Dressage Today Podcast Transcript: Interview with Jennifer Hoffman

Season 2, Episode 10

In this episode, sponsored by ADM, host Stephanie Ruff talks about her recent trip to Wellington, Florida for the U.S Equestrian Dressage Mandatory Observation Event. Then co-host Aviva Nebesky explains her saddle pad “collection” and answers a listener’s question in her “Ask the L” segment.

Together they interview long lining expert Jennifer Hoffman. Jennifer came up through the 4-H program in Pennsylvania. Her first horse was an off-track thoroughbred named Autumn Charm who she later named her farm after. She rode with Dana Bright, who is nationally known for driving and attended the University of Findlay in their Western Program. She spent time working for reining WEG Gold Medalist Dan Huss as well as Nandi Veterinary Associates foaling mares, handling stallions and young horses. In 2001 she branched out on her own and in 2004 bought her farm, Autumn Charm Sport Horses, located in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, that offers boarding, lessons and breeding services. Her focus on dressage and long lining has come from riding with JJ Tate and learning to long line from Tate’s husband, Richard Malmgren.


Stephanie Ruff: [00:00:00] Hello, I’m Stephanie Ruff.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:00:07] And I’m Aviva Nebesky.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:00:09] We’re the hosts of the Dressage Today Podcast, where you can find us talking about anything and everything dressage related. Our conversations span the world of dressage from leading riders to local level dressage heroes. We’re talking training advice, showing tips and sharing stories to inspire your own dressage journey. So tune in, then tack up.

Hello and welcome to the Dressage Today Podcast. Today’s episode is sponsored by ADM. Later on we will be talking to long lining expert, Jennifer Hoffman, but first how’s it going Aviva? What’s new on your end?

Aviva Nebesky: [00:00:47] Well, hi, Stephanie, it’s good to talk to you. It’s been a really hectic month so far. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been doing a lot of judging and teaching a lot of clinics, and I’m actually sitting here talking to you today with a horrific [00:01:00] sunburn from standing out in an outdoor sand arena with no shade for 10 lessons.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:01:06] Oh no.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:01:07] Oh yeah. There’s there’s no winning the day before I judged it was cold, it was raining. It was windy. And I was under a tent under trees in the shade and I was cold. So it’s one or the other it’s what being, being in the horse business is all about.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:01:23] It is always dealing with the elements.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:01:26] Yep. So how was it? You just went to the dressage observation. Yeah. How was it there? What was the weather like? I know they were trying to approximate the tropical conditions of Japan. Was it awful or how did it go?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:01:38] I would say they succeeded fairly well in duplicating the weather conditions that they are expecting. It is June now in Florida. The humidity has arrived.

Actually Wednesday wasn’t bad. Wednesday, there was a nice breeze that kept tolerable Friday night was, there was no breeze, so it was much [00:02:00] muggier, and the air was much heavier. Everybody seemed to handle it pretty well though. The horses and riders all seem to be able to deal with it pretty well.

But it definitely set them up for what weather-wise, what they’re going to encounter when they’re over there in Tokyo as well as the same time, because there’ll be competing at night. Under the lights and this was also at night under the lights. But it was great. It was a fantastic event.

I had a great time and this was the first time I ever saw this kind of caliber dressage live and in person, of course, like everyone else I’ve seen it on TV or live stream or whatever. But I was up close and personal and it was quite a treat and really special. And I’m very fortunate that I was able to to go and check it out

Aviva Nebesky: [00:02:47] I know way back in the eighties, my husband and I went to the Atlanta Olympics and we saw all the dressage there and they did a lot of really preparing the horses and the riders for the heat and how to handle the heat because they did [00:03:00] have all of the competition during the day under the heat of the sun.

And what they did was they had the day divided into two and they did things in the morning and then they did things later in the afternoon, so that it wasn’t, that middle of the day when the sun is just beating down on you. And I have to say, I’m just so jealous that you were there because I think the caliber of riding and the caliber of horses just is increasing exponentially over the years.

And as exciting as Atlanta was. I was able to watch a little bit of the live stream for the observation event. And, oh my Lord. It’s spectacular. The quality has just gone through the roof. I think the Americans have a real shot at medaling, don’t you?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:03:42] Yeah. And I tell you I spoke with Debbie McDonald one day and she basically echoed the same thing.

She said the programs that they’ve put in place, the developing horse program and the young rider programs and all of the programs that they put in place, 10 or so or more years ago are [00:04:00] starting to pay dividends now. Yeah. That would take a while to show, but she said exactly what you said.

The caliber of the horses and riders in the U S is increasing every year. And she really, she said it’s hard to know what to expect compared to everybody else because of the COVID restrictions nobody’s been competing against anybody else, the Germans have competed in Germany.

