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

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

Discover a new way to expose your yearling to the horse show scene.

blue roan yearling competes in longe line class (Credit: Journal)

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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.

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.

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.”

Developing a Longe-Line Routine

When the yearling is relaxed and consistent in the round pen and focuses on me, I will bring him into the arena. Once he understands how to longe in the arena at a walk, jog and lope, and will allow me to control his body position on the longe line, then he is ready to have his routine polished for the show pen.

The longeing portion of the class is a minute and a half. At 45 seconds, a whistle will blow to alert you it is halfway over. At the end of 90 seconds, time is called. When polishing your show routine at home, it’s best to have someone time the routine for you.

What usually works for me: I’ll have my horse as far out on the end of the longe line as I can get him when the judge calls for time to begin. I’ll let him walk maybe a quarter of a circle and then I’ll ask him to jog.

Pay attention to your judges’ and ring stewards’ instructions. You have the judges’ attention for 90 seconds, so you want to make the best impression possible.

The longe-line class is a really good class for people. Maybe you don’t like halter, and you don’t want to ride either, but you want to do something with horses. Longe line is a good alternative, plus it’s a fun class.

Dos and Don’ts of Longe-Line

  • Do make sure your halter fits properly.
  • Do learn to read your horse’s expressions and body language.
  • Do maintain proper health care from your veterinarian for optimal health and condition.
  • Do maintain proper hoof care. Shoeing might be needed if your horse’s feet wear irregularly Do wrap with polo wraps or splint boots for training sessions.
  • Do make sure to spray the horse with fly spray before working or showing. That will keep their attention on you and not the bugs.
  • Don’t longe your horses with mechanical devices.
  • Don’t tie your horse’s head down. It doesn’t promote natural head carriage or expression.
  • Don’t drastically alter your training routine.
  • Don’t get frustrated or lose your patience. Don’t put your yearling in any position where he will lose confidence in his handler.