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How to Lead a Horse
 By Winniefield Park   •   27th Jul 2018   •   449 views   •   0 comments


Itís amazing how little time some people give to teaching their horse to be led, compared to how much time we actually spend doing it. Most of us think of leading as something that happens between the times we are actually doing something with our horse rather than an important exercise in itself. But a horse that doesnít lead well probably doesnít tie well, doesnít load on a trailer well and can be unpleasant and unsafe to handle. How many horses do we know that are great when youíre riding them, but absolute pigs when youíre on the ground? Many times, itís because basic steps, such as leading, has been ignored, or done incompletely.

Leading isnít walking ahead of your horse while pulling on the lead rope. It isnít tagging along as your horse drags you along. Rather, your horse should be trained to walk beside you with no tension on the rope at all. You may move the rope a bit to guide the horse, but otherwise, it should be simply walking alongside you, with you at its shoulder so you can see what your horse is looking at and how it might move. It shouldnít be floating away from you, nor should it be walking on top you. Leading shouldnít be a contact sport. Your horse shouldnít be dragging you towards the nearest patch of green grass, or interesting buddy hanging its head over the fence. When you stop, the horse should stop beside you without swinging away or rolling forward. Sounds simple, but it amazes me to see how few horses actually do this.

The equipment used to lead a horse is pretty simple: a lead rope thatís comfortable for you to grip, and a halter that fits your horse well. Iím going to stick my neck out and suggest if youíre using anything else, itís because your horse hasnít learned this essential ground manner thoroughly. There may be rare times when something like a chain over the nose might be warranted. If you have a stallion that youíre leading past a pasture full of mares, you might need a little extra enforcement to keep his attention. But the rest of us shouldnít have to use one to get from the pasture to the barn. Leading is really about teaching your horse to follow your body language rather than taking cues from the equipment.

Ideally, a horse learns to be led when it is still a foal. As soon as a halter can be fitted on its little head, itís time to start very short lessons, no more than a few minutes at a time. This lays the foundation for the rest of its life. The steps in teaching a foal to lead are an article in themselves, and there are far better trainers than I. But, you might want to check out Handling and Haltering Your Foal Without Trauma by Linda Tellington Jones to get started.

Now there are many ways to teach an older horse to lead if they need their manners upgraded. Again, any one method would take an article, or small book to get you through the process. Itís important to know that some methods are dangerous or silly. One technique suggests carrying a jump pole in your arms to prevent your horse from getting ahead of you. There are easier ways to go about this. Others have you face the horse which isnít a great idea because it prevents you from seeing where you are going. Others have you yanking on the horseís head with a rope halter. If youíre doing something to make your horse, throw its head back, youíre un-doing any work you might be doing to lower its head and keep its neck and back relaxed. So do some research and look at what methods you would feel safe doing and make sense to you.
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