Early this morning in a remote mountain region outside of Vienna, the famous archeologist, Dr. I.P. Bagatooshi, uncovered a long-lost equestrian device that hasn’t been seen in a millennium. When asked about the importance of such a discovery, Dr. Bagatooshi replied, “It’s my crowning achievement to be able to bring this technology back into the light for the equestrian world.”
He further went on to describe the arti-tack, “This particular specimen was made from supple leather, probably the skin of the once prevalent species of mountain goat that roamed the area, Capra hircus maximus, and has a number of primitive metal devices called buckles. This one also has a swivel joint.” Dr. Bagatooshi also commented on the condition of the arti-tack. “It’s in remarkable shape considering its age. I found it in a sealed, air tight wooden trunk. I believe the people of the time called them ‘tack boxes’.
Yes, I’m having some fun and the opening is completely fictitious, but that’s how I sometimes feel and view the equestrian world when discussing this particular piece of tack. Recently I met a woman; I’d guess she was in her mid to late fifties. She’d been involved in horses for a few decades. I was long-lining a horse at the time and she commented that she hadn’t seen anyone do that in quite some time. (You don’t say?) But what threw me for a loop at the time was that she pointed at the horse’s head and asked; “What’s that? I’ve never seen anything like that before.”
Have you guessed the piece of tack?
Let’s get the whole spelling thing out of the way right off:
Longing (soft ‘g’): a yearning desire; like mine for Jensen Ackles;
Lunging (soft ‘g’): to rip out one’s breathing apparatus; usually with bare hands and similar to the technique used to rip werewolf and vampire hearts out;
Lungeing (‘j’): a sudden forward thrust or plunge, as with a sword – but not exclusively with a sword, a baguette will work too. Lungeing is also done with the body as in yoga or sumo wrestling, though; using a sword is much easier on the back and knees;
Loungeing (‘j’): what my husband does in his underwear on Sunday afternoons; pizza in one hand, beer in the other – TMI?;
Longeing (‘j’): is a technique for training horses;
Longeing Cavesson (‘j’): a piece of tack used to assist in the longe training of the horse;
There, I feel so much better. Yeah, yeah, I know. I will accept lunging (‘j’) (not lunging (soft ‘g’) or lungeing (‘j’) because Webster says, but I won’t be happy about it.
With the current popularity of the round pen, many have taken up ‘free’ longeing. I don’t think the horses see a whole lot of ‘free’ happening, but at least nobody’s pulling on their faces or mouths. Whenever someone says; “I free longe my horse”, I always envision Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, in a meadow that goes for miles, ‘dancing’ with his horses without restraints of any kind. But perhaps that’s me getting in touch with my my unicorns, rainbows and butterflies whimsical side?
‘Free’ longeing does remove the need to be somewhat handy holding several feet of line, in addition to the longe whip. There’s no risk of a horse stepping on the line, getting it tangled in their feet, wrapped around their neck, or being jerked in the mouth. The person is free (oh, that’s where the ‘free’ part comes into play) to concentrate on body language and voice aids. Maybe rein aids come later?
Chillax members of The Round-Penner’s Association, I’m not against ‘free’ longeing in round pens but it IS a topic for another day.
Longeing is also often done in a bridle; certainly an acceptable way, but really not a way that should be tackled UNTIL the horse has an educated mouth, and understands many of the rein aids (and voice aids, and whip aids, and body aids). The person needs to be far more skilled in the dying art of longeing (in my view, it’s on its deathbed with three hooves in the grave), so as to be able to educate the horse further and not confuse or hurt the horse with ill-timed or inappropriate harsh tugs and pulls of the longe line.
My least favorite way to see a horse longed, and arguably the least effective (except when Klaus does it), is in a halter. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen a loose horse in a halter running with 15’ of line trailing behind, or the number of times I’ve seen a horse bopping around like a Mexican jumping bean with the halter pulled over one eye, or the number of times I’ve seen a horse twist its neck, tilt its head, and do a jaw-droppng imitation of Gumby, while being longed in a halter. The reality is; it’s just not an effective way to communicate with the horse (except when Klaus does it), to teach the horse rein aids, or to retrain a spoiled or rambunctious horse. It is, however, awesome for handwalking and handgrazing.
A longeing cavesson is adjusted snugly on the horse, so that it does not slide on the face. Because of this fit, the horse can feel the nuances of subtle rein (line) aids similar to those it would feel from a competent rider, but the pressure is not on the mouth, instead, it’s concentrated at the sensitive mid-face, where there is hard bone close to the surface. It sits on the face the same way, and in the same position, as a simple bridle cavesson; just under the curved ridge of the mandible. It can be adjusted lower on the face for spoiled or rank horses to add additional leverage and ‘bite’, and then readjusted to its higher, proper position once the horse understands he/she no longer has the upper hand.
Pictured below are photos of some longeing cavessons. Note they come in different styles, materials, material thickness and colors for those visually sensitive people. Some have more padding than others, some have browbands and some don’t. There’s literally an appropriate style and size for any horse or pony.
You can also fit a bridle on with a longeing cavesson and that has its own advantages and uses.
(Please note the use of bit keepers with a full-cheek bit!)
There are even longeing cavessons that allow for the attachment of a bit without the rest of the bridle.
I’m going to give it to you plain and simple. It is infinitely easier to teach a young or green horse the rein aids, to retrain a spoiled horse, and to teach longeing in general with a longeing cavesson than with any other head device, and you can do so without risking hurting the horse’s mouth. It is way easier for the person to control the horse, to learn how to longe the horse, and to learn how to communicate with the horse. Until you’ve used a longeing cavesson and had some instruction, you will not understand the difference. It’s immense and I can’t stress that enough. What can take weeks of education or re-education can be taught and conveyed in a longeing cavesson in a matter of a couple short sessions.
Here are some basic rein aids:
Moving the longe line in a waving (up and down) motion tells the horse to slow down or stop, depending on the frequency and ‘depth’ of the wave. You can literally put a rank horse on its butt with a couple of quick, vigorous waves, and doing so does not hurt the horse. There’s no pulling, jerking, or yanking, but it sure does get their attention.
Moving the longe line in a snaking (side to side) motion tells the horse to move ‘out’; make the circle bigger. Combine that with pointing the longe whip at the shoulder and the horse moves its shoulder ‘out’. Point the whip at the hip and the horse moves its haunch out, or point the whip at the horse’s girth and the horse moves its whole body ‘out’. Again the frequency and ‘width’ of the snaking speaks to the subtlety or ‘shouting’ of the rein aid.
Closing your hand on the line and just ‘holding’, like you would under saddle, is the beginning of teaching the half halt. Drive the horse forward with your body, voice, longe whip, or combination and ‘hold’ is the next step. Drive the horse forward with your body, voice, longe whip, or combination and ‘check’ softly in the wrist and you’ve got a full-fledge half halt.
And so it goes.
The other great advantage to the longeing cavesson is that you can easily change the horse’s direction without having to stop the horse, walk to it, and readjust the line. That’s an advantage people enjoy with ‘free’ longeing and ‘halter’ longeing, except it works way better (and it’s cooler to watch) in a longeing cavesson. (Please do not tell me you allow the horse to face you when it stops, or to walk to you and stop in front of you of its own accord when you longe; I’ll have a hair pulling fit – your hair, not mine.)
Once a horse is adept at longeing in a longeing cavesson, the next step is long lining and for the horse this is a natural progression.
I could type all day about longeing, but I really just wanted to remind people of this handy piece of tack that nobody seems to use anymore, and that some people in the equestrian world have never seen. The latter I find disturbing.
For your viewing pleasure, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite longeing videos: