“Do you longe them?” she asked.
Well, yes, in a manner of speaking. At first we introduce ourselves to the new trainee, or horse student (victim?) by turning them loose in the pen. With no halter or rope, we move them about at liberty and we assess their way of reacting to us. This way we learn how bold or spooky they are, how high or low their energy level is, and to some extent how fast they can learn. This type of work is much more complex than it seems, much more than chasing a horse until it gets tired. To get good at it, a large number and variety of horses need to be worked with. A lot can be learned from books and videos about round pen work, but what works best is to mentor with an experienced trainer, who can walk you through the steps.
I’m reminded of a friend whose girlfriend invited him to watch her work her horse. He observed her for an hour, at the end of which she beamed
“so what do you think?”
He answered, “well, you never actually got his attention.”
I understand they subsequently broke up. But I got what he meant. Many times, we force our mounts to perform a task without including them in the learning process. What we want is for them to understand the command and build a behaviour in response to your request, then to develop it into their own skills, eventually gifting you with what you wanted in the first place. I guess Xenophon was right all along:
“nothing forced can ever be beautiful.”