It's been a wet week this past week in Los Angeles but today the sun finally came out. While it was nice to have a few easy, rainy days (the horses work hard and certainly earned their mini-vacation!), it felt so good to get back to work today!
The down time is a bit of a double-edged sword. Our dressage horses are athletes and they work very hard all year long and a few easy days can be really beneficial. An athlete's body needs easy days so muscles can rest and recover.
The flip side is that after those rest days, our fit equine athletes are feeling really good! In a situation like this, I love longe line work sessions! Longeing provides a constructive way for the horse to get back into the groove of working, listening to the aids, and get out any excess energy without creating a dangerous situation for the rider or themselves.
Notice I still refer to longeing as a constructive work session. I don't just clip the line on my horse and let them run their little legs off, bucking, snorting, and farting the entire time. I keep the work as close to my under saddle work as possible, schooling transitions and insisting on forward-thinking, quality gaits.
Longe line: I love soft, cotton lines. I avoid flat, nylon lines at all costs. They hurt your hands, even with gloves!
Longe whip: The whip acts as your forward, driving aid when you're longing (think leg!). It also helps keep the horse a safe distance away from you.
Side reins: I insist on using leather side reins. In the event of an emergency, I want them to break. I also love the traditional rubber donut--not too stretchy but not restrictive
Surcingle: On days I don't plan on riding, I love the simplicity of a surcingle. Pro tip--find one that will work with a dressage girth. Ditch the flimsy girth section that comes with the surcingle and use your horse's regular plush, cushy, comfy girth!
Working the horse this way in a bridle and side reins keeps the work more consistent with the work we do under saddle. However, if the horse is fresh and he does need to "get a few bucks out", it gives him a safe place to do that. The whip will help you keep him going forward on the circle and the side reins will keep him "channeled" in between your aids and keep any bucks from getting dangerously big.
Now, all of this only works if you and your horse have a regular longeing routine. Slapping side reins on your horse for the very first time and throwing him out on the line when he's high as a kite is a recipe for total disaster!
In Part Two we'll talk about HOW I go about establishing a longeing routine with my new horses and why I keep it going on my experienced horses (yes, even the FEI horses!).
How do you adjust your routine when the weather forces time off?
How often do you longe your horse?