Learning to Longe

Keepin’ It Fresh—Equine Advice Column

Learning to Longe

Use these strategies to make longeing a useful exercise, not an opportunity for your horse to misbehave, lean or pull

Article by Kalley Krickeberg

Have you ever stood outside the warm-up arena and observed horses being longed? There are sluggish horses that need constant encouragement to keep moving. There are the racy or squirrely ones that are like flying kites. Then there are the disinterested ones with their heads canted to the outside of the circle, looking as if they’d rather be anywhere but the longeing arena. And then there are the hangers, draggers and pullers … sometimes, you even have all of the above in one horse!
In this article, we’ll focus on the “pullers,” because the philosophy and techniques that help fix this behavior will often help many of the others, too.
Poor longeing behavior usually begins when the exercise is used as a way for the horse to burn off excess energy, to give it some miles after being cooped up in a stall, or to make sure he’s safe to get on after saddling. But unless full-spectrum groundwork is done as a part of the horse’s skill regimen, longeing alone can become a breeding ground for poor behavior. I always try to remember that the way the horse responds to me and my signals on the ground directly correlates to the mentality the horse has toward me and his responses to me while in the saddle. The halter is worn in the same region as a hackamore or bridle, so we should categorize our handling and expectations of the horse’s response to us the same way, whether we are on the ground or in the saddle.

Lay the Foundation

Keep these concepts in mind before starting to longe:
Draw/Drive: If a horse does not want to be near you or pulls away while on the longe circle, he needs more “draw” or desire to be with you. Conversely, if the horse is constantly too close and pushy in your space, he needs more “drive,” where the horse’s forehand is pushed away from you and onto the circle. Every horse has his own quotient regarding how much draw and drive are needed to keep him in a neutral state of mind.
• Hindquarter Control: A full hindquarter yield, where the horse stops and faces you, is what I consider “brakes.” I’ve stopped the horse’s forward motion by using a full hindquarter yield. A partial hindquarter yield ends up being the “steering”—here, the hindquarter is pushed away just enough to tip the horse’s nose slightly toward the handler, bringing the horse on a circle that’sa little closer; then, he’s allowed to continue traveling on the new arc. Essentially, it’s steering the horse closer to the handler.
Problem Solving: If you encounter an issue, time and consistent use of strategies and training techniques will help replace poor behaviors with good ones. This is true in all aspects of horse training.


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2023 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join