MAGNUS: Longlining & Riding
In this video I'd like to show how longlining can help to improve a horses confidence, rhythm, relaxation and balance. At the time, the owner of this 7-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Magnus, had experienced spooky, resistant, running-off and bucking behavior that had lead to a prolonged time off before I started working with him on the longlines and under saddle.
It is hard to know exactly what had caused Magnus to start acting in a resistant manner to what he was asked to do. The fact was that he had bucked off a couple of professional riders which had left the owner with little confidence and even less desire to ride him herself.
Magnus initial reaction to the rein contact was head shaking which might have been caused by a less than empathetic introduction to the riders hands. Magnus also reacted somewhat defensively to the leg aids. He was afraid of the rein and the leg, and mounting him was a whole different issue with which he was not exactly comfortable.
I think it is reasonable to assume that Magnus introduction to riding and dressage initially caused him to be fearful, then resistant, and over time he had learned to defend himself with a behavior that would eventually help him to get rid of the source of his discomfort, stress and possible misery.
When I introduced Magnus to the longlines it seemed to give him back a sense of motion that didnt make him feel claustrophobic. I was able to guide his direction and speed while using body language and a light yet elastic contact on the longlines. You may notice that I didnt make any real rigid requests as Magnus moves in big circles and serpentines across the arena. All I wanted him to do is move forward without running, alternating fluidly between trot and canter, stretching forward downward, flexing and bending a bit, while accepting a light rein contact and trotting over some ground poles.
Once I felt I had an understanding with Magnus on the ground, I started using the longlines as a warm-up routine before riding him. Eventually I would alternate longlining and riding throughout the weekly schedule which helped build Magnus trust and ability to relax tremendously. He became more even in his rhythm, more relaxed throughout his back and neck, and more balanced overall. Step by step he accepted more leg in combination with weight and rein aids.
In the second video you can see how riding large curved patterns in an open dressage court helps Magnus continue on the flowing type of exercise patterns that we established first on the longlines (see first video). My rein contact is still very light, but at this point Magnus really started to understand and accept the leg aids he used to be so afraid of.
You can see Magnus was on his way to feel comfortable and starting to connect from the back to the front. You may hear the occasional voice of Magnus owner warning me of big trucks coming by the arena, and you can hear the sounds in the background. Big trucks and other big pieces of farm equipment didnt seem to bother Magnus very much anymore. He was relaxed, focused and happily moving forward in a more steady rhythm.
For Magnus life was becoming a bit more predictable, more clearly defined, less inhibiting to his sense of movement. I was able to show Magnus that the rules for the groundwork didnt change when I was riding him. There was an even flow to everything we did together. And there started to be a sense of joy in our togetherness. What a great horse, what a big heart Magnus has to give us humans another chance.