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What is the best way to teach a yearling or two-year-old to be on the longe line, without a round pen?

- R. E.


Working with a horse in an open field (which usually means having other horses around) is always more difficult than working in the more controlled atmosphere of a pen or arena. I'd try real hard to find or build one as soon as possible.

If there's simply no way to set up a pen, you need all the help you can get to increase your control -- possibly by recruiting a helper to watch your back -- and the other horses.

To get a horse to move well on the longe line, you'll need to start with using your body language to communicate.

At the risk of over-simplifying, here are the basics:

A horse instinctively moves away from any thing coming toward it (especially from behind) and toward anything moving away from it.

Working the longe line Let's apply these principles to longeing: rather than using a whip to get the horse moving and keep it moving, simply start walking toward a spot ten feet or so to the rear of the horse. It should naturally start walking away from that spot, and will have to circle when it reaches the end of the longe line. The horse is now walking in a large circle, and you will keep walking in a smaller circle in the middle of that large circle - constantly headed toward that spot behind your horse.

To turn the horse, gather up the line (to move the horse toward the inside of the circle) while you start walking toward a spot ahead of the horse. As he makes the turn, you will continue aiming at that spot behind him and he should now be circling in the oposite direction.

To stop him, put pressure on the line and take a few steps backward. He should naturally face you and walk up to you as you continue to gather up the line.

You won't get the same benefits from training this way that you would in a pen or arena, but you can still teach the basics of control, attention, reponsiveness, etc.

Happy Riding!

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