Working with the double long lines: 12 reasons why you should!
You can train your horse on a single lunge (lunging), but you can also use 2 lunges. This is called “double lunging”. When you use a double lunge, you stay in the circle position (the horse moves around you). The outside lunge lies behind the hindquarters of the horse and the inside lunge goes directly from your hand towards the head of the horse (not via the girth ring).
You may also walk behind the horse, in the driving position. This is also referred to as “double long lining”. Both reins run through the lowest girth ring towards your hand. Working with double long lines is part of the Continued Groundwork.
You might be wondering, Why should I do this? What are the benefits? In this article, I will share 12 reasons to work your horse with double long lines.
1. To prepare a young horse to be ridden
Before a rider ever mounts the horse, it is helpful to have him already familiar with the aids you will use when you ride. The 2 long lines next to his body will help the horse get used to movements on the sides of his body and against his flanks. After this, your horse should have far less trouble with accepting the leg aids.
When you train the young horse with a saddle instead of a surcingle, it helps him get used to the saddle. The lines will go through the stirrups instead of the girth rings.
2. To have a horse get used to traffic
Once the horse responds well to the double long lines in the arena (ie. not afraid to walk between two long lines and understands the aids perfectly),you’ll be able to take him onto the street in this drive position. As the horsewalks in front and has nobody to follow, he learns to become more selfassured in traffic.
It’s much safer to have your horse get used to traffic this way, because you’re not in the saddle and therefore can’t fall off. For many people, this feels better because they aren’t afraid. Once the horse has confidence in traffic, it will be much easier for both of you to try it mounted.
3. To make a horse braver
When you walk in front of a horse, you’ll notice that he is usually happy to follow you. Especially in scary situations, horses find it easier to follow. When you are on your horse or walking behind him when he encounters something scary, your horse will likely either stop or turn away from the perceived danger. The horse will be most assured when you walk in front of him.
But when you teach your horse to walk past a scary object first, with you following from the driving position, it will encourage him to stretch a little bit out of his comfort zone. In the beginning, it might be necessary to take a friend along.
This helper can walk next to the person with the reins, or might walk in front of the horse to give the horse support when needed. In this last case, the helper would gradually start falling back to walk behind the horse until he didn’t require support anymore.
With time, you’ll notice that this becomes easier and easier because your horse has developed more self-confidence. So when a horse is already used to traffic but has difficulty walking in the lead position with other horses following, or when your horse is spooky, you can help your horse to become braver with the help of the double long lines.
But first, be sure to practice obstacle training with the double long lines at home.
4. To gymnastisize the horse
When the horse has his basic dressage lunge training down, then you can take things a step further with the double long lines. You can make figure eights, where you use your inside line to maintain the right flexion while encouraging his inside hind leg to step under his body. You can also practise lateral movements with the double long lines.
5. To help the horse relax physically and mentally before you start doing something else
Many horses will relax easily on the double long lines, especially when you’re working from the drive position. This is because it’s the nature of a horse to become relaxed when someone gives direction and controls his speed from behind.
Every horse has a natural instinct that anyone who is driving him (in a friendly way!) is part of his group. This creates a bond and trust, allowing the horse to mentally relax.
Mental relaxation facilitates physical relaxation. This why I often use double long lines when I know that a horse needs time to relax when ridden. Because the horse relaxes first on the double long lines, he’ll have an easier time relaxing when under saddle.
6. To solve issues that are harder to deal with when riding
An example of one such issue is curling behind the bit (also without a bit). I’ve experienced that horses who go behind the bit while riding can be stimulated to stretch their necks when worked in the double long lines much easier.
One explanation for this is that when under saddle, they often fall back to what they’ve always done when under saddle: in this case, going behind the bit.
With the aid of the double long lines, you can help a flegmatic horse to move more energetically, help a horse that has difficulties with moving backwards to step backwards fluidly, help a horse that is tense under saddle to relax, convince a horse that resists forward motion to start moving forward again, etc.
In many cases, it’s much safer and much easier to teach a horse all this without a rider. Only when the horse knows all the aids and reacts correctly to them while staying relaxed should you attempt the maneuvers under saddle.
7. To work a recovering horse without burden
When you can’t ride your horse because it’s suffering from an injury, you can sometimes still work with him on the double long lines (but ask your vet first!).
By removing the rider, it’ll turn into a different exercise and they are less triggered into their wrong patterns. Besides that, the lunge behind its bottom also ensures the horse will properly step under, which also helps the horse to stretch the neck instead of curling up behind the bit.
You could take your horse out for a walk on the street and do some traffic training, or you could work on some light dressage exercises. Everything is less strenuous without the weight of a rider.
8. To prepare for driving or pulling
Driving horses are prepared to be driven first by getting them used to the double long lines, then by taking them to the street in this drive position, then teaching them to pull a weight like a tire, before ultimately putting them in front of the carriage.
So if you’d like your horse to pull a carriage, you’ll have to start with double long lining first.
But even if you don’t have any ambition to train your horse to become a driving horse, it might still be a lot of fun to teach him pull a weight. For example, you can train your horse to drag the track. Not only is it useful and cheap (no need for a tractor), you’ll also make your horse bomb proof as he learns to deal with commotion from behind.
But please do proceed mindfully, don’t just put a tire hind your horse with no preparation. When unprepared, the horse can easily panic; you will need to follow the prescribed steps to ensure a positive outcome.
9. For variation
Horses may get bored by having to do the same thing day in and day out, year in and year out.
Try to build in as much variation as you can into training. Especially when you notice motivation declining, it’s probably time to do something else for a few days.
Double long lining might be a nice change from daily exercises. You may still continue dressage training (without rider instead of with rider in this case), but you also might just want to go for a walk on the street, work through an obstacle course, have your horse drag the track…
10. When you’re short on time
Even if you don’t have hours to spend, you can still train your horse. Double long lining is a time-efficient alternative to riding, perfect for those days where you just don’t have a 2 hour block of time.
Putting on a girth will take less time than saddling up, and when time is in really short supply, you won’t even need to brush your horse (just underneath the girth), saving a neat 10 to 15 minutes.
11. You become a better rider
By working with the double long lines you’re practicing your rein aids and you develop “soft and sensible” hands.
Of course, the same goes riding, but there you also have to be aware of your seat and your legs. That’s why it can be very valuable to regularly train your horse in the double long lines, as you don’t have to think about your seat and legs and can focus better on your hands and rein aids.
So, although you’re not riding, you become a better rider!
12. Because it’s lots of fun!
Luckily, there is a step-by-step preparation to help your horse to happily accept the lunge without issue. Every part of double long lining can be a blast, from the initial learning phase all the way through mastery.
Double long lining provides variety, is a versatile skill to learn, and as an added bonus, it’s even good for your own physical fitness when you work from the driving position at a trot. But the very best part? It’s FUN!
As with every new activity, there will be a learning curve for both you and your horse. For example, some horses are scared to feel a lunge behind their bottom, so you’ll have to prepare your horse for this. But even this learning phase can be lots of fun!
Double long lining is part of the Continued Groundwork of Horsefulness Training. You can learn all about it inside the Groundwork Program.