Into the Bridle – Part 4

Our final installment of this series on long lining from Dan James. You can find Part Three here, and Part One was featured in the May/June issue of Western Horse Review.



Step 7 – Direct Inside Rein Obstacle

Here, you will use the body control that you have taught in order to navigating an obstacle. This will allow you to use body position to control where your horse is travelling in a larger arena.

Set up an obstacle in the arena, be it a barrel, cone or drum. Begin your horse in a smaller circle at the trot, asking him to move out around you. Take him closer to the barrel by driving him towards his shoulder, allowing him to pass between yourself and the obstacle for the first few time. When you are correctly positioned, you will send him around the barrel. Let your horse come between, then repeat sending him around. Here, you will gain a firm understanding and feel of exactly where you need to be to move your horse around the arena.


Step 8 – Two Reins in the Arena

Here, take the opportunity to be patient and regain your feel for handling both your horse and the two long reins. Ask your horse to move into a circle at an easy trot and work on your hand coordination, switching from both hands to one hand and back again. Work on your circling, transitioning from large to small to larger once again. Employ your feel and understanding to judge where your horse is at and how they are progressing through these steps.

If you have been successful to this point, you can confidently send her to the end of your rein, accentuating the transition from large to small. Only when you have a competent feel for this point should you move to the next step.

Change of direction at this step is slightly more involved because of the distance between yourself and your horse and the speed at which he will be travelling. You will need to be conscious of your reins in your hands and your whip carriage. It should stay low and in the right hand. When you need to use it on the offside, simply bring it across and under your long reins, use it, then put it back in position.

Here, ask for a trot and then a lope in a larger then smaller circle then larger again, using the ‘spiraling’ technique, in with the inside rein and out with the outside rein. Finally, ask for a trot and then a halt, rewarding a successful session.

Only after you have successfully accomplished circling, left and right, speed control at a trot and lope and negotiating size of circles will you move to changing direction in the large arena with two reins.

Begin on the offside at the ¾ position at a walk. Keeping a forward walk, switch inside reins and ask for an easy change of direction. Make sure that you have mastered this technique at a walk before you move up to a trot.

When you are moving faster, you will remain at the ¾ position. The steps are all the same, only moving at a faster pace. Ask for the circle and once you arrive at the center, switch directions by changing reins and moving to the offside ¾ position. Ensure that you establish a good forward circle before you ask for the change to avoid difficulty in keeping the forward momentum. Ideally, you want to achieve the confidence to ask for this change of direction both in larger circles as well in tighter circles, obviously more difficult.

Step 9 – Long Reining from Behind

It is imperative here to maintain a good distance (1 to 1 ½ horse lengths) behind your horse. You will need to keep your horse in an active walk and maintain forward momentum so that he stays straight. Extend your arms and lengthen your reins until you approach the corner, where you will gather your reins once again, move slightly to the outside and fall in behind when the corner is completed. Repeat this exercise the other way, ideally completing a figure eight pattern through the arena. Arrive at the center and ask for a stop. Ensure again that you have maintained that good distance back from your horse’s hind end.

The next task is to move to a more involved task, achieving a serpentine-type flow. Make a straight line directly up the arena and begin by travelling straight for five strides. You will then ask for five strides in one direction, then turn back to the line, where you will repeat the five strides, then the turn back to the line. When you have arrived at the end of the arena, circle up and repeat. While you are starting out, there will inevitably be times when you need to check your distance and your rein handling during this exercise as there is a lot going on. Be conscious not to ask too hard for the turn, or the horse will break off the line at too great of an angle. Keep your hands soft, keep your body in position and be conscious of your striding to complete this successfully.

If you have gone through these exercises methodically and consistently, you should have achieved a solid foundation by the end of these steps. Repeat them and work on a soft, relaxed horse in the long reins before you move forward to the next level of Double Dan Horsemanhip’s training techniques.


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