Why is it so hard to teach a horse to lead with its own line? The answer lies in our understanding of how horses are led and their reactions to the cues we give them. Understanding the correct techniques for leading will enable you to understand where you might be going wrong if your horse isn’t responding well to the lead.
When it comes to horse training, there’s a lot of confusion about how to get the horse to do what you want. When you start learning about longeing, groundwork and strengthening of the horse’s core and legs, you don’t hear many people talk about training the horse to lead. Rather than waiting for your horse to learn how to get used to leading on his own, this post is going to help you with how to teach a horse to pick up on leading connections in your every day life.
One of the most important things to know about teaching a horse to lead is that you need to start small.
The first thing you’ll want to do is introduce your horse to the idea of leading. This means getting them used to being led by a rope around their neck, and getting them used to walking alongside you.
The next step is getting them used to having something attached to the end of that rope. You can use a light bitless bridle, or just put a lead rope on there. The key here is that they should be comfortable with having something attached to their head, but not worried about it being heavy or uncomfortable in any way.
Now comes the fun part! As soon as your horse begins walking alongside you comfortably with an attachment on their head, bring out some treats—a lot of treats—and give them one every time they walk beside you without pulling away from the lead at all. This will encourage them to follow your lead because they know there’s something good at stake! They’ll quickly learn that it’s in their best interest to stay close so they get more treats!
If your horse starts pulling away from the lead (or otherwise resisting), don’t give up! Simply stop walking for
Teaching a horse to lead is an important first step in training a horse. It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible.
First, you have to find a place where you can work with your horse without being disturbed. You’ll also need some sort of restraint for the horse—anything from a halter and lead rope to a bitless bridle.
Once you’ve got those things together, get the horse’s attention by making noise or offering them food. Then grab the lead rope and approach your horse from behind—you don’t want to startle them! When you’re close enough, put the rope over their head so that it rests on their nose; this will keep them from pulling away from you when you begin working with them.
You can now begin teaching your horse how to lead by gently pulling at the rope while walking forward until they follow behind you. Then stop walking and hold still while continuing to pull on the rope until they stop moving as well; this will teach them that moving forward means moving towards where you are leading them rather than away from where you’re standing still waiting for them to walk ahead first before continuing onward together as one united front against troublemakers who might
Teaching A Horse To Lead
Leading a poorly trained or ill-mannered horse can be one of the most stressful parts of your day. Emily Donoho looks at ways to instil politeness into your horse from the ground
Leading a horse, a simple, daily necessity, can be one of the most fraught moments of your day. Do you find yourself waterskiing behind your horse, or dragging him behind you? Does he dive for grass at any opportunity? Is he crowding into your space and running you over? Do the staff at your livery yard dread handling him?
Even if you’re an experienced handler and don’t mind a slightly pushy horse, you never know who else will have to handle him, so teaching him to lead politely is better for all concerned.
Colorado trainer Amy Feineman says: “Imagine that, for whatever reason, a three-year old needs to lead your horse. Or maybe it’s your elderly dad, or a student accidentally catches your horse instead of the another horse that looks similar. All three are situations I’ve seen, including my poor dad trying to lead a horse to a trailer while evacuating from a fire.”
Groundwork exercises to help with leading a horse
With a bit of time and straightforward groundwork exercises, your horse can learn to walk calmly and quietly at your side and at whatever pace you decide. This makes him safer and more pleasant for anyone who has to handle him.
The first thing the horse needs to learn is how to yield to pressure, one of those basic skills that should have been taught when he was halter-broke, but, as Amy points out: “It is often a bit of a training hole.”
Push on any part of his body; as soon as he yields, stop pushing. With your hand, you put a little pressure on his nose or his poll, and as soon as he drops his head, release him.
Amy explains: “An easy, and important, one is to grab the top of the lead nearest the head with one hand, thumb towards your horse’s chest, and gradually apply pressure towards the chest until the nose drops in.”
Once you’ve trained him to give his head, add a little more pressure until he offers to back up, then release. Now you’ve trained him to back, which is important for the next step.
Once he’s quickly and consistently yielding to pressure, it’s time to take a walk.
“Decide how far behind you your horse should be and walk to that distance ahead of him while he stands. Take a few steps with the horse following behind you, then stop,” says Amy.
If the horse does not follow, put a little pressure on the rope until he does, or if he sneaks up behind you, nearly crashes into you, or tries walking past you, reverse him several steps, then ask him to stand quietly for a minute.
The next few weeks of your life will be spent walking everywhere this way: short bouts of forward, with corrections when the horse gets it wrong. But soon enough he will be following at whatever distance you decide, and you can practice varying the speed, using the same techniques of stopping and backing to reinforce the idea of matching your pace.
While there isn’t a fast-track way to make you a better rider, lungeing sessions are the next best thing. Here
The pitfalls to avoid
The biggest pitfalls are timing and lack of consistency. You must release the pressure the instant the horse responds to the aid, or he won’t understand what you want.
Amy adds that consistency is critical. “Even if you don’t really mind if your horse sneaks up a little or occasionally gets ahead, if the horse learns you will give an inch, when it really matters he may take a mile!” she says.
Now you know how to teach your horse to lead politely, why not sign up to Horse & Hound’s eight-week e-training plan to give your training focus and perfect your flatwork basics