Longeing or ” lunging ” is a waste of time and energy. If you want to exercise the horse, ride him! When we ride, we saddle and go. Somehow this crazy idea started that before you mount the horse, you tie a rope to him and run him in circles. We have seen it countless times at the start of trail rides. There are always folks who get there early and longe their horses for 30 minutes. Why?
Linda Parelli posted a blog expressing concern over the growing number of riders who run their horses in mindless circles. She is absolutely right. Longeing does far more harm than good in our opinion. In fact, the horses we start aren’t longed the first year of training and rarely longed anytime. There are much better ways to train.
Parelli correctly points out, ” Circling is often the first thing people do on the ground, but it is not necessarily what the horse needs. ”
When people run or even jog, they often warm up beforehand. The warm up generally consists of walking for about 10 -15 minutes to allow the blood to begin circulating, work out the kinks, and let the muscles prepare to go to work. If your horse needs a warm up ( and he may ), it can be done on his back. You go at a walk until he is warmed up and ready. But don’t longe him to warm up. Look at it this way, how many athletes have you seen warm up by running for 30 minutes before going on a walk? See what we mean.
As we have said before, we aren’t cowboys. But we adopt a lot of their ways. The old cowboys didn’t longe their horses, they climbed on and rode them. If you have to longe before you ride, you have some control and communication issues to address. There is no reason not to saddle and ride. We’ve done it for years and it works great! Besides it’s a whole lot more fun for you and the horse.
If you have a situational problem and need to longe your horse to address a control or authority issue, do it the right way. Parelli explains the wrong way, ” Keep your feet still, encourage the horse to use his brain (he has to think and take responsibility to maintain gait and direction without micromanagement), and allow him to put his head anywhere he wants because that’s going to tell you about his mental and emotional state and help you think about what you need to do. ”
In our view if you have to longe before you ride, there’s something wrong. You may need some training yourself or you need a properly trained horse. But if you think you have to make the poor horse run in circles before you ride, you are simply wrong.