Clinic Report: Richard Malmgren 9/8

I've been long lining Spicy since this winter with a fair amount of success. The exercise has gone a long way in making Spicy more ride-able under saddle. Still, I am a novice at long lining and was on the hunt for the opportunity to learn from a professional. That opportunity presented itself as my regular dressage trainer holds frequent clinics with Swedish dressage rider Richard Malmgren. I highly recommend even auditing a clinic with him if you have the chance. He kept up a running narration while he was working with each horse which I found helpful. He was also open to questions and was kind to me and gentle but firm with Spicy.

The Warm Up
Richard spent a good amount of time at the start of the session feeling Spicy out. During that time he narrated the type of equipment he used and why, from the surcingle to the lines. He explained the different ways to hold the lines and whip, and the best practices for managing them in your hands.

Look ma, I'm long lining!!
The Stance
Typically when I long line Spicy I stand in the center of the circle, as if I were lunging him, such as the image on the left. The appropriate way to stand is actually at an angle to your horse's ass, like the image on the right:

Standing centered as in lunging, the horse could spin away from you and everyone could become tangled up and die. This has happened to me before (well, minus the death). The angled position provides more control and allows you to 'ride' the horse more like you'd actually ride seated on top of him. Apparently, it's also easier for the horse to see you when standing in the correct position. Richard likened it to standing directly across from a person and looking at them in the eye. This made sense to me, and was further reinforced by how relaxed Spicy was during the session. He never once spooked at Richard or any movement he made. 

The Pattern

Plz note the lack of haunches swinging out!!!!

At the start, I told Richard I had been long lining Spicy (self taught, probably wrong, sorry you have to fix all my mistakes...) and that his biggest problem was he got overbent both in flexion and to the inside. Apparently this is a common problem, solved by rethinking the pattern you're executing with the horse. Instead of imagining the horse being on a circle, he asked us to think of it more as an octagon.

Richard stressed the importance of the octagon in that it forced you to ride eight straight sides and eight small turns. Therefore, he was constantly asking Spicy to turn his shoulder around his haunches, straighten, turn his shoulder around his haunches, straighten. Honestly, I never saw him touch the inside rein at all; the turn and straightness came purely from the outside rein.

The Back
The purpose of long lining at the start is to unlock the back. The back will remain inaccessible until the horse allows the withers to be freed, which can't happen until the horse stretches his poll below his withers. I wrote this verbatim in my phone when he said it. Tightness in Spicy's back is his biggest issue, and it is proving challenging for us to work through.

To the left it was easier for the horse, that's his good direction for certain. Going to the right, Richard repeated the same exercise on the octagon at the walk and then the trot, and Spicy was recalcitrant. At times he was so tense he almost looked off on the right hind because he just really, really (REALLY) did not want to step under himself with it. And uh, I probably let him get away with that shit on the daily.

stretching... to the right!! note the lack of swinging haunches AGAIN.

Another struggle I confided to Richard was that I had a lot of trouble getting the right lead canter. My jaw hit the arena floor because at the most imperceptible cue for canter Spicy immediately picked up the right lead and held it. Richard talked about how all the work we had done at the walk and trot had straightened him out enough to use his right hind, allowing him a perfect canter transition. After the brief canter, Spicy was able to achieve even better stretch at the slower gaits.

The Evasions
Spicy was textbook in his evasions. He cycled between going crooked, slowing down and speeding up. At one point going to the right Spicy got a little fed up with Richard's shit, and flipped him the proverbial bird. But even at his worst, all Spicy did was get rigid and stop, which made me feel a lot more comfortable about pushing on him. Sometimes I still get a little worried about having to deal with a potential blow up, but as long as I'm fair Spicy seems more than willing to play our games.

Apparently if your horse starts to inexplicably run out of gas you're doing it right.

In Closing
Richard was so incredibly patient and soft, perfectly supportive while remaining firm and unyielding in what he wanted. It was slow going, but gradually with extremely well timed releases Spicy started to soften. One of my favorite training moments was as Spicy tried to hold stretch for several strides instead of just one, Richard gave him a walk break. Always in hunt of the path of least resistance, it took about thirty seconds for Spicy to realize lowering his head to stretch earned him a break. By the end of the session he completed one circuit of the octagon stretched and relaxed more than I had ever seen him.

The beginning of a nice swinging walk

There will be several more opportunities to have Richard school Spicy on the lines this winter, and I'm hoping I can take advantage! It was a wonderful experience for both of us and I learned a lot.


  1. This is so cool! I learned a lot just from your post - definitely hope you'll share about future sessions.

    1. I definitely will, and I'm hoping next time I can audit a bit more. My dressage trainer's horse was super fun to watch; he was doing all kinds of upper level stuff on the long lines and it looked like Richard wasn't doing anything except standing there.

  2. This is super educational, thank you for sharing! I'm glad you had the opportunity and will again. So wonderful to have a great resource available like this.

    1. It was way more beneficial than I thought it would be, I highly recommend if the opportunity comes up!

  3. This is super cool! I'd definitely take a longlining clinic!

    1. I wish they were offered more - it's such a specialized skill I bet lots of people would jump at the chance if they were around more

  4. that is neat i had no idea they offered those type of clinics PS Spicy looks great!! :)

    1. he is the handsomest nugget and I love him (even though he was an unholy terror last night.... apparently he used up all his good behavior this weekend)

  5. so fascinating - and Spicy looks great!! i've done a ton of in hand work with charlie over the years (not so much recently), but never long lining and never like.... *correct* haha. something tells me that despite charlie being basically a trained horse at this point, he'd really really struggle with that sort of format. it looks really useful tho. lmk next time you go ;)

    1. I def will, I'm not sure how far it is for you and charlie or if he does clinics farther south but it was fun watching someone do it right and see how well it went hahaha


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