A Horse-Showing How-To: The Longe-Line Class

In Part 1, discover a new way to expose your yearling to the horse show scene.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

At AQHA shows, the only class offered for yearlings is halter. However, many futurities and AQHA alliance partners like the National Snaffle Bit Association offer longe-line classes, which are designed to highlight the western pleasure or English prospect.

Avid horse-show exhibitor Jet Thompson of Kearney, Nebraska, has trained and shown many successful longe-liners. Check out his fine-tuned program for taking yearlings from the pasture to the winners circle.

Choosing a Longe-Line Prospect

I like to choose what I would pick for a 2-year-old western pleasure horse. I look for a mature, balanced individual. He doesn’t have to be halter-type, but a little more body-type yearling scores a little better in the conformation portion of the event. He needs to be conformationally correct with straight legs and a strong topline that is level and balanced. He needs to have a neck that is longer than his back, and his neck needs to tie in flat to his wither and shoulders. I also like to see a nice croup, tail set and low-set hocks.

He must have some overall eye appeal. In other words, he needs to be pretty.

At the lope, he should be strong-hocked and flat-kneed. At the jog, he should have a lot of rhythm or syncopation.

I prefer prospects that are quiet and are not upset or nervous. I look for a horse that doesn’t have to be overworked. I’ve found that they have a better mentality for training if they are quiet by nature.

If the longe-line class is something you want to try once your foal is a yearling, you must first ensure that your bundle of joy gets the proper start. With AQHA’s FREE Halter Breaking Your Foal report, Wayne and Margo Ball demonstrate how to halter start a foal with patience and earned trust. Download the report today so you can start your foal off on the right hoof!

I want a horse that looks like he would hold up to the class. Not that we work them very hard, but the last thing you want to do is pick a yearling that might have problems at this stage. Just leave those out in the pasture and let them grow and mature. Then start them to ride rather than pick them for a yearling prospect.

I like for longe-liners to go on and have a successful show career later. For that reason, I don’t want to push them too hard at this stage of their development.

What Is a Longe-Line Class?

The purpose of showing a yearling in a longe-line class is to demonstrate that the horse has the movement, manner/expression/attitude and conformation to be competitive under saddle. Because these are yearlings, they are not expected to demonstrate the behavior or quality of a finished show horse, but only that performance necessary for a reasonable presentation to the judge.

The class consists of two parts:

    •  A conformation inspection.
    •  A longeing demonstration lasting 90 seconds.

“We wait until our babies are ready to break,” Wayne Ball says in AQHA’s FREE Halter Breaking Your Foal report. “We don’t want to fight with them” Even if you can’t wait to get your foal into the show ring, it’s important to take your time. Download the FREE report for other young-horse training tips.

The conformation inspection is before the longeing demonstration. Each entry walks into the arena to the judge and pauses for individual evaluation. The yearling then trots off straight and around a cone to take his place along the wall, where he will wait his turn for the longeing demonstration.

The longeing demonstration begins at the sound of a whistle or audible indicator when the horse has reached the perimeter of his circle, which is 25 feet. When the “begin” signal is given, the exhibitor will be allowed 90 seconds to present the horse at all three gaits in both directions.

At the end of 90 seconds, an audible signal will be given to signify the end of the demonstration. Some classes also give a signal to alert the exhibitor at the half-way mark.

Jet says the judge is looking for a horse that should be a pleasure to ride and has correct conformation.

“The judge is looking for a horse that will walk relaxed and is a good jogger with a lot of one-two cadence. He doesn’t have to be a dead slow jogger, but I wouldn’t want it long trotting either if it’s a western horse.”

The same applies to the lope.

“He’s looking for something that will swing his hock up under him and has a nice flat front leg and carries its topline level with a lot of lift in the shoulders and a lot of cadence. The ideal lope for a horse is one that would lope off and then maintain a real consistent speed the whole time you’re loping them.”

By now, you might be wondering, “How do I come up with a longe-line routine for my yearling?” or “What are the main longe-line dos and don’ts?” Come back for Part 2 next week, where you’ll learn all of that and more!

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