The Dutch have competed, in the Netherlands, the British have competed in England. So she said it’s really hard to get a feel for. What’s out there, but she’s very optimistic of our chances.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:04:35] I think what’s so cool about this event, Stephanie, is that, all of the judges that they had for the observation event were international judges.

So they are judging on that international scale with the expectation of the quality that we see from the Germans and the quality that we see from the Dutch and the quality that we’ve been seeing from the Brits. And they are still scoring our top American [00:05:00] riders at those, what to us are astronomical levels, even the seventies and touching into eighties and, To me that’s really exciting that we are competitive at this point.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:05:11] Yeah.

And that was the purpose they wanted. That’s why they brought the international judges in. So they could see how the U S riders were stacking up against, with an international panel and not just U.S. Judges. So that was done, with the distinct purpose. So they had an idea of where they would rank and everybody’s pretty optimistic.

So I guess we’ll see, we should find out within the next week who will actually be traveling to Tokyo. But one of the other things that I just wanted to throw out there to our listeners is if you’re interested in hearing my, behind the scenes view of, just a dressage fan attending an event such as this.

If you go to, you can read an article that I wrote and under the News section. Yeah. So go there and check that out. And [00:06:00] there’s some photos and I’m just my impressions of the the whole event. So you can check that out there.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:06:07] A little fan girl, let loose in the upper echelons.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:06:12] That’s exactly what happened.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:06:16] I just have to say, I just, we’re always, so in awe of these upper level and international riders and they’re just so remarkable and amazing, but what is so cool to me is when you watch these people, I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but when they make mistakes that we are not perfect.

Any of us, even at that level, that this is still a team. Sport. This is still a partnership between the horse and rider. And sometimes there are little miscues and little miscommunications and, sometimes the horse is saying, mom it’s really hot or did you see that flash bulb go off? [00:07:00] And there’s just something very endearing about it.

Out seeing the humanness of riders and their horses. And it’s also lovely seeing the bond between these horses and their riders and when they finish and the rider reaches down to thank the horse and it’s such a heartfelt, thank you. It just, I wish I had been able to stay awake to watch all of the riders.

I think I was able to watch seven. And it was just, it was breathtaking. It was just wonderful. And I’m just so envious that you got to be there live.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:07:32] But yes. And you can actually, you can feel the emotions. From not only the riders, but their grooms and the trainers and the owners and the crowd.

It was great. We had spectators, Friday night was sold out. There were over, I think at least 700 people there. So it and you really can feel it, which is fantastic. And yeah, it makes the rest of us feel a little bit better when you don’t want, you don’t want them to make errors, but it [00:08:00] does make us all feel like, oh, okay.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:08:02] So all of the horses and rider combinations that you saw, what was the one crowning moment and what was the most educational moment for you?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:08:14] Oh, I don’t.

I crowning moment. I’m not really sure. That’s hard to say. Not specifically, but I think in general there were a lot of people, whether they were in the top three to five or not, there were a lot of people that made personal bests at this competition.

So that to me, Really spoke to how much every single person tried, how hard they all tried, how hard they all worked and how much they wanted to do well. And for, I don’t know, probably four or five different ones setting personal bests, probably each night, Wednesday night, and then Friday night.

That to me, just, really stood out that these people were just giving it and horses, I should [00:09:00] say, were giving it everything they had to do this. Whether they realistically had a chance to make the team or not, they were gonna do everything. They could, the best that they could.

So that was really. Really nice to see. And and that’s a little bit education-wise too is, and that’s part of the thing with the dressage is that you are in a lot of times you’re competing against yourself. You’re competing against others, but you’re competing against yourself too.

And I think a lot of people had better rides for the most part Friday night than Wednesday night. And I can’t swear to that because I don’t have the scores right in front of me and stuff like that, but just, but there was, there were definitely some horses that were a bit tense on Wednesday that, this was new to them and they did better on Friday.

So it definitely, they took what they did Wednesday. They thought about it. They made whatever adjustments, and they came back out and, and they just they’re like they, [00:10:00] whatever happened on Wednesday went away and they went for it on Friday. And and yeah, the fact that there were some mistakes and yeah, like we said, you, you don’t want to see them, especially in something like this, you hate to see them. I shouldn’t say feel badly for them. But.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:10:17] There’s something so humanizing.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:10:19] It’s very humanizing. And the fact that all of them, even though they had some, the ones that had some bobbles, they recovered very quickly. They went on, it, didn’t phase them. They went on, they rode their tests, they finished and that takes time and experience and being and focus. That the rest of us work at attaining.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:10:41] One of the things that I really enjoyed was I was listening on Friday night and Laura Graves was hosting, was moderating and. Number one, she’s very funny and she’s very engaging. But the other thing that just struck me was, she knows all of these [00:11:00] people.

