Most of us who’ve had a longe lesson did so when we were children. After all, it’s a wonderful way of developing the rider’s feel and balance without putting a lot of responsibility on the rider at the beginning. But for many, that’s the extent of their experience with longe lessons. Once they are confident, they get to leave the longe and ride independently. However, by doing that are they missing something more?
What are the benefits of longe lessons?
Longe lessons can find subtle tight and weak areas in the rider’s body. Everyone is naturally a little crooked: one leg might be tighter, one shoulder might be stronger, etc. Longe lessons help riders find those areas and correct them. They can also introduce riders to new movements or concepts in a safe and controlled manner. Riders can also develop feel for how the horse’s body moves and when the best times to influence the horse might be. Riders learn how to work each part of their body separately, such as moving the leg without the hand or the hand without the body.
Who can benefit from longe lessons?
Longe lessons were once the foundation to riding. It is a great way for beginner riders to start riding in a safe way where they can learn to flow with the horse before having to control it. Riders used to spend years on the longe in the beginning, but even a few months is extremely beneficial.
Those who take a hiatus from riding especially can benefit from longe lessons, as a lot of muscle memory fades with time. After all, your body replaces almost all its cells after 7-10 years! By the time someone gets back to riding, they may be a completely new person. Injuries and surgeries too can influence the body. A lot of people after surgery find it difficult to activate the muscles around the injured area, making it feel like the limb or body part is sluggish or even unresponsive. Work on the longe can help riders regain that neural control.
Advanced riders can also benefit, though in a different way. Everyone’s seat changes with time, for better or for worse. Even the best of riders develop bad habits and have to work to correct them. While we can cross-train in many ways off the horse, really targeting certain muscles is difficult. Advanced riders with very good seats can also work on refining their feel and efficacy of aids. They can practice difficult transitions, such as canter-walk, without using their reins. At the Spanish Riding School, the riders regularly take longe lessons from each other to keep their seats in top form. If the top riders in the world need longe lessons, the rest of us probably do too!
What do longe lessons look like?
In a longe lesson, the trainer puts the horse on a circle around themselves so they can see the rider from the side. They have control over the horse with a long lead and a long whip, so the rider doesn’t have to worry as much about controlling the horse. Riders then do exercises, such as circling their arms, twisting side to side, or swinging their legs. These exercises challenge their balance as well as release tight muscles and strengthen weak ones. The exercises are done at all three gaits, eventually without stirrups or holding onto the saddle. There are many different exercises a rider might do, depending on what needs improvement. When the student is working on feel, they may try to identify when a certain leg is in the air or touching the ground. They may also ride transitions between or within gaits or move the horse laterally.
Finding an instructor can be difficult, and they may not be your regular instructor. There are not many instructors that offer longe lessons, and there are fewer that have their own horses to use. Many horses are not very good for these lessons, as they may have rough gaits or may not longe well. Your own horse may be good off-longe, but you will want to have someone help you to find out if he is good for longe lessons. If he is, fantastic! If not, an instructor with one will be invaluable to you.
Longe Lessons at TRSCH
Here at Tempus Renatus, we offer longe lessons on a variety of horses. We have horses available for all levels of experience. Check out our lessons page for more information: https://tempusrenatus.org/services/ If you don’t live close to us, we do offer regular “seat retreats,” which are weekends focused on the seat. While COVID has slowed these down, we are looking into options to offer them again with social distancing etc. We’ve had 3-day seat retreats so far, but we are looking to do 5-day options too. If you want to come on your own for a weekend or week-long intensive, contact us about a training package, details soon to be listed on the website!