Long Reining at Wildwoods

The lost art of long reining is now being taught at Wildwoods Rising Centre.

Wildwoods Long-reining
Two good students

Long Reining is a Lost Art

Double line lunging was practiced for hundreds of years as part of the schooling process for all young horses. Today like a lot of things it has gone into remission.

Double line lunging was used to school a horse to the bridle and the voice before the act of riding. It is a skilled job, however and must be learned and takes time.

Sadly the British Horse Society only teach single line lunging, although the British Racing School do include double line lunging in their NVQ 3. This means that fewer and fewer people who work with horses are acquiring this important skill.

Why should we double line lunge?

Horses have a natural propensity to go into pressure from certain parts of its body. The flanks if touched may ignite a horse to move towards the touch, horses have been known to crush people in stables.


Also the top of the head or poll, the teeth and mouth, are all into pressure areas. Horses are taught to come off pressure when we squeeze our legs to encourage them to go forward. The horse will if taught go with the pull of the rein but that is a learned response.

If we single line lunge horses too much they tend to pull away from the pressure of the line bending the head out of the circle. If this is done too much and for too long it is possible that the axis and atlas may become displaced triggering a ripple effect of displacement along the horses neck. It is easy to spot a horse that has been single line lunged extensively as they always hang their heads outside the curve of the circle.

Double line lunging is done with two reins, so the pressure on the bit is even. The horse can be halted, back up, walked and trotted on and cantered to voice, but keeping an even pressure on the bit. If we look at the development of the horse this method of double line training is liken to the baby learning to crawl. It is essential to the discipline of the young horse.


Horses cannot be turned on the single line lunge. They cannot be halted. If they refuse to go forward which is easy to accomplish by flicking the double lines behind the horse, the person resorts to the whip.

Whips are ok in the right hands and terrible in the wrong ones, they can become instruments of torture. The whip inflicts pain on the horse who identifies his handler as a predator. Pain and restraint along with single line lunging are three of the worst aspects of horsemanship.

Hopefully the British Horse Society will see wisdom in the inclusion of double line lunging among their extensive program of qualifications. They also need to include backing-up, as no horse should own reverse and a horse that has not been asked to back up might use reverse to evade work.

Double line lunging is an essential schooling tool, is it still used in haute ecole and in the training of racehorses. This skill needs to be taught and it would be good for horses if this skill was included in all groom-training programs.

Caroline Baldock 2012