It’s a small world. That upper echelon of riders is a small world and the attachment and the warmth that she had for each pair when there was a mistake. And she’d say, ah, buddy, and, you just felt her riding with everyone and there was none of that kind of snarky. Oh if he was on this, that or the other, there was such a sense of we’re all in this together and we all want to do well.

It was, yeah. It was just, it had a beautiful, warm, encompassing feel. And I’m just, I’m thrilled for the state of dressage today.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:11:35] Yeah. And I felt that, you felt that there, like people were cheering, everybody was cheering for each other. Everybody was there to do a good job, even though at the, but at the same time they were there to compete, don’t get me wrong.

Yeah. But yeah. But at the same time it felt like a very supportive atmosphere, which was great.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:11:56] Absolutely. I will have to go online and find your article [00:12:00] and see what you had to say about everybody. Was there one pair. That really stood out for you more than any other pair. Oh, I know it was pretty magnificent. Was there one horse you wanted to take home?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:12:14] I would take any of them. Come on. Please. Wednesday night, Adrian and Salvino really looked good. And it’s not that they looked bad on Friday, but I don’t, and part of it was, I couldn’t watch. I was also taking pictures and walking and stuff, so it’s not like I could watch every moment of every ride, but they looked really good on Wednesday. I think Steffen and Mopsy looked really good on Friday and Sabine looked really good both nights. Those three were the top and they looked really good, but the one thing I have to say, and then we’ll move on.

This is, this was the one thing, and I took pictures of all this, these horses tails. Now I know that their tails are the most fantastic. Every single [00:13:00] one, their tails are the most fantastic things I have ever seen. And I need to find out what these grooms do to make their tails look, just so fabulous because they’re out of this world.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:13:11] Then we’re just going to have to do a podcast with with one of these grooms and find out how to handle a tail. Okay.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:13:17] Because I was, so that was like the odd thing that struck me. I’m like, God, these tails are nice. Look at that too. So yes. So now inquiring minds want to know what do you do to make an international Grand Prix dressage horse’s tail looks so darn good.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:13:33] Yeah. And aren’t we going to be upset if we find out that they’re fake.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:13:38] No, no, we’re not going to, oh, no, I’m not even going there. Nope. I refuse to believe that, but they are beautiful. I have no good way to segue from that to our next subject. Other than one of the things that I saw you recently [00:14:00] chat about online was your tendency to purchase saddle pads.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:14:08] You mean my saddle pad addiction?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:14:10] If that’s what we’re calling it then but something tells me that there are probably listeners out there who can relate to buying lots of saddle pads. And how many would you say you think you own?

Aviva Nebesky: [00:14:23] I’m really embarrassed to say this on national, so let me say that.

I think I have about 65. However, let me say also I do ride two horses and it’s summer and it’s hot. And so each saddle pad gets drenched after one ride and needs to be washed. Yes. And also that my best friend who also had just a little bit of a saddle pad addiction when she died, she left me all of her saddle pads. So it’s a joint collection. It isn’t all mine.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:14:55] You’re correct. That would be considered a joint collection. And tell [00:15:00] our listeners about your most recent saddle pad purchase.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:15:06] So my most recent saddle pad, so I happen to love the color yellow. Green is my favorite color, but I love the color yellow.

And I rode chestnuts for a long time. And yellow happens to look really good on chestnuts and any of you who know chestnuts know there aren’t a lot of really great colors. So equestrian stockholm was advertising this new saddle pad that they have out called soft lemon. And I simply couldn’t resist.

And yes, indeed. I bought that 65. Saddle pad. And I have you admit that by going back and looking at my other saddle pads, I realized I already have two yellow saddle pads, but we’re not going to remember that. So I bought the soft yellow saddle pad and it arrived and I took it out of the box. And I don’t [00:16:00] know what you guys would think about the color soft yellow, but to me, it’s a pastel, soft, understated, yellow.

This ES pad is yellow in your face, yellow. And I probably wouldn’t have ordered it if I had realized it was quite that yellow, but now that I own it, I’ve put it on my horse and I wrote in it and I happened to have a yellow short-sleeve polo. Had to do the matchy, I’m not a big fan of the fly bonnet so I didn’t buy a fly bonnet and I didn’t buy the polos because they were really expensive. Today I was teaching and one of my students was wearing a really lovely long sleeve yellow sun shirt. And we got onto the subject of yellow and we got onto the subject of my yellow saddle pad. And that I love matchy-matchy because, it’s really fun that dressage is finally no longer just black and white and that bling and, we have fun with stuff and I’ve always loved color. And right [00:17:00] before we started this podcast, my wonderful student, Gina sent me a text with a picture of yellow wraps and said they are hers and they’re used, but yeah, I want those they’re mine. So now I’m going to be even more matchy-matchy.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:17:18] Excellent. I can’t wait to see. You’re going to have to take a picture and share it with all of us.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:17:24] And I also have to admit one other funny thing, and I know our listeners will get a kick out of this. So we know I have a new horse and his barn. Name is tiger. So I went looking for a tiger Stripe saddle pad.

