One of the most frustrating problems a handler can face while longeing is with a horse that drifts into the circle and won?t fill out the longe line. The handler may react incorrectly by actually backing away from the horse to take up the slack.
The solution isn?t so much a matter of re-training the horse but changing the longeing technique of the handler by employing this simple exercise:
Picture the circle as if it’s the face a clock and visualize the numbers at the quarter points of 3-6-9-12. The handler should be prepared to steadily cast ? not snap ? the longe whip directly toward the horse’s inside hock at each of those four points in the circle. The actual number of casts will depend on the size of the circle and the gait of the horse, but for a horse trotting on an ideal 20-meter circle, there should be a minimum of four casts, one at each quarter point.
This constant casting that’s directed at the horse’s inside hock sends the horse both forward and out on the circle at the same time. The horse is less likely to become heavy on his inside shoulder and drift in because the increased activity and reach of his hind legs provide more lift and freedom for his shoulders. Since the casting is constant, and because the whip isn?t being snapped, the horse should keep a steady tempo without speeding up or slowing down.
The position of the handler is especially important with this technique. The handler should keep his elbows bent and close to his body, resisting the natural temptation to stretch out his line hand if the horse drifts in. His body should be in alignment with the horse’s shoulders, rather than facing the horse, so that he always steps forward himself, not sideways or backward. His body should always be behind the point of the horse’s shoulder.
Follow the 20/20 rule when longeing: No more than 20 minutes of work ? 10 minutes per side ? on a circle that is no smaller than 20 meters in diameter.
A circle that is at least 20 meters in diameter (66 feet across or 33 feet from the handler to the horse) will prevent stress to the horse’s legs. The handler should use the longest whip he can find so that he can actually touch the horse’s hock with the tip if necessary while keeping the circle large.
If the horse won?t stay out on a circle of this size, then the handler will need to hold the line at a length where it doesn’t droop and walk a small circle himself so that the whip can reach the horse’s hock. Because the handler?s body is angled forward on the circle, rather than facing toward the horse, the foot under the whip hand will be tracking on a larger circle than the foot under the line hand.