Long and Low, Chewing the Rein Out of the Hand
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This is an exercise for relaxing and stretching the horse's topline. Aids for this exercise differ from the "überstreichen" exercise in that the rider relaxes deep back muscles which keep the chest wide and the torso erect (1-2, 1a). There is some argument concerning how much a horse would be asked to come behind the vertical in this exercise. I have provided a range of images so visitors to this site may make their own decisions. One key to avoiding injury is to monitor the shape of the complexus muscle that stabilizes the neck stretch: it should remain smooth and of consistent caliber from poll to shoulder, regardless of head position. If a horse makes a bulge at the base of its neck ("teapot neck"), it needs more freedom to reduce strains on the neck anatomy.

My own preference is to allow the horse a light enough contact to find its position of comfort. Comfort seeking is an important "self reward" for a horse and builds confidence.

The rider's posture may come slightly ahead of the vertical alignment of ear, shoulder and hip. The horse imitates this softening of the rider's back by giving its back and reaching forward and down into the rein while chewing softly at the bit with the lips closed.

As the horse stretches its neck into the bit, the rider gently allows the rein to become longer by stretching the hands forward and down, then allowing the horse to slide the reins longer gradually (1a, 2a). This exercise also overlaps with "long and low." The horse should not reduce its tempo or stride length in the gait or figure chosen for the exercise.

In the “überstreichen” exercise the rider gives the hand(s) forward and maintains connection to the horse via seat and legs while the horse maintains its position. The überstreichen exercise is, in a sense, the reverse of the "long and low" exercise because it tests the ability of a rider to maintain the horse's posture with seat and legs. With the ability to give one or both reins, both horse and rider become more classically connected within the "circle of aids."

The designation "preferred position" means that the airways are open without risking constriction at the hyoid and there is less tension on the nuchal ligament. This horse chooses a position that maintains the airway open for aerobic work. There is considerable stretching of the nuchal ligament and cervical serratus.
Smoke under saddle at 4 1/2 years. His ability to stretch over his whole topline stands him in good stead in a stretch into the bridle. The ability to stretch long and low took about a month to develop. It might have taken longer, but colts are very flexible. This youngster was very confident and attentive to his trainer. Long and Low, Free Longe
Raynyday Smoke ‘n Mirrors (4 year old Morgan gelding) trained by voice command with hand signals to stretch long and low. He has been performing this free longe exercise from about 10 months of age before being trained to drive and ride at age 4 1/2. He has gradually developed the ability to drive from behind into a maximum stretch. The position of head and neck stretches neck muscles and ligaments while maintaining an open pathway for breathing. A stretch this low reshapes the neck and the arcs of the neck vertebrae. In the Complexus roll of muscles from poll to shoulder is the external manifestation of this reshaped neck.
Smoke’s long and low work is the foundation for his work at 4 1/2 years old under saddle and in harness. He is stretched into a light rein.

It is understood that not all riders have the chance to work with their horses from yearlings to maturity. A point here is that that, if the opportunity arises, a substantial foundation for training can be laid long before a horse is placed in harness or under saddle.

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| Injuries to a dressage horse from riding with the neck too short and too much behind the vertical |
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