And I need to tell you guys that there is no such thing. You can get zebra stripes, you can get leopard spots, but nobody makes tiger stripes. So I have a friend named Diana who is a very talented seamstress. She makes beautiful stock ties, and I sent her a message and I asked her if she would be willing to make me [00:18:00] a tiger Stripe saddle pad, and she’s making me one, isn’t that going to be fun? My husband told me I need to find tiger Stripe britches. And I said, I wasn’t a hooker. I was a rider.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:18:15] Yeah we definitely will need to see the tiger Stripe saddle pad when it is complete.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:18:20] I promise. I absolutely promise. So do you have any kind of tack addiction or are you blessedly safe from that

Stephanie Ruff: [00:18:28] I’m relatively safe from that. I believe I don’t have a saddle pad addiction. Definitely not. I tend to wear my stuff out, so I have things for a very long time, but I tend to not add to it fortunately. So I’m relatively safe. Okay. I guess I’m an odd person. I don’t know.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:18:46] We’re also not going to talk about my sun shirt habit.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:18:49] Okay. We’ll save that for another one because I do have quite a few, so maybe we should compare notes on our sun shirts and we can reconvene in the next podcast because I [00:19:00] do live in Florida, so I am all about the sun shirt.

We want to move on to our ask the L feature, which has become a really popular part of this podcast. So I am so glad you suggested this as a feature to do.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:19:27] I think you’re the one who came up with it.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:19:29] Am I? Okay. You came up with the title.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:19:32] I did, but you came up with the idea.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:19:34] Okay. I’m really glad I came up with that idea.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:19:39] Me too.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:19:42] I’m glad you’re willing to answer the questions. Cause all I do is I find them, but you have to answer them and today’s question comes from Jessica. And it is, what are your expectations when training and or showing a young horse who is a dressage prospect?

[00:20:00] Aviva Nebesky: [00:20:02] Why am I getting such a hard question?

Stephanie Ruff: [00:20:04] I don’t know. I’m sorry. Give it your best shot. I’m sure you have an opinion.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:20:09] Oh, I have opinions on everything. So Jessica, to me that is more of a a trainer question than really a judge question, but I’m going to address it as, somebody who’s sitting at C and a young horse comes in. So I guess my expectation is and I do see a lot of riders who come in with green horses and that’s not necessarily a young horse, but a horse that doesn’t know a whole lot.

And what I’m looking for, honestly, more than anything. Is correctness of basics and harmony with the riders. I think that the training scale is something that’s very important. And if people don’t actually know what the training scale is, then looking at the dressage tests themselves will tell you.

[00:21:00] Where to go in your training, the, what you’re looking for in intro level, which is accuracy, which is a horse, that’s just going nicely, freely forward, not on the bit, but, reaching for the bridle and showing some connection. That’s supple enough to make a 20 meter circle that.

Is able to figure out how to do a transition between this point and that point, that is thinking about doing things in some balance and then moving up to training level where you want a horse that is really more honestly reaching for the bit, that is balanced on a 20 meter circle, that can go through a corner.

It’s able to differentiate between straightness on a diagonal line and then through a corner. And then, moving up into first level where your horse is showing the increased power and thrust for a lengthening where the horse is in that level of balance, but starting to think about carrying some weight behind, where the horse is able to be laterally supple, to start thinking about doing [00:22:00] the movement of a leg yield, where they actually have to lift their shoulders and cross their legs and start to carry a little bit more weight behind and maintain straightness.

So for me, what I want to see in a young horse is a horse that has been correctly started. A horse that isn’t being forced into a frame, a horse that is going at the tempo, that seems to be comfortable for that individual horse. We talk a lot about forward and forward is extremely important with young horses.

But people don’t understand the idea of forward and it is not the same. Tempo is how quickly the horse goes. Rhythm is the footfalls. The rhythm of the walk is even four beats. The rhythm of the trot is even two beats, the rhythm of the canter is bud-a-dump, bud-a-dump, bud-a-dump. But tempo is something that can be a little bit more unique to a horse.

