Longeing For Riders

Faith Meredith
by Faith Meredith
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Beginning riders working on a longe should concentrate on relaxation, balance and finding the proper position in the saddle. They can first practice relaxing different groups of muscles, then relaxing all of their muscles. We do not ask beginning riders to hold their heels and toes in a riding position at first. A loose, relaxed ankle helps them move around and experiment with their position. The initial goal is to help them find a correct position with their body aligned from shoulders to hips to heels, shoulders back and open, head and neck straight, and thighs relaxed and flat against the saddle. They should not be gripping with their thighs and their lower leg should rest softly against the horse.

As riders progress, there are many balance exercises that can be added at the walk, then trot. Riders can dangle their legs or ride with legs held out away from the saddle. They can change their arm positions to challenge their balance - arms crossed in front, held on top of their head, stretched over their head, or held out to the sides as they twist in either direction. They can count the horse's strides out load to help them develop a sense of rhythm.

Transitions from gait to gait are excellent exercises to use on the longe. As riders continue to progress, they can try to ask for up or down transitions before the handler intervenes. As their balance and muscle strength increase, they can graduate from a sitting trot to a posting trot without stirrups. The instructor/handler needs to be a good observer and choose exercises that will help individual riders work on their particular issues.

© 1997-2010 Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre. All rights reserved. Faith Meredith has successfully trained and competed through FEI levels of dressage during her more than 30 years as a horse professional. She currently coaches riders in dressage, reining, and eventing in her capacity as the Director of Meredith Manor International Equestrian Centre, an ACCET accredited equestrian educational institution.