If you haven’t read my previous post about leading your horse, you can read it here.
One of the issues with leading your horse is that people get frustrated because it seems that they constantly have to stop and back up. What you have to remember is that you are training your horse. You wouldn’t be frustrated if your horse didn’t canter pirouette after working with him for a few weeks, and yet people resort to stud chains or other harsh methods when leading after a very short time. Remember that the goal is improvement, not perfection.
Consistency is key
Just like any other type of training, leading your horse requires consistency- this means that you and anyone who works with your horse must be consistent when working with him. It is quite simply not fair to your horse to have one person be working with him one way when everyone else is working with him a different way. Make sure that you discuss and show everyone how to properly work with your horse, so he isn’t getting mixed messages.
Consistency means that you cannot let your horse get away with leading incorrectly one day, and then be in his face and make him lead perfectly the next- you need to make sure that you are training him the same way all of the time. If you are inconsistent, he is going to be inconsistent at best, and at worst, he will start acting up, and justifiably so.
Sometimes we are tired and the thought of dealing with a horse who is being naughty is overwhelming- believe me, I completely understand this. George Patton is famous for saying, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” I think about this quote a lot when I am tired or have a cold or just not in the mood to deal with a horse who is just being a horse. You have to do your best with your energy and health, but at the same time, you need to make sure that you are doing your best by your horse. It is OK to ask for help if you just are not up to the task of working with your horse that day- it is better to ask for help rather than sending your horses mixed messages. All the same, if you have a bad day and you allow your horse to be naughty or not walk correctly, it’s not the end of the world- the goal is improvement, not perfection. Just make sure those days are few and far between.
Reinforce your body language with your voice
Your body language is very important, but sometimes you need to reinforce your body language with voice commands, especially when you are first working with your horse. A simple, “Ho,” “Back,” or “Walk on,” helps your horse understand what you want. Make sure your commands are the same each time, so your horse understands what you are asking.
When I am working with a horse who is green or needs to be trained correctly, I will not only use vocal commands, but I will exaggerate my body language so the horse can better understand what I’m asking. As he gets used to my body language and my vocal commands, I don’t have to be so exaggerated with my body language as I can reinforce my regular body language with the vocal commands. Eventually, your horse should be able to read your body language without vocal commands, but every horse is different. Some horses need me to constantly be training them throughout their lives, whereas others understand what is expected from them and don’t need me to reinforce their training.
Overall, remember the goal: improvement, not perfection. No horse is perfect. It may take some time before your horse leads correctly without any false aids, but if you start working with him instead of relying on chains or other harsh aids, you are one day closer to having a horse who leads well and pays attention to you.