Expert advice on the first steps to long reining

Long-reining should only be carried out by experienced horsemen.

An unbroken horse should have a sensitive mouth and be correctly balanced when ridden and both of these can be taught from the ground.

Never put yourself at risk by standing too close to the horse when he is worried or confused about what you are asking him to do.

Long-reining can be carried out once the horse is used to being lunged and accepts the lunge rein attached to the cavesson.

It teaches the horse the leg and rein aids and increases his balance by encouraging more use of his hind legs.

It is easy to regulate the paces while making the horse obedient both on the circle and straight lines.

Long-reining also teaches horses not to panic if a rider falls off. This is a very important part of the training, especially for children’s ponies.


  • saddle with stirrups
  • snaffle bridle
  • three-ring lungeing cavesson
  • brushing boots

The stirrups should be attached to the girth orto each other under the belly to prevent them banging against the horse’s side.

First steps

The first step is for the horse to accept two lunge reins. Your assistant should hold the horse with the lunge rein attached to the nearside ring of the cavesson, while the other lunge rein is attached to the opposite ring and is threaded through the off-side stirrup.

While the assistant is reassuring the horse, pass the second lunge rein onto the horse’s side behind the saddle and along his offside hind leg.

If the horse becomes frightened or worried, move the rein away from his side immediately, while the assistant reassures him.

Once the process has been repeated without trouble, he is ready to begin work.

Working from the left side, rest the second rein over the croup and ask him to move off in walk. When he is settled, let the rein drop over his croup and then behind him.

He may be worried, so continue lungeing and reassuring him before you take up any pressure on the outside rein.

Once the horse is happy at the walk, move him into trot and when that pace is established, change the rein and repeat the exercise.

Changing the rein

It is always helpful to have an assistant when changing the rein and collecting up the reins after the session.

To detach the reins, your assistant should stand at the horse’s head on the nearside, while you shorten the reins and approach on the same side.

Always make sure you stay a safe distance away from the horse, so that if he is frightened, you are out of range.

Your assistant should hold the horse while you are changing the rein.

Shorten up both reins as you approach the horse and give the left rein to your assistant before walking behind the horse to the opposite side, collecting and lengthening the reins as necessary.

Thread the rein through the stirrup iron and the horse should be ready to walk forward on the right rein.

As with lungeing, you should only attach the reins to a bit when the horse is completely happy and accepts them touching his hind legs on both sides.

To change the rein, lunge the horse in a circle and then bring him back to walk and take a firmer pressure on the outside rein, allowing him to change direction and move forward.

The horse needs to learn to turn away from you and start a new circle which, mentally, will be outside his normal lungeing radius. Try to keep your circles as large as possible, especially for young horses.

Rememberto use your voice, especially in trot. And always bring the horse back to walk before changing the rein.

Read more about training young horses: