When you’re as immersed in the horse world as me and you, we tend to lose sight of how odd some of the words are that we use.
Then, for reasons unknown, I type a sentence in a word document that has to do with lungeing and I’m immediately presented with a red squiggly line alerting me to the fact that I can’t spell. Which, to be fair, is generally the case. It did however pique my interest enough to try to understand why lungeing isn’t a word, when we all know it is.
So, I took to the internet and searched lunge and I found these meanings in this order.
A quick forward motion in an attempt to attack.
A hands-on hip buttocks strengthening exercise (in which I only reluctantly participate).
A very unpleasant-looking fish.
But below the sharp-jawed fish definition, the spelling changed to longe. Longe? In all my horsey years I have never seen it spelt that way, how curious. This definition, however, is much closer to what I was expecting, “An exercise for horse or rider on a longe.” Not overly descriptive but closer than a fish.
I turned to my handheld home dictionary to confirm this spelling and, lo and behold, of the three “lunge” definitions the final one states, “A long rein used to hold and guide a horse in training.” An odd description but I appreciate their attempt.
Returning to the internet, I searched longe and presto. “A long rein on which a horse is held and made to move in a circle around its trainer.” “A longe line.”
Wikipedia specifies that longe is the American spelling while lunge is the British spelling. I’m Canadian, so that makes sense. (Unrelated: somewhere in BC my former Uni professor is docking marks off this post for the Wikipedia reference.)
They even went as far as breaking down the word longe for me, the confused disbeliever that one can longe a horse, as I’ve only ever lunged a horse. The original word is allonge (lengthen out), which is French, quelle surprise. In the mid-18th century, the word morphed into longe.
The keywords here are long and lengthen out, which I assume refers to the longe line attached to the horse as opposed to our attempt at stretching and elongating our horse’s movement.
I want to know more
Unsatisfied with only the etymology of the word lunge/longe I tried, with some desperation, to find out when and why the idea of longeing was created. I assumed a cheeky horse played a role in this invention.
I was able to ascertain, with some difficulty, that longeing dates back, as far as I can tell (and it could date back further), to the mid-1700s. The French riding master François Robichon de la Guérinière (1688–1751), famed for his creation of the shoulder-in, and deemed the founding father of dressage wrote about longeing in his book, L’ École de Cavalerie in 1731, which you can buy on Amazon should the notion strike.
Then I thought about the Spanish Riding School that has been around for over 450-years, figuring they seemed the sort of people to longe, since they do a lot of in-hand work, and indeed they are. Let’s say, in your late teens, you were chosen to ride at the SRS. Well, you might have been disappointed to find that for the first year or two you would only sit on a horse that is affixed to a longe line to perfect your seat.
Can we assume they have been longeing horses for over 450 years?
I looked back further still and learned about Xenophon (430–355 BC), who wrote the book The Art of Horsemanship, and from that, I gained no knowledge about in-hand work or longeing.
The one thing I can safely say is that there is not enough time in the day to find out the origins of longeing.