Long-reining is a good intermediate step to bridge the gap between leading a horse and riding him. There are a lot of horses that get “lost in translation” when making that leap, so the simpler and smoother you can make the transition, the better. We’re not saying that everything a horse can do when being long-reined he will automatically be able to do with you on his back, but we do find it drastically reduces the level of fear and confusion for most horses. And, colts that are taught long-reining progress much faster starting under saddle than horses that are taught everything from their back. Long-reining is equally useful for older horses to build a foundation, work through a problem, or refine the skills they already possess.
Since we started teaching long-reining to the public, we’ve learned that the magic it works with horses is only half of its benefits; we’ve also discovered it helps people gain confidence with their horsemanship—no small thing. Long-reining allows you to focus on teaching a lesson without having to worry about riding your horse through his initial response, which could be panic or a bucking fit. Until he has a concept solidly, when you literally and figuratively can step up into the saddle, it’s a much smaller transition to ask for the same maneuvers from the ground, first.