And there are some horses whose tempos are quicker than other [00:23:00] horses, but the horses that have a slow tempo may still be forward forward is about the power from behind forward is about tracking up forward. Is that feeling that you get when you watch a horse and it looks as if it really wants to go forward, that when the rider closes, the lower leg pushes the hip forward, that the horse has a surge of some kind that there’s a natural inclination to go.

So that’s what I look for. In a dressage prospect, I look for three, correct gaits, a pure four beat walk. I know it was interesting, going back a little bit to what we talked about previously, listening to Laura Graves, talk about the grand Prix horses, and she talked a lot about the walk tour.

So many grand Prix horses don’t have a great walk and that they lose the purity of the rhythm. And that’s something that I’m honestly struggling with my horse tiger. He’s got a very big walk and if I allow him to get a little bit [00:24:00] tense his walk becomes lateral, and he loses that natural rhythm.

So in a young horse, in a dressge prospect, I want to see a horse that when left to his own devices in the free walk is reaching over his back and is swinging through his back and has a clear four beat 1, 2, 3, 4, that when they’re trotting, that trot doesn’t feel like they’re rushing, that they don’t look like they’re falling on their forehead.

That they don’t look like they’re squashed with a short neck and too tight and tense and uncomfortable, but that it’s that kind of trot that you see when they’re out in the field and they’re free and happy and just trotting along the fence line. Same kind of thing with the canter, that it’s relaxed, I guess what I look for in a dressage prospect is that feeling of relaxation, that feeling of swing through the back, the feeling of purity and joy And I like to see that as it goes through the levels that the purity of the gaits remains there, that the joy and the movement remains there, that you see [00:25:00] the horse taking pleasure in being an athlete.

So that’s a very, long-winded answer to that question and I’m not sure if it answered it at all, but that’s what I’m going to stick with.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:25:09] I think it answered it. I think you did a very. Very good job of answering what you said was a hard question. Yeah. Yeah. And for our listeners, if you have a question about showing or judging, please email me at or reach out to us on DT social media.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:25:32] Or if you have any comments about saddle pad addictions.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:25:35] That’s right. Yeah. Please let us know. We will help you. Or enable you. I’m not sure which. After a short break, we will be back with our conversation with Jennifer Hoffman.

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Aviva Nebesky: [00:26:54] Jennifer Hoffman is a really interesting person in the horse industry. She has such an [00:27:00] incredible breadth of knowledge. She came up to the 4 H program in Pennsylvania and her first horse was an off the track thoroughbred named autumn charm. And that was who she later named her farm after. She rode with Dana bright, who’s nationally known for driving, and she attended the university of Finley

for Western program, she spent time working for reining WEG gold medalist, Dan Huss, as well as working with Nandi veterinary associates, foaling mares, handling stallions and young horses. In 2001, she branched out on her own. And in 2004, she bought her farm autumn charm sport horses that focuses on boarding lessons and breeding. Her focus on dressage and long lining has come from riding with JJ Tate and learning to long line from JJ’s husband, Richard Malmgren.

I’m really excited to introduce you to Jennifer and tell you a little bit about how I met her. I’m really excited to introduce everybody to my friend, Jen. So we’ve talked in the past a little bit about my voice Leo and what a difficult [00:28:00] man he has been. And I heard about this woman who was going to be coming to a farm near me, who did something called long lining.

And I asked my trainer what she thought about it and whether she thought it would be helpful for Leo and her response was more or less. We can always try. So I bundled Leo into the trailer. And I took him to meet Jennifer Hoffman and she long lined him. And I wasn’t really sure what was going on or what it was all about, but he behaved himself, which was exciting.

And she seemed to like him and she was a nice person. And the next time I got on him, I had a different horse and I was sold from that point on long lining is an amazing adjunct. It’s a wonderful technique for horses. And I want to introduce everybody out there to it because I think it can be really helpful.

So before we get into just the nitty gritty about long lining, Jen, why don’t you tell us? I told everybody about your history and how you’ve done so many different things in horses and that you [00:29:00] started out with driving in Western. And now here you are, and dressage and breeding and long lining. How did you originally get involved with horses and what made you decide to do it professional?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:29:09] When I was my mom said I was five or six and we went to a neighbor’s house and they had won a pony named popcorn in a raffle at a carnival. And I went for a ride and I sat behind her on popcorn. And my mom said I never stopped talking about horses ever since. And I, as far as wanting to be a professional, I think I was about age 12.

I had just switched horses from a really reliable schoolmaster type horse to an off-track thoroughbred. And I was reading everything I could about horses. And I met a local woman who did dressage. She had owned the horse that I was had moved on from. And she introduced [00:30:00] dressage to me and I learned how to train my off track thoroughbred and yeah, I wanted to be a trainer since then.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:30:06] You’re certainly a very talented horsewoman. I’ve seen that just in the way that you’ve worked with both Leo and tiger. I know that our listeners, some of them probably understand long lining, but I think a lot of them are probably as ignorant about it as I was when I first met you.

