Using the right equipment, and using it correctly, when longeing
your horse will help prevent accidents.
By Jayne Pedigo
According to an Associated Press article which appeared in Horse
Net News, a Florida horsewoman was killed when a horse she was
longeing was spooked and dragged her into a tractor and mowing
The article states that the rope by which Annette Ward was
longeing her Paso Fino gelding had become entangled around her
waist and when he spooked and ran, she was dragged about 50 or
60 yards into a tractor and hay-raking equipment.
This tragic accident underlines the fact that you do not have to
be riding a horse to be at risk of injury. In fact, statistics
show that most equestrian accidents happen with the rider on the
ground. Accidents can be as simple as getting your foot trodden
on, or as serious as what happened to Mrs. Ward.
Using the correct equipment, using it properly and being aware
of your surroundings, and how the horse is likely to react to
those surroundings may not be enough to prevent an accident, but
should at the very least lessen the chance of injury.
I won't go into the specifics of teaching a horse to longe, or
the various exercises from which your horse can benefit, there
are plenty of books and videos on the subject (see sidebar).
What I will do here is to point out various safety issues, both
for the horse and the handler that will lessen the chance of
accidents and make longeing a pleasant experience for you, and
an educational one for your horse.
The longeing cavesson is popular for longeing English horses.
It's much better than a regular halter for the purpose, as it is
specially designed to be closer fitting and to enhance
communication between horse and handler. The extra straps are
designed to keep it from twisting and possibly damaging the
horse's eye and the metal noseband and attached rings allow more
control and communication with the horse via the lunge rein.
Care should be taken when fitting the cavesson to ensure that it
does not slip around when the rein is pulled to one side or the
The longe rein, or longe line is the means by which the handler
communicates with the horse. This is usually cotton web, at
least an inch wide and at least 25 foot long. It has a a snap
attachment to connect it to one of the metal rings on the
noseband of the cavesson and nowadays often has a swivel to keep
from twisting up as the horse moves around the handler.
The most effective way I have found to hold the longe rein when
longeing is to take the rein in the hand closest to the
direction the horse is going, passing the rein between the
little finger and the one next to it and then up out between the
thumb and the fore-finger (the same way English riders hold the
reins). This allows the handler to give and take on the rein
with the minimum of hand movement. The end of the longe rein
should never be wrapped around the hand or body, but should be
folded back and forth between the thumb and forefinger of the
other hand, in sections about 18 inches long. In this way, if
the horse should begin to pull away, the longe line can be
played to the horse easily and safely one fold at a time.
The longeing whip is held in the same hand (the opposite one to
the direction in which the horse is moving) creating a triangle
consisting of the longe line, the whip and the horse, with the
handler at the apex of the triangle. Gloves should be worn when
longeing a horse, preventing painful burns if the horse happens
to spook and pull the rein through the hands.
As the horse moves around, the handler should keep his attention
on the horse and follow his movement by making a miniature
circle inside the horse's larger one. The handler should not
stand in the middle of the circle with his arm held straight
above his head so he doesn't have to turn around with the horse,
and the longe rein should not be allowed to droop to the ground
and get tangled around the feet. The rein should be carefully
played out and collected back in as the horse either cuts in on
the circle or pulls to the outside, as they all do at one time
or another, especially in the early stages of training.
With young horses, it is often wise to kit them out with
protective legwear while working them, since their coordination
and balance will be less than desirable. Bell boots can protect
the front feet from being trodden on by the back feet. Polo
wraps can protect all four legs from being "brushed" by the
opposite leg, as can leather or neoprene brushing boots.
Surcingles, which can be leather or nylon, fit around the
horse's girth and have d-rings attached are a valuable addition
to your collection of longeing equipment for your horse. In
addition to accustoming the horse to the feel of the girth and
saddle, the surcingle can be used to attach side reins, which
can accustom the horse to the feel of a contact on the reins.
Any horse will benefit from having a clearly defined working
area in which to longe. From a safety aspect of course, a round
pen with 6 foot panel sides is desirable. For a young horse, an
indoor round pen, or a sectioned off area inside an enclosed
arena, will keep the distractions to a minimum and allow the
horse to focus his concentration on his handler.
But not everyone has round pens, covered or uncovered, and
sometimes you just have to make do. One way of creating a quiet
area in which to lunge your horse is to use a corner of the
field or pasture and use jump stands and poles (or old barrels
and poles, chairs and poles, whatever you have access to) to
mark out a large square in which to work your horse. If your
horse is determined to break away, this isn't going to stop him,
but if he's working calmly, it will give him a visual reference
of the working area.
By taking precautions, and using the correct equipment, your
horse can get the maximum benefits from his longeing exercises
with the least chance of accident or injury.