If you haven’t read the first post about leading your horse, you can read it here.
One of the most important thing when leading your horse is consistency- if you are very strict one day, but lax and don’t enforce the rules you set the next day, you are going to confuse the horse and cause him both anxiety and enforce poor habits.
Some people resort to stud chains or other harsh halters instead of taking the time to teach their horse how to lead. Does it take time to teach? Yes. Is it worth it in the long run? Definitely- not only will it be easier on you, but it will be immensely safer for both you and your horse.
How to lead your horse
Your horse’s head should be at your shoulder at all times while you’re leading him. If you’re walking and he gets in front of you, you need to stop him and back him up a few steps until he is back to your shoulder. For some horses, you just need to do this a few times. For other horses, you may have to do this multiple times until he understands where he needs to be. For even other horses (like Gypsy), you need to do this because they may purposely walk in front in order to challenge your leadership- a simple correction will ensure that you are still the leader without being aggressive, and will put your horse at ease by understanding their place in the human-horse hierarchy.
Why does this work?
Horses cannot see behind them, so when you back them up, they have to trust you- this puts you in a leadership position, and helps to establish your authority with them. Horses are used to following other horses in the wild, so it is natural for them to walk next to you- what you need to do is just teach them about where they need to be in relation with your body. They usually pick that up very quickly- I can teach a horse to lead well in about half of the time that it takes me to teach a dog to heal on a leash.
What happens when you stop?
Your horse needs to pay attention to you at all times, so it is important that they know to stop when you stop. In order to make sure they are attentive, the easiest thing to do is to randomly stop and see if they are paying attention. Many horses will take several steps before they stop, meaning they aren’t completely attentive to you. At that point, you need to back them up a few steps, back to where they should be (at your shoulder), then turn around, and begin walking again. Walk for a few steps, then randomly stop again- if they don’t stop when you stop, you need to once again back them up a few steps, then walk forward again.
After a short time, the horse will learn that if they stop at your shoulder, they won’t have to back up.
How long do I have to do this?
The only way this will work is if you enforce this rule every single time you work with your horse. Some people believe that their trainer is the one who trains their horse- that is untrue. Anyone who works with your horse or interacts with him in any way is teaching your horse- that includes you, your vet, your farrier, and your trainer. This means that you need to be consistent with your horse, which means always expecting him to walk next to you appropriately and gently correcting him when necessary. The more you work with your horse, the fewer times you have to correct him, and the correction will be minor.
Watch the video below to see how I work with Gypsy, a wild Mustang from the range.