A Good Grounding

Part 10: Quick-Turn Longeing

Once you and your horse have mastered basic longeing you can move on to quick-turn longeing, or 'rollbacks'.

As in basic longeing, you want your horse to move off on command, circle you in a relaxed manner without pulling on the lead, and change direction on command, but now you will be asking for a much quicker change of direction. Instead of stopping, yielding the hindquarters, facing up, and then setting off in the other direction in a series of more-or-less separate steps, you will now ask your horse to stop, roll quickly back over his hocks, and move off in the other direction in a single continuous motion. The sequence of cues you will use will likely feel awkward to you at first; just be patient with yourself, and with your horse. It takes some practice.

Begin by asking your horse to move off and around you to the left, as in basic longeing. Let him circle you 2-3 times until he is relaxed and moving on a loose line. As you are walking your smaller circle behind his girth line, you have the lead in your left hand and the stick in your right. Now you will need to change hands to get ready to ask your horse to change direction.

  • As you continue to walk, calmly and quietly switch the lead to your right hand and the stick to your left (once a horse is really good at roll-backs, this is all the cue he'll need; that's OK).
  • Take a single, large, exaggerated step in the direction of your horse's nose, holding the stick out at arm's length pointing out to your left. This will stop his forward progress.
  • Raise your right hand (the one with the lead in it, which is now your direction hand) up to shoulder height, pointing to your right, to signal the new direction, and begin swinging the stick in a vertical circle toward your horse. This will encourage him to change direction and move off the other way.

This is (ideally) all done in one smooth step: change hands, step toward his nose, give direction and impulsion by swinging the stick.

The results probably won't be pretty at first, but as you practice you will begin to master the sequence of cues and your horse will begin to understand them and will start to roll back over his hocks in the turn and move off in the opposite direction quickly. When he is doing this well, you can ask him for a complete yield of his hindquarters, so that he will stop and face you with two eyes. Rub his face with the end of the stick, praise him, and let him relax. As your horse begins to understand this exercise it will require less and less pressure in order to get him to stop, roll back, and move off in the other direction. Eventually, your horse will do his part as soon as you step toward his nose and raise your direction hand.