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We Are Flying Solo

March 16, 2013

The Becky Diaries: Day 5: Long Lining

With each day of surreally amazing experience & knowledge streaming in front of me, my brain gets progressively more loopy (a terrifying thought, that it becomes more loopy than normal).  It feels a bit like Cookie Monster with a funnel down his throat -- "me love cookies, but me can hold no moooorreee..."

Friday morning brought several not-to-be-missed items on the schedule, so I mashed real-world duties together quickly & scurried out to resume dutiful creeping.

Up first was a 5 year old mare, a lovely dapple grey named Greta who had come with severe contact avoidance issues, including backing & signature mare fits like mini-rears & insistence that such feats were simply not possible.  She was assigned to long lines & then a short schooling ride, so I had particular interest in watching the process again, given that Encore & I would perform it later this afternoon.

Suffice it to say, Mme. Greta does not appear to have contact issues anymore!  She did a lovely job & Becky was kind enough to talk me through as she worked.  The long lines had helped her along to a real horse breakthrough; in the pen & the consequent ride, she looked steady, duly educated, & confident in her new abilities.  Becky helped her figure out the right choices by many kind words & pats along the way.  I got even more excited about our later lesson.

Up next, I volunteered to be "pole bitch" for two gymnastic rides.  First was RJ, whom Becky described a rogue novice horse that she was beginning to consider keeping, as he reminded her of a young Comet!  I'd met him in the barn a few days earlier -- an adorable chestnut gelding with a white blaze & a huge, goofy personality.  I am sure that whoever grooms for her would be THRILLED if she finally brought along a brown horse...

I don't think he's a rogue anymore...

Then came Teddy (Can't Fire Me).  He is such a neat horse to watch, with a very professional attitude & a "what would you like from me?" demeanor.  Oh, and he can jump a little too.

Standing a foot & a half from the line, I really got a feel of how much power & pace you have to bring to a 5' jump.  Watching, it often appears as if the horses are just rocking nicely along.  When you are close enough to feel the breeze as they pass, it becomes clear that a massive amount of energy has been created, compacted, & channeled to fuel these big jumping efforts...and make them look easy.

Much to a tired Encore's dismay, his moment had arrived.  Becky watched me longe him briefly to get a feel for how he responded to my body language & how he worked on the line (thanks, buddy, for throwing in that belligerent kick; your opinion has been noted...and ignored).  Then I turned him over.

She started him on a straight line setup to get him use to the line contact.  Her system is not dissimilar to vienna reins, but allowed you to push them up into a steady contact & "ride" them with a live connection from the ground.

The warmup setup.

He quickly figured out what was being asked (although not without some comments of his own) & it was time to move on to the real work by adding a bit of leverage to help him find his shoulders & open his topline.  Junior was trying very very hard the whole time; I was really quite proud of his efforts!

Working setup.

After Becky worked him a bit, she handed the lines over to me, at which point I proved that I can even hang on the left rein while on the ground -- hey, we all have to have skillz.  It was surprisingly difficult (look, uncoordinated people can own it) but I was amazed at how much softer & "rounder" he felt in the contact.  No more brick mouth!  Becky felt confident that this would really help him understand the contact & how to relax & really swing through his back & body, so we will DEFINITELY be taking this one home (and practicing where no one can see me trip & fall).

It took a lot of focus to balance the feel on both reins & not crowd him too much in the bridle all while pushing his hind legs ever forward.  As we finished, he gave both Becky & I quite the look as he stood immobile, praying that if he just didn't move, it would be over:  THIS is my easy day???  Bless his golden heart, he got many pats & snacks & went home early to nap.

Next we'll have another XC school, only this time, we'll be riding with a lovely friend of Teddy's part-owners who I've had a blast talking to the past few days.  She has a gorgeous, catty little firecracker of a mare & I look forward to the fun!  It will also give Encore a buddy out in the tiger field, which will help him immensely, & give him plenty of breaks so he only has to work in short spurts.  Monday will be his day off; hang in there, buddy, we are almost to sleep day!


  1. See, I've always wanted to try long-lining, but I feel like I'm way too much of a klutzy goon and would wind up with both longe lines tangled around my neck and Salem dragging me screaming off into the sunset. So, yeah, a video would be of great help!

    And, WOW, Becky's horses are incredible!

  2. Ok I have been away for like two weeks and you are working for Becky Holder??? BALLING!!

    I would love for you to elaborate on the horse that will not go into the contact....because my guy William is this horse exactly....

  3. Frizz, if I can't get it to upload here, I will do it when I get home on Thursday!

    LOL, TM, I wish! No, this is my awesome mum's xmas present was, I am training with her at her winter farm for 10 days. But it is very very balling! I believe Becky talks about contact in the videos -- I will upload them as soon as the interwebz lets me! But a large part of it is just putting the contact there and then giving them exercises to step into it, such as the turn on forehand and half circles she had me do if you look back at our first lesson.

  4. I found out this weekend that there are two gals at my farm who train with Becky, and they now use that setup with their horses. I'm going to do some creeping of my own to see if I, too, can soak up some Becky magic :-)

  5. Oh Katie, do creep it -- I think it's probably the most valuable tool I have learned here!

  6. Would you be willing to post a few photos of the different set ups? Becky's reins aren't like the lines I've used - and I'd love to get a better look at the layout she uses! Such a cool series of videos!

  7. Ash, I do have the two pics on there of how she has the lines connected. She just made hers out of a soft poly rope and two scissor snaps on each one - one is knotted in the end of the line, one slides, and the lines are about 30' long. I used my longe lines, which don't slide quite as well, but I was able to work it out with a little finangling.