Long Reining to Break Horses to Harness, Training the Safe Way
By Heinrich Freiherr von Senden
128 pages, Available on the Web at HorseBooksEtc.com or by calling (800) 952-5813.
Reviewed by Mary Daniels
When I first saw the cover picture of an older gentleman long lining a horse, and beneath it such a specific title, I thought it probably would not be a book I could ever personally use. But after reading the forward, followed by the first few chapters, there was no putting it down.
The foreword is written by Rolf Schettler, chairman of the Federal Association of Single-Horse Carriage Drivers in Germany and board member of the German Association of Riders and Drivers, FN-driving instructor, who writes "The German Sport Horse University in Cologne demonstrated the value of draught work for training sport horses, particularly in jumping, in a broad study with top riders such as Ludger Beerbaum. What goes for top horses can't be wrong for the many normal horses and ponies up and down the country. Work drawing a load or a cart takes the weight off the horse's back and strengthens the musculature especially on the hindquarters, the long muscles of the back and the shoulders. Heinrich von Senden's book doesn't just belong on the bedside table of every driver, but maybe even more so in the hands of all riders and horse trainers."
I found the information in this book to be of great value, since I never felt completely secure in what I had been taught in the past, even though I kept asking questions, about lungeing (von Senden spells it lungeing) and long-reining. As training a horse to become a driving horse is done in specific stages, the first two-thirds of the book is about introducing the green horse to the lunge line and then to long reining. The remainder is about "putting-to," working with a sledge and finally a single axle cart.
The translation is excellent and the full flavor of the personality of this distinguished gentleman author comes through, sophisticated and experienced but also practical and grounded. He lives in Lower Saxony, Germany, has a life-long passion for driving and has competed successfully at the top level in his discipline. Born in 1937, he still trains horses for driving as well as future driving competitors and professional drivers at the Neustadt/Dosse stud and other locations.
One aspect I appreciated is the author's focus on safety. Schettler testifies that von Senden not only has "plenty of knowledge to share but unlike almost every other driver, he has experienced hardly any serious accidents. His top priority is safety both for the people and for the horses that he works with."
The book begins with teaching the foal to lead in-hand. I was glad to see that the way I was taught to lead horses by a European is affirmed here--"the horse is always turned to the right, also for safety reasons, because it prevents the horse from stepping on your foot," writes von Sendon. "When turning, use you left hand in front of the horse's face to show him where he should go."
The photos of beautifully turned-out driving horses are excellent, and include things you don't often see, such as ten warmblood studs at a parade in Neustadt/Dosse, Germany, pulling a large carriage. But even more riveting to me were the close-up photos of what is proper lungeing and long-reining equipment. Some of it is not spanking new, proving it is well-used and will inform my own future use of equipment.
A most helpful feature are the small colored boxes on many the pages with easily digestible "Pro-tips" from von Senden such as: "during subsequent work with the long reins I use a driving curb with a thick straight bar bit that is loosely attached. Horses feel best in it."
Fitting the lungeing equipment and how to properly attach the lunge (he feeds the lunge rein through the bit ring and the, a type of fastening that prevents the bit from being pulled through the mouth) will also change my habits. "Personally I don't think much of cavessons," he writes. "They very rarely sit correctly and almost always press on the right eye."
His candid comment, "it's rare for everything to go smoothly when you first start lungeing and various problems will keep cropping up," is encouraging. "Dealing with these problems requires comprehensive knowledge and quick reactions on the part of the person lungeing."
Therefore, a considerable portion is dedicated to potential problems and solutions when working on the lunge: the horse bucks and rears, the horse doesn't walk in a circle, the horse is frightened by the movements of the whip, the horse races around on the circle." I have experienced every one of these and often felt helpless, having no idea what to do.
I could go on for quite a while about the exquisitely detailed information in this book. This one is going into my personal equestrian library.