Is your horse always pulling at the lead, rushing ahead of you, or trying to nibble grass as you struggle to keep their attention? Leading is typically one of the first skills that horses are taught. But surprisingly, a lot of mature horses do not lead as calmly as they should.
Why Good Leading Skills Are Important
Leading your horse should not feel like a battle of wills. Rather, your horse should follow you calmly with their poll near your shoulder. You should be able to leave some slack in the rope without your horse dropping their head to graze. And you should not have to worry about your horse rushing into you, leaping into the air, or striking with their front feet.
Teaching your horse to follow you calmly and quietly is largely a matter of safety. A horse who leads quietly is less likely to leave you with a rope burn or a bruised hand from pulling. You’re also less likely to be stepped on or bitten. When your horse leads well, you know that others will be safe handling them, too. If you ever board your horse or have a friend turn them out for you, these other horsemen will be relieved that your horse is safe and easy to handle.
Proper leading skills are important for your horse’s safety, too. Especially when you’re in an open area, you do not want your horse to part ways with you and run off. They could run into the road, stumble into a ditch, or injure their legs on farm equipment. If you ever need to dismount on the trail, being able to quietly lead your horse through a ditch, down a road, or through a gate will keep both of you safe.
Teaching a Horse to Lead: The Easy Horse Fix Way
At Easy Horse Fix, we always recommend a gentle, patient approach to teaching your horse new skills. Our methods do not involve any sort of punishment, jerking the lead, or use of a stud chain. We recommend that you start by building a solid, trust-based relationship with your horse, and then teach new skills from the foundation of that relationship.
If you’re new to our methods, we recommend starting with our Foundational Flex 7 exercise, which can be rented individually or accessed in our members-only library. This video shows you how to teach your horse to lower their head. From that starting point, it will be easier to reach proper leading via our connection-based, positive training methods.
Once you’ve mastered the Foundational Flex 7, check out our video “Teaching Your Horse to Lead and Follow You (on the Ground). In this video, you’ll learn our slow, gentle method to teach your horse to not only lead quietly but also follow you as their leader. As with all horse training, repetition is key. However, if you take the time to practice, we think you’ll be surprised how soon your horse’s habits on the lead improve with this exercise.
Working Through Common Training Problems
Whether you have a young horse or a mature horse who has picked up a few bad habits over the years, it is important to focus on slow, steady improvements. Build a strong relationship with your horse, make training a part of your routine, and always aim to make small improvements with every ride or training session.
At Easy Horse Fix, we create resources to help horse owners like you teach their horses using a gentle, communication-based approach. In addition to our Teaching Your Horse to Lead and Follow You (on the Ground) video, we offer an entire library of videos focusing on skills such as accepting the bit, backing up, and standing still. To access all of our videos, choose one of our membership plans HERE.