A longe line is a tool used in horse training to work a horse on the ground without a rider. Basically, a longe line is just a really long lead rope, which allows a trainer to stand at a distance while asking the horse to do things. In addition to being used in horse training, longe lines are also used to train riders.
A variety of materials can be used to make longe lines, including leather, nylon, and cotton. A typical longe line has a snap on one end which can be affixed to a cavesson, bridle, or halter, and an end which has been knotted, whipped, or bound so that the line will not fray. To use a longe line, the line is attached to the side of the horse's headwear, and the horse is asked to work in a circular direction. When the horse switches directions, the longe line will be clipped to the other side of the halter.
The most classic headwear used for longeing is a cavesson, a specially designed bridle without a bit which is designed to provide optimum control of the horse. Longeing can also be done with a halter or a regular bridle, and horses may wear saddles or other gear while on a longe line, to get used to the experience. Typically the legs of the horse are wrapped to prevent injury.
Many dressage trainers work with horses on longe lines, as do trainers who are teaching horses to jump and to do other work in the ring. Working on a longe allows the horse to focus on developing particularly desired skills without the interference of a rider, and it can establish a greater connection between horse and trainer. As the horse is worked on the longe, he or she may be asked to jump over small obstacles, perform flying lead changes, and engage in other tasks to make the horse more athletic and supple.
A rider may also be asked to work on a longe, with the trainer controlling the horse while the rider focuses on refining leg commands and learning to sit firmly in the saddle. Longe work can be very tiring for both horse and rider, but it is also beneficial; many schools of horse training encourage longeing to develop healthy, happy, athletic horses who will cheerfully obey commands from their riders and trainers, and riders who go through lounge training tend to have more secure, comfortable seats.
There are a few safety tips to keep in mind when longeing a horse. Slack should not be allowed to develop in a longe line, as this can be dangerous for horse and trainer, and the line should never be wrapped around the hand, in case the horse spooks. The use of curb chains, whips, and other more aggressive training tools is also not recommended, as it is hard to use these tools in a controlled way on a longe line, and the hose may become confused or upset as a result.
Incidentally, “longe” rhymes with “sponge.”