You can approach horse training with one of two attitudes: you can consider your task done when you have achieved a certain level of training. Or you can consider your task never done, when “good” is not good enough for you, because you are trying for excellent. You are trying for finesse. I swear by the second attitude.
In my first article on finesse, I wrote about finesse when leading horses. The logical progression is now to work your horse on long lines. The objective is the same.
You must work in a round or square pen – an area that is confined. You work with a surcingle and a pair of long lines. Run the lines through the surcingle rings, and then tie them to your halter. Begin by simply following your horse. You are soon going to find yourself at the centre, while your horse goes round in circles.
You should be able to walk, stop and back your horse with the lines. When you have got compete coordination on basic signals, work your horse at all the gaits. You can also try getting your horse to turn at any point within the pen. Work on going half on the rails, turning to centre and changing directions on the opposite side. You should be able to land up getting your horse into doing figure eights.
So what have you achieved?
You have achieved the advantage that you are able to work this way with very young horses that have yet to be ridden. You also benefit in that you are able to focus entirely on your horse and its actions, without having to fret over giving just the right cue each time.
The big advantage, actually, is that you can use very little pressure when training your horse. When you are training him on a stop, you stop walking and let your horse feel the pressure. It won’t be very long before you will have achieved a super stop. You won’t need to do more than just turn your hand with the lines to get just the response desired.
Where is the finesse in all this?
Finesse starts when you turn your hand. You do this with your concentration solely on the horse, with the horse reciprocating with his full focus on the signals you are giving.
This is just the beginning, though. When you are confident your horse is adept at responding to the slightest of line signals, you move a step forward – you do it with just one hand. I am not able to describe this adequately, but essentially what you do is to allow your horse the line needed while turning. This shows a very high degree of coordination between you and your horse, and it can be a whole lot of fun.
Be aware, though, that you are going to have to devote a lot of time to be able to handle your lines in this way, and for your horse to attain that level. There is no “30-day formula” or “50-day magic method” in training a horse. What is important is not the time spent, what is important is the level of finesse and excellence achieved. In the long run, this is going to be of tremendous benefit to you as well as your horse.