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When I started long reining Scottie, it was part of his rehab. We were long reining because I didn’t want to lunge which can be bad for healing injuries. When it came to building up our long reining to include trot, not only was it really hard to find any information on how to introduce trot when long reining, but all the advice was based on lunging them first. Now Scottie is working nicely in trot, it inspired me to share some helpful tips I have found for starting trotting when long reining.
When should you introduce trot when long reining?
When you decide to introduce trot when long reining will depend on how established your horse is. A youngster will probably take longer than an older horse, purely because the older horse will already understand a lot of the aids, even if they haven’t done much long reining. If you or your horse is new to long reining, it is always worth running through the basics of long reining. Before I would start trotting a horse on the long reins, I would make sure they are comfortable with the basics. Can you walk, stop and turn without a problem? Is you horse comfortable enough with you moving behind them? If so you are probably ready to start trotting.
Introducing trot on a circle
If your horse is able to be lunged, then probably the easiest way to introduce trotting long reining is lunging with two lines. For a lot of horses, issues come from there being lines on either side of them or a handler running behind them. So if they horse isn’t injured and can be lunged, this can be a great place to start.
Lunge your horse with two lines, attached the same way you would if you were long reining. Once they are happy walking and stopping on a circle, then ask them to trot on like you would when you are lunging. I personally find that Scottie lunges much better with two lines as I can feel both sides of his mouth and have a greater influence over him, especially when he gets worried.
Once you are getting a nice relaxed trot and trot-walk transitions, then you can look at coming off the circle. Ask for trot on a circle, then after one circle, use the outside rein to keep them straight for a few strides, down the long side if you can, then bring them back into another circle. Work on getting longer and longer straight lines and being able to move slightly behind your horse. As they become used to you standing, walking and running behind them, you can start asking for trot on a straight line, without always needing to start trotting on a circle.
If you have any problems with them shooting forward and spooking, use the inside rein to bring them back on a circle around you. You can gather them and yourself up, maybe return to walk, before picking up trot and going straight again. If things go wrong it’s much easier to contain if you can get them back on a circle.
Introducing trot when long reining on a straight line
If you are trying to avoid lunging your horse due to injury or rehab, then you instead will need to introduce trot on a straight line. For some horses this will be a piece of cake. But if you have a horse who is a bit wary about you being behind them, or a speedy horse, it can be a bit tricky to get started.
When you are introducing trot on a straight line, you are always going to be slightly behind the horse, driving them forward. This means the horse can shoot forward away from you, especially if you start jogging after them. So I think quite a nice way to introduce trot when long reining on a straight line is to aim for a jog. If you have a horse who tends to nervous jog this might actually be to your benefit for a change!
I like to start by walking down the long side and halting at the end a few times so the horse expects a downward transition. Depending on how reactive the horse is, I will then either ask for trot, or a faster walk until they break into a jog. As soon as I have 2 or 3 strides of trot/jog I ask for walk and then halt at the end again. Sticking to just a few strides and a slow trot/jog means that you shouldn’t have to jog/run after your horse yet, meaning you aren’t chasing them. You can then slowly build up the number of strides of trot you are doing each time.
As they become comfortable with this, you can look at asking for a more forward trot. If your horse has been fairly relaxed about everything, you might be ok just asking for more and jogging after them. But if your horse has been a bit nervous, or if you want to just play it a bit safe, I like to start jogging behind when the horse is walking. By this point they should be fairly happy with you walking behind them. So as they are walking, jog behind them at walking speed. While you aren’t moving any faster, you are moving more. Practice this until they are happy with you jogging behind them. Then you can start asking more of them in trot and jogging behind them hopefully without any drama.
Whatever method you choose or how slowly you take it, you will eventually end up with the same result, a horse who is happy for you to jog along behind them in trot. Being able to trot nicely on the long reins just opens so many doors for you and your horse. From learning dressage movements, to building muscle to just giving them something new to think about it. There is no limit to the benefits.