This past weekend we returned to the long lines for the first time since the failed experiment of raising the lines to the upper rings. Thankfully, the experience had melted away and he had no resentment for the lines now comfortably placed in the middle rings on the surcingle. We got right to work with some nice walking and stretching into the bridle. I love how the long lines allow me to warm up my horse with circles and straight lines, just as if I were riding. I try to turn my hips and shoulders before using my hands to turn my horse. It is a fun challenge to see how little I can do and Harley understands.
In the walk, most of the changes of direction are relatively easy, but the trot is a whole 'nother thing. I cannot allow Harley to trot straight ahead for very long, because I am walking with him. My lines have to be organized and my hands nimble for clear communication. Most of the mistakes that I make in long lining come from the lines getting too long or too short and trying to manage the whip. I absolutely hate catching my horse in the mouth, because I didn't manage my lines properly or turn him soon enough to prevent myself from getting left behind. His expression tells me that he understands that my intent was not to hurt his mouth or turn him rudely, but it still disturbs the flow of his work, which can be very nice.
I am trying to develop some strategies for effective long lining. This is what I have so far:
- Give my hands separate jobs. Keep excess line draped (not wrapped!) in one hand and the whip in the other. The whip-hand is also responsible for re-draping extra line or letting more line out. This is still not easy, because I have small hands and the whip gets heavy.
- Keeping the whip in my whip-hand (right), move the whip from one side to the other when we change direction. This means that the whip is crossed over the lines when we are traveling right. So far, this seems to be less awkward than trying to transfer the whip to my left hand, which is holding a bunch of line.
- Always have excess line available. This is important if I need to let more line out so my horse has time to turn or so he can stretch. This is also important if the horse jumps forward suddenly. Thankfully, that is rare, but it is a possibility.
If you have any strategies to add to my list, please let me know!