riding long and low

How to get your horse long and low

riding long and lowIn many disciplines, riders use long and low as a way to encourage their horses to stretch down and engage their backs. When done properly, this helps relax the horse, encourage more “swing” to its stride, and improves suppleness. The problem is, too many riders focus on head position and not enough think about engaging the horse’s hind end, riding the energy forward and asking their horse to lift his back by engaging his abdominal muscles. When you ride from the back to the front of the horse, you achieve the full stretch and have a horse that is balanced and light on its forehand.

Long and low happens when you have your horse on the bit and then you encourage him to stretch forward and down by moving your hands forward. The horse follows the contact into the stretch without becoming heavy (on the forehand). Contact must come first, then the stretch. Ideally, the horse’s poll should be no higher than its withers and your horse should feel like it is in arc — it’s head and neck are low, it’s back is rising up to meet the rider, and it’s haunches are lowered and stepping under its body.

Video demonstration of how to ride your horse long and low

The video below gives a very clear explanation and demonstration of how to get your horse to use it’s back and encourage it to stretch.


  1. Matt


    Just wondering where you got the translation of “descent de main” ?

    I am taught that it actually means descent of the hand – not the seeking of the bit, i.e. release of the hand aids or lowering of the hand after the horse has responded correctly to, for example, the demi-arret.

    Interestingly, Gueriniere and his peers never wrote of “long and low” or indeed showed much interest in stretching the horses head to the ground to raise the back.



  2. Susan Xanthopoulos

    If more people rode like this there would be a lot less problems physically for horses.You can walk into a barn and see if people ride well or not by just looking at the top line of their horses. I also spend time in ground work getting my horses to stretch in walk ,trot and canter. One thing to be careful for is: rhythm and speed- If you post too quickly while doing long and stretching the horse cannot balance and gain correct back muscles. My horse’s learn to go very slowly at first so their hips can flex correctly. Dr. Gerd Heuschmann got so tired of treating lameness due to poor riding he launched out on a crusade to educate about poor riding.

  3. Roisin

    Great video. It’s very difficult to know what this feels like when you’re on the horse though – I think I’ll follow the suggestion of hopping on a horse that does it.

  4. Keith Bartlam

    In fact this long, low and out posture is what in French is called Descente D’encolure and NOT Descent de Main which actually means “Stop acting with the hand”

  5. Keith Bartlam

    Also, the Video doesn’t show HOW to get the stretch, what it shows is the stretch happening! The technique of HOW to do it is by using the rein in a slight upwards movement acting on the corners of the lips and immediately releasing to invite the horse to lower his neck, and seek the contact with your hand. At the same time “Envelope” the horse’s rib cage with both legs AT THE GIRTH with a gentle “HUG”. (This is a mild L’Effect D’ensemble) Teach this in all three gaits as the “command” to lower the neck (Descente D’encolure) Keep asking until he does and carry on asking until he lowers it to where you want it…then stop asking (Descente des Aids) Build up each day to getting his nose eventually in the sand …in ALL three gaits as a warm up and a cool down and loin and back supplying and strengthening exercise.The L’Effect D’ensemble on a more educated horse can be used with a touch of the spur at the girth whenever you feel a contraction about to happen, and will ensure the horse stays in the collection you are in, and doesn’t contract his back, which could be provoked by all manner of outside stimulus…such as excitement or fear. When you have a horse in collection it is in fact, in a state of excitement, so best be diplomatic with your aids and requests! Do not make sudden or brutal aids. Less is more, “touch” with your spur or fingers on the rein, or alter your weigh sensitively so as not to unbalance your horse, as in collection he is very finely balanced .Any sudden movement will cause him to loose it with all the so called “disorders” that that will provoke in him.

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