for them when loose. The latter is nothing else but a result of incompetence or laziness. If the rider/trainer is longeing the horse to improve his balance, or even worse to set his neck, it definitely points to his ignorance of proper riding/balance.

   The trainer's choice of longeing equipment will also show his class. The longeing cavesons were mainly practical for young remounts in their initial training. A horse educated for the longeing caveson was easier to handle by the on-ground assistant in the first stages of mounting or hooking up to the cart etc. The caveson allowed the on-ground handler to help the rider/driver without interfering with the horse’s mouth, or with the rider/driver's hands.  
     A halter under the bridle can accomplish the same thing with less difficult horses. In advanced longeing for purposes other than breaking/educating, the use of the longeing caveson is impractical and to a certain point even brutal. It is definitely uncomfortable to the horse, because it has to be tight enough to prevent sliding/turning to the side, as it presses on his nose. On an educated horse, the snapping of the line to the  chin/bit strap (English, bridle, snaffle) is sufficient and less abusive, which of course depends on the hand of the handler.

    Other restraints pictured here show the decadence of our society.  On one hand we preach freedom of movement and on the other we want his submission achieved by restraints and not by riding expertise (heads down on horses etc.). No horse that caries his bit below his hip (horizontal line from the profile) is safe to ride. Such a horse is not balanced; the hind legs cannot over ride the forward impulse with the ability to carry the rider. The front end of the horse gets overused; thus so many horses are lame these days. In my younger days, people only whispered about a lame horse, just the same as about divorced people.

    These days, the lameness of horses is as common as divorces. There are many people that claim to fix problems, but almost none who are teaching prevention, because it usually requires the truth, which is not practical for the profit of many money/fame-oriented people of today’s age or is not in the interests of so-called "fixerupers".

     A longe line should be as light as possible (no chain!) but not too thin; thanks to today's technology they are available in nylon. The heavier, old fashion canvas lines are often too heavy for the more sensitive horse. Wearing a pair of thinner leather gloves when longeing is prudent and also shows a certain class/wisdom of the handler.


Written* and translated by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek
*The technical aspects of this articles is a translation from the 1953 Special Zoo-Technique - Breeding of Horses
Published in 1953 by the Czechoslovakian Academy of Agricultural Science and certified by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Written by: MVDr Ludvik Ambroz, Frabtisek Bilek, MVDr Karel Blazek, Ing. Jaromir Dusek, Ing. Karel Hartman, Hanus Keil, pro. MVDr Emanuel Kral, Karel Kloubek, Ing. Dr. Frantisek Lerche, Ing. Dr Vaclav Michal, Ing. Dr Zdenek Munki, Ing. Vladimir Mueller, MVDr Julius Penicka, pro. MVDr Emil Pribyl, MVDr Lev Richter, prof. Ing. Dr Josef Rechta, MVDr Karel Sejkora and Ing. Dr Jindrich Steinitz.