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Long and low

From: Lisa Dear Jessica, I'm on another list where everyone is having this big argument about long and low. I guess it made sense to me at first that horses would profit from stretching their necks, but a lot of people are saying that long and low is a no-good excercise and it's bad for the horse.

My horse has always basicly been Western but I'm taking some dressage lessons and I like them a lot and may buy a new saddle this summer. I want to do what's right for him, but someone said that this can make a horse have navicular because it makes him go heavy in front. But I thought dressage is supposed to make horses light in front! My dressage teacher reads a lot and understands all this technical stuff, but she just says she wishes she never heard of long and low, and whatever you tell me is what we'll do. I think my horse goes long and low naturally, he likes to graze even when Im riding him (joke). So is it a good exercise or not? I totally love HORSE SENSE!!!!!


Hi Lisa -- thanks, I'm glad you're enjoying horse-sense. ;-)

"Long and low" is an exercise that shouldn't be particularly controversial. There IS a version of it that gives rise to big arguments -- but that version is something called "riding deep", and really isn't anything you need to worry about. ;-)

"Long and low" is often a misunderstood and badly performed exercise, and it's true that it can make the horse heavier in front, but ONLY WHEN IT'S DONE WRONG. If the rider is sloppy and just drops the horse's face on the ground, the horse will be putting more weight on its front feet and leaning forward -- exactly like your horse trying to graze!

But when "long and low" is done correctly, it's marvellous for the horse. The horse stretches and arches its whole body like a rainbow -- the hind feet step under, the hocks bend, the back lifts, and the neck reaches forward to complete the arc. The front end becomes lighter, not heavier. It's very dynamic -- and creates a picture that is totally unlike the incorrect version, with the horse leaning over its front legs and hanging its head low.

I hope this helps -- and here's part two of the explanation. This one is for you AND your instructor; I'm flattered that she wants to go along with whatever I say, but she might as well understand exactly WHY I'm saying it! ;-)

The question is truly NOT whether the horse can meander about with his nose on the ground, but whether he can reach forward and down,lifting the base of the neck and making a telescoping gesture with the neck and head.

If the nuchal ligaments are stretched and the back is lifted, the horse will benefit; if they are slack, the horse's back will not lift, and he will not benefit. It's quite possible for a horse to simply drop its head low, with no engagement, no lifted back, no stretching of the nuchal ligaments -- but this is easy to spot from the ground or the saddle! In such a case the horse's neck, long and low though it may be, is still a "ewe-neck", and the slack nuchal ligaments will be very noticeable from the ground. As for the rider -- a rider looking down at such a horse's neck would see a concavity rather than a convexity. In other words, if you're sitting on a horse doing GOOD "long and low", you're sitting on the top of a rainbow, looking down at the neck, which is one part of the arc. On the other hand, if you are sitting on a horse doing INCORRECT "long and low", you'll be sitting on a sagging hammock, and when you look down at its neck, you will see, not an arc like part of a rainbow, but an INVERTED arc like a playground slide...


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