Today with Coco I really started to work on long reining. I have been planning to do this so over the past few days I have been preparing her for it by guiding her on left and right and not doing too much facing up. I hooked up the halter, and guided her left and right with one rein; then I joined the halter and guided her from the left. To change sides I would quickly step around the back of her. She would loose me for a moment as stepped across but I was quick to move over to her right side so that her right eye caught me and I only turned her once her right eye had seen me. It is quite easy to have a horse turning to the left long reining and then as you pull them to the right they loose you and get a little bit confused – they don’t want to turn and they can fight against the rein so what I started to do was to get her used to me walking from one eye to the other (or from one side of her brain to the other) first. I would have her turning to the left, then I would let her straight out a little bit, then after she saw me with her right eye I would put her onto a right circle, so it was very much like she was back on a right circle if you were just lunging her on a little circle. I continued this until she got soft at it and started to find the change of rein quite easily.
The next stage was to start to walk across behind her rump and change rein at that point so for example if she was going to the left I would let her straight out for a bit and whilst I was still behind her rump I just gently take up the right rein, then squeeze the right rein before stepping out to the right side of her body till she could see me. She would relax and offer the right side of her body until she got to the stage where she could start to look for me through the feel of the rein and bend and turn to her right whilst I was still centred behind her rump.
Once she was comfortable with this step I would ask her to hold a straight line, and then turn, then hold a straight line and turn. I did this in the halter first so that if she tried to spin or fight she can’t get into too much trouble. I don’t want her to step on the reins with a bit in her mouth and pull it through her mouth. I also had prepared her with the in line work by touching her on her blind side of her body with a stick almost feeling like it was a rein falling over the back of her hocks, over her rump and that side of her body that she can’t see.
So by the time I got her doing that in the halter then I got her to do a similar thing in the bit, she was right for the long reins. If she tensed and tried to rush, I would get her to do a circle around me because that is what she got used to and could relax in. Then when she relaxed I would open her up get her to walk out on a straight line until she could go around one way, turn right and left and she was happy with me trailing along behind as I steered.
Once she could turn left and right and I could walk comfortably behind her I started to apply a stop. To start off with, when she was standing I would squeeze the reins and get her to soften, and take a few steps back, then soften again and more steps back. Then when she was walking I would squeeze and get her to soften, then stop, then ask for a few steps back. I make a habit of asking her to take a few steps back as it gets her body better prepared to stop and we want to constantly improve the back up – it is an important thing for every young horse to learn.
Then I did a bit more with the whip, cracking it, and at the end the kids wanted to play with me in the big round yard. I was running around crazy with the kids and she was stopped in the middle standing quite calmly. She is really figuring out that we are not there to hurt her. She still has a disapproval of the whip when it is cracking close to her. Over time her tolerance to it will improve.
The next lesson will be taking her out like a work horse and long reining her over the hills.