Why do we long line in a therapy session?

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Melanie Dominko-Richards, MS, CCC-SLP, HPCS shares the reasons why Mane Stream long lines in our therapy sessions.

Walking past a therapy session at Mane Stream for the first time may offer more questions than answers. Our therapy is unique in that our licensed therapists are trained in the use of equine movement as part of an integrated plan of care. Therapy sessions are also unique in that our horses are long lined instead of led. 

Why do we long line you ask?
The purpose behind the treatment strategy of hippotherapy is the horse's movement. Long lining allows the horse more freedom of movement through his head and shoulders.  

How do we get the best quality movement?
In order to provide quality movement, a horse needs to be able to use their back and haunch muscles correctly. When used appropriately (engaged), the horse is able to bring his legs underneath him more (track-up) and walk with more intensity (impulsion). Once achieved, this beneficial movement provides a stable platform for our clients to work on their targeted therapy goals.

What are the advantages of Long Lining?
1. Our therapists often ask for frequent changes in direction since what we ask a client to do in one direction we ask them to do in the other. In adaptive riding, leaders constantly have to change sides. There is no need for the long liner to switch sides since the horse is being driven from behind. 

2. Long lining also affords the long liner the ability to quickly respond to a request from the therapist. Often during a therapy session, our therapists are responding to either a movement or a behavior from the client that needs to be addressed quickly in order to change/effect the targeted behavior/movement. Since a leader does not have control of the bit as a long liner does, asking a horse to stop or turn quickly becomes more difficult. 

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Who is the volunteer with the lead rope? 
A therapy session that is long lined uses another volunteer since we need someone to act as the header. Headers are an important part of the therapy team during a therapy session that is long lined; it is their responsibility to ensure the safety of the horse during an emergency situation as well as be the eyes and the ears for the long liner who only sees the back of everyone. 

Can all horses be long lined?
Long lining requires extensive training from both the horse and the horse handler’s perspective. Most horses that come to Mane Stream do not have formal long lining training. The Mane Stream staff works with these horses to ensure they have the knowledge and the physical ability to be appropriate for long lining. 

What type of experience does a long liner need? 
Our long liners are expected to have significant knowledge in horse behavior, in horse movement, and school figures as well as having significant riding experience with a riding professional. Long lining is a skill that constantly needs to be practiced and refined. Each horse reacts to and behaves differently when in lines, so it becomes important to be able to handle different types of horses in order to be an experienced long liner.

Are you interested in learning more about long lining? 
Mane Stream is a hosting a “Long Lining for Therapy” workshop for volunteers on Thursday, February 1st at 6:30pm. Come and join us to learn more about the long lining process, team members, equipment, and safety considerations.