May 06

Exploring Long-Lining

with Ellen Rankins

Written by: Grace Degnan, Companion Connection Program Manager

At Colorado Horse Rescue (CHR), we have a diverse herd ranging from youngsters just starting to learn how to use their growing bodies, to golden senior horses looking for loving retirement homes. Despite what stage of life each horse is in at the rescue, we are determined to help them live long, healthy lives, and are always looking for different ways to improve our training and exercise plans for the horses.

This past weekend we were fortunate to have Ellen Rankins, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Colorado State University, out to CHR to work with some of our horses and staff members. Ellen earned her Ph.D. at Rutgers University and is an expert in animal behavior, physiology, and biomechanics. She also spent time working with Special Strides, a therapeutic riding center in New Jersey, where she applied long-lining techniques to the program horses’ exercise routines to keep them healthy and happy to do their jobs.

We had reached out to Ellen in hopes of learning more about diverse ways we can support each member of our CHR herd, specifically our retired non-riding companions. The connection was made, and Ellen generously offered to donate a day of her time to teach us about the benefits of long-lining!

Long Lining

Long lining involves working with a horse from the ground with two lines connected to both sides of the horse, attached to their halter. According to Vet Physio Phyle, some benefits of long lining are its encouragement of symmetry in a horse’s muscle development, improvement of a horse’s flexibility, ease of introducing lateral bending to a horse, and it is an accurate and gentle rehabilitation method.

During our time spent with Ellen, she introduced long lining to a 26-year-old paint gelding who has experienced some topline muscle loss after a tough winter. She explained how to promote appropriate bending, stretching, and exercising using long-lining to improve muscle building in horses like him. First, we introduced him to the long lines, and then we worked with him on shorter clip-on reins as more of a baby step in how to introduce the skill from the horse’s shoulder. One big takeaway from the team was, in addition to being great physical exercise for the horse, it was an equally mentally enriching activity for him.

Overall, it was such a pleasure and privilege to learn from Ellen at the rescue this past weekend. Her deep knowledge of horse behavior and physiology was incredibly impressive, and we are excited to practice what we learned with her and utilize our new skills to benefit horses in every stage of life who walk through our gates.

Thank you, Ellen, for sharing your knowledge with our team members to help our horses feel their best!

Hang tight while we go get your horse!