So can you talk a little bit about what it is? How it’s different from just lunging, what the equipment is like and how it works?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:30:29] The equipment I use, I have a surcingle that Richard Malmgren, my mentor got me in Sweden. It has rings that stand up and they don’t make them in the U S so I use a surcingle that has many rings and attachments.

It also has two separated shoulders. So it was like a hoop on the top and so each shoulder can move freely. And then reins obviously. And then I just use a snaffle bit type head stall on the horse.

[00:31:00] Aviva Nebesky: [00:30:59] How was it different from lunging?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:31:01] Yeah. So for me lunging is a simple way of teaching the horse to go from.

The hind leg to the bit. And so the basis of forward and submission long lining to me is like riding from the ground. And it is very black and white to the horse. And it’s much more specific as far as teaching the horse. The idea of inside leg to outside rein, and so I work mostly on an octagon, not a circle and I do straight lines and turns where the horse’s shoulders come around the haunches and each time the horse turns, it loads the inside hind leg. So it’s not actually a circle. So that’s quite a bit different than lunging. Also again, really working the horse from the outside rein, I think is a huge difference. We can really make the horse straight through its body [00:32:00] in the long lines.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:32:02] So I’ve noticed when you long line at my place lots of the different horses start with a slight counter bend. And you always say, don’t worry about that. Talk a little bit about why that’s okay.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:32:14] Yeah. So we call that outside positioning. And so in the long lines, you can see the three evasions of the horse very clearly which are crookedness.

So the horse leans through the left shoulder or the right shoulder. Neck evasion where you see the inversion of the neck or curling and speed evasion where the horse either rushes or sucks back. And so the outside positioning that we see is the horse who falls in and, I’m sure anybody who rides is ridden a horse, that’s falling in on the circle.

And so when we see that outside positioning the horse is not connecting to the outside rein yet we a little bit let the horse fail and let the horse find his way to the outside rein. [00:33:00] I refuse to pull on the inside rein, and the horse will from nature, find his way to balance. I do use my whip of course, as my inside leg, but I encourage the horse to find his way to straightness through, we use the horses sense from being a prey animal.

The horse always wants to be balanced. And when the horse is falling in all of its weight is on the inside front leg and it soon figures out that it needs to be much more balanced than that. So it seeks out the outside rein does that make sense?

Aviva Nebesky: [00:33:38] Yes, it does.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:33:41] After a long lining session, what can the rider expect to feel with the horse and how long does that kind of last?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:33:49] Yeah. I think the feeling the day after is amazing. The horse feels much more [00:34:00] through and much more equal in both reins. A greater understanding of the outside rein leading the horse. Yeah. That throughness and connection is really what made, got me addicted to it. Yeah. Yeah. It’s for sure. The best. How long does it last?

I guess that would. The first thing is getting the rider to feel that feeling that occurs the day after the long lining. And of course after that is, just like anything in riding is we want that feeling every day. So we can seek out that new feeling, hopefully through our own riding.

We’re always looking for those special feelings and if we can get you to feel that then you’ll seek it out on your own.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:34:43] What does a horse need to know in order to be long lined?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:34:48] For sure it needs to lunge well. I have long many horses now and some of them don’t lunge very well.

So what I mean by that is that the horse respects and is submissive to the longe line and [00:35:00] that the horse tries to stay somewhat balanced. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be very green, but I don’t really want to be drunk all over the arena. Yeah. And the horse has to accept a bit, so sometimes I meet a horse that, that does not accept the bit.

In other words, when we touch the horses mouth, it has a big reaction, or it doesn’t understand How to push towards the bit. And sometimes I suggest going back and teaching the horse a little bit more basic lunging. Usually I can get the horse long line, but there is an occasion here and there where we have to go back and teach the horse how to lunge.

And I have done that in clinics. Okay. Everybody’s on a journey, right? Yeah. So just teaching the horse to be submissive to the longe line and respectful. Yeah.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:35:46] One of the things that’s always really impressed me watching you work with the horses is your incredible patience that you don’t help the horses.

I love it. When you say that you give the horse the opportunity to fail so that they can find their own way to success. Because I think what a lot of us [00:36:00] as riders do is we try to fix things for our horses. And then the horse never learns to do it on its own. And then the other thing that I’ve always been impressed with you is that you’re willing to think outside the box that where there is not a recipe for anything that you go where the horse is.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:36:16] Yes. I think that as much as Richard is, of course my mentor and I really follow what he says. And I also draw from my own. Experiences. And I have met a few horses that were going through something or something happened in their life where for instance one was an Amish horse, an ex-Amish horse that was very afraid of the bit.

