Posted: Tue Nov 23, 2004 10:36 am Post subject: What is "long and low"
I have recently heard the term "long and low" which is a term used to get a horse to stretch out instead of collecting. My question is how do I achieve this with a horse that is quick without doing alot of half-halts?
The horse must be able to relax into the contact, and work reasonably well on the bit, in order to achieve "long and low."
The idea in long & low is that the horse is working well from behind & across the back, but is not in as compressed a frame as when on the bit.
So you start with asking the horse to get under himself; use leg to ask for energy, use rein to make sure that energy doesn't just fall onto the forehand. Get the horse working well on the bit.
Then you slowly, slow let the rein out. The horse should be seeking the contact, so as you let the rein out a teeny bit at a time, the horse should follow the rein forward & down to keep the contact. You're still using leg to ask for energy, and you're still asking the horse to work under himself and through the back. You should keep the same amount of contact, the same pressure, to make sure that you don't lose all the energy out the forehand. But you're gradually extending the rein, so the horse ends up reaching forward & down.
Eventually you've got a horse who's working as if on the bit, but with a very stretched out frame. You're getting a lot of stretch in the muscles across the topline, while still making sure that the horse is carrying himself well and working across the back.
Once the horse gets accustomed to it, you don't have to be so veeeery slow about letting out the rein; he knows what you're asking for, so you can speed the process up a bit.
So you see, a horse needs to understand contact and reaching for contact. If the horse is not comfortable with contact, he needs more work on that point before he can get into long and low.
Since I don't know what your background is, I'll go ahead and mention that I have seen two very common causes of "jigging" under saddle.
One is pulling the leg OFF the horse. When you're riding a horse who's very active, it's natural to want to pull your leg away unless you're actively using it. This can upset the horse, as leg aids become much less predictable, so he never knows when they're coming. Also, the leg is less stable this way, it' tends to swing, and to brush the horse occasionally. As a result, the leg aids are not consistent; sometimes a touch from the leg means something, sometimes it does. The horse becomes confused and anxious. It works much better to leave the leg softly ON the horse's side, and to squeeze when you need to use the leg.
I have an article on this:
The other is the same kind of idea, but with rein contact. Again, when you leave the reins loose when you're not using them (or leave one rein loose), the rein aids are much less predictable and much more harsh. Movements of the bit, due to slack in the rein, may not mean anything. The rein aids are less controlled and more jerky. A light, consistent contact often helps a horse to relax and lower his head.
Jessica Jahiel has an excellent article on this: