Leading your horse isn’t rocket science: Your horse needs to be taught to walk calmly with you just like he needs to be taught everything else. Instead of spending the time to train their horses, I often see people use harsh aids such as stud chains, chifney bits, “Dually” and other halters with shanks, and the like.
We don’t use any of those.
We have taken in wild Mustangs, horses who have been terribly abused, and horses with little or no training.
And still we don’t use any of those.
Why don’t we use them? We spend the time necessary to train the horses to walk appropriately, instead of using false aids.
The one thing we DO use are rope halters- I find I get better control with a simple rope halter than I do with a nylon halter. We almost exclusively use the halter with just the two knots at the nose- we have only had one horse who we have used a halter with the four knots. The information about training will work with a nylon halter as well as it will with a rope halter, however. To be honest, it has little to do with the halter and everything to do with the training.
Before you start teaching your horse to lead, however, there are three important concepts you need to consider:
You Need to Train Your Horse How to Lead
Just like any other thing you do with your horse, from picking up the correct canter lead or standing calmly at the rail, your horse needs to be taught to lead, and you need to be consistent with your training and expectations. Some horses will learn how to lead and will lead appropriately once they’re taught; other horses will need constant reminders about how to lead.
Horses who need to be constantly reminded of how to be led properly may just not be paying attention, which is a problem- your horse needs to pay attention to you, if for nothing else so he doesn’t run you over. He may also be purposely testing you, in which case, you need to immediately make sure you remind him that you are leading him, and he is not leading you.
You Need to be the Leader
Speaking of being the leader, since you’re the leader- act like it! Your body language needs to convey to your horse that you are worthy of being the leader. Put your shoulders back and look where you’re going.
Being the leader does not mean you need to be aggressive or yanking on your horse’s face- rather, it means you need to evoke the feeling that you are capable and competent. This also means that if your horse needs to be gently corrected, you need to correct him- not ignore him or pretend everything is OK as he yanks the rope out of your hands. This also does not mean you get to yell at him if he does yank the rope out of your hands after you ignored him acting inappropriately for several minutes.
You are the leader, and if he is doing something that is inappropriate, it is because he is not trained well- and that is on you. You are responsible for his training. He may not be perfect, but you both should at least be working on improving his behavior.
Be in a Safe Place When You’re Leading
Different people have different places where they want the horse to stand when leading- I teach people to stand at the horse’s head. If you stand at his shoulder, and he spooks to the side, he is going to spook straight into you. If you are in front of the horse and he spooks forward, he will run you over. Standing at his head, it is less likely that he will run you over in case he spooks.
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