I put my reins on the cavesson instead of on the bit Because she was so afraid of the contact. And through that, I was then able to, over a few sessions, put the reins [00:37:00] on the bit after she trusted me. So I am not afraid to leave the box. Yeah, my boxes yeah, the sides crumble very easily.

I always feel like I’m there to help the horse and help the rider and I’ll do whatever I can. That is kind and. Trying to think like a horse and think my way through the problem. Yeah, I’ll go there.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:37:25] So that makes me kind of wonder, can you longline someone while riding, or can you, longline a rider on a horse?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:37:34] I don’t know if other people can or have, but I don’t want any part of that. I feel like that could be really dangerous. I’m sure that there are horses out there that are trained enough that I’m sure that you could. You can drive a horse with someone on it, but I don’t know. I see 30 feet of leather and yeah, I just, I know what can happen really quickly, so [00:38:00] I would avoid that.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:38:03] So then, and I will say, I know the very basics of long lining. I can go in straight lines. I can turn, I can, left and right. I can back the horse up and stuff, but, so I only know the absolute basics. So how hard, for most people. That are, that our listeners are, mostly, probably the people you’ve worked with.

A lot of them are adult amateur women or something. So if somebody wants to learn how to do this, how hard is it and how do you, how would you even go about trying to learn?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:38:35] Yeah, it’s a really hard to learn. I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him, but Richard would say don’t let your people long line.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:38:43] No. Okay. There you go.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:38:45] I’ve done lots of different things with horses. And the first time I long lined Richard had been coming to longline my horses every six weeks for a year or two. And so they are, they’re pretty trained. And my one horse rooster is [00:39:00] really born on the bit. And so he was the first horse I long lined.

And I took the lines in about two minutes. He was running backwards and I was like, holy cow, I don’t know anything. Cause he is amazing to long line. Yeah, so it is the weight of the leather makes the contact and that’s really hard to learn. It is just the weight of the leather. I think leather lines are really important.

Because they create the contact, the rider, or the driver does not create the contact. The horse of course reaches for the bit. So the horse creates the contact, but the contact is the leather. So that is hard. And then of course, anybody who’s learned a lunge learning to manage the lunge line is a challenge.

And then having two of them and the whip. Also the first day, first week or so I long lined, my wrist got so sore from carrying the whip, I couldn’t [00:40:00] carry anything in my right hand. I remember I, I was like, wow, this is a really profound. And then of course it’s just anything else is every horse is so different.

So it, it’s not easy to learn. Yeah, so I have gotten to ride about six grand Prix horses in my life. And I think, having the knowledge to ride to the top and know where you’re going is really important. And also just drawing from my experience with many horses before hand and many kinds of horses is so important.

I, sometimes I can just tell by the look in the horse’s eye, that I, how I want to run the lines because we have different options for how we run the lines on the horses. And just your gut feeling about the horse. And, of course you talk to the owner, but I had one horse a few weeks, months ago.

It was an experienced show jumper, and it was absolutely terrified in the second line. I think it thought it was [00:41:00] a whip. Yeah, I, it was not a young horse. It was, I don’t know he’s 15 or something. And I had to spend quite a bit of time just getting him okay. With the lines. And now he’s good.

Yeah. I think that it’s so much more than just the feel of the lung lining. It’s not easy to learn.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:41:21] Yeah. I have to say watching you it’s certainly, it, I think people think it’s easy because you make it look easy, but it’s easy. The way riding is easy, if you’re a good rider, you make it look easy.

If you’re not a good rider, it’s not particularly pretty. You do this beautifully. So it looks like anybody can, but I wouldn’t even attempt to. All things being equal. How often should you long line your horse? I know I do it monthly because that’s, as often as I can get you, but if I could get you more frequently, how frequently should I have you?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:41:55] My horses at home, I try to long line once a week. My clinics. I [00:42:00] do at four, six and eight week intervals and that’s helpful to the people where I go. Richard comes to me about every second. Okay. I have had horses in for bootcamp. I actually had a horse here all winter and the owner rode it some, but I rode it or I long lined it multiple days a week.

And I just had a little thoroughbred in for training and he just is learning how to go on the bit. So I had him in for two weeks and really helped him, get there for his owner. So yeah, I think there’s so many different options,

Aviva Nebesky: [00:42:33] so I know that when I brought Leo to the first time you insisted that I ride him the day after.

So that is your recommendation for everyone that the horse be ridden after being long lined?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:42:47] Yes. That you should definitely ride the next day so that you can feel the change. Yes, absolutely.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:42:54] I know the last time you were here, and you long lined Leo, and then we worked a little bit just on some [00:43:00] exercises on the ground for me, and then getting on Leo.

I know he didn’t look as great as he might’ve if I had warmed him up enough, but the feel that I had was really very dramatic and that was, even tired after a long lining session. And I want to tell you that he has been fabulous since that day as well, just in general. His regularity and his comfort level.

It’s just been, it’s been fabulous. So for all of you guys listening, this is if you can find somebody who really knows what they’re doing if you’re anywhere around Pennsylvania and you can contact Jen, or if you’re in, near Bowie, Maryland, and you want to come to me for one of her clinics, I think it’s the most amazing adjunct to your riding.

And it tells a lot about what you do right. And wrong as a rider as well. I think don’t you agree, Jen?

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:43:46] I think there’s so many benefits of long lining. I, first of all, it makes your horse straighter. Second of all, it develops strength because every turn is like doing a squat thrust at the [00:44:00] gym.

So all these little turns on the octagon are really intense. It helps the suppling of the shoulders because we’re moving the shoulders around and we can see the yielding of the hind legs and how easily, or how much struggle the horse has moving the hind legs somewhere different. And of course, eventually collection.

But I always say that long lining to me has a 50% improvement for the horse. 50% of it is for improvement on the horse. The other 50% is for the rider to see the horse, I think is just as beneficial. You can see, so clearly the evasions the horse has and how. Classical dressage is all kindness and systematic and repetition and letting the horse seek out a straightness and connection.

And so seeing that, I didn’t, Chuck it in the [00:45:00] mouth or I didn’t do anything to the horse other than repeat this exercise and add in transitions where the horse does the transition. I talk about that a lot when I long line is I don’t care how long it takes for the horse to make the transition.

For instance, from trot to walk, if it takes eight circles, it takes eight circles. The horse will look for me to pull if, especially if the rider pulls, the horse and all the transitions. And so I’m just patient and I wait and then I repeat the transition. The next time it only takes four circles and the next time it only takes one.

And then all of a sudden, one half halt and the horse will go from trot to walk. Yeah. So I think the rider, seeing the horse go is so important. And occasionally I know at Aviva’s I had a rider put their hand on top of my hand for a little bit, because I think sometimes people don’t realize [00:46:00] how light the horse can be.

You think you’re light and light is amazing. I tell my students it’s like petting a fly. It’s the smallest. And they can feel it, and so I love helping people understand their horses better. That’s definitely as good as helping the horse.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:46:21] That, actually perfectly leads me into my last question for you, which is something that I like to ask everybody in our interviews. And that is what do you think makes a good horse person.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:46:37] Love. I’ll cry about it.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:46:45] I didn’t mean to do that.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:46:49] I think you have to love the horse. And I think that you have to have empathy.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:46:57] which clearly you have.

[00:47:00] Jennifer Hoffman: [00:47:00] Yeah. I think you have to have empathy for the horse and the struggles that goes through. I think sometimes we forget. I think Denny Emerson talks about that on his page and on Facebook that go to the gym and do some reps and then have some empathy for your horse, yeah. He’s out there trying and changing and he doesn’t have to be there with you. But he chooses to, and and I think clarity. Being clear with your aides and not telling the horse six things at once is really important. And someone who always wants to learn and improve. And whether it’s from clinics or books or observation, or just from the horse, listening to the horse.

And, learning and changing and things that I’ve seen so many times over the years like with your horse Aviva, I talk about when I see the stifles hanging up or upward fixation or whatever, what you want to talk about that I think that is [00:48:00] when you’re getting somewhere. Yeah. Yeah.

So that’s something I’ve learned from horses, yeah, I think those are the things I look for in a good horse person.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:48:09] I think that’s that this conversation has been very interesting and quite educational and I’m so glad Aviva suggested doing this and Jen, I want to thank you so very much for taking your time to talk with us today.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:48:25] Yeah, it was really fun.

Aviva Nebesky: [00:48:27] Thanks Jen.

Jennifer Hoffman: [00:48:29] Yes. See you soon.

Stephanie Ruff: [00:48:31] Once again, I’d like to thank Jennifer Hoffman for joining us today, as well as our sponsor ADM equine, you can find out more about them at

Thanks for listening to the Dressage Today Podcast. If you’ve missed any episodes, or to subscribe, go to apple podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, or wherever you get [00:49:00] your podcasts. While you’re there, please rate and review the show. Learn more and read in-depth training articles at or you can visit our subscription video site ondemand.dressagetoday.Com. Be sure to give us a follow on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Happy riding, and we’ll see you at X. The Dressage Today Podcast is a production of the equine podcast network, an entity of equine network, LLC.








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