I’ve been around many people who try to lead a horse by controlling their head with a lead rope. They end up pulling or jerking the lead rope and the horse will typically pull back or push around the person with the lead rope.
Ultimately, you want slack in the lead rope while leading your horse because you don’t want to pull or jerk him. If your horse moves incorrectly while leading him then you can stop and correct him by making him move his body.
To really be successful in having control the secret is having control over your horse’s body. How do you do that? By controlling his feet by making him move his rear end away from you. (Also known as “disengaging the hind quarters) Why this works so well is it alleviates stiffness and tension and almost magically forces your horse to focus on you.
There are few ways to get your horse to move his rear end away from you. Much of the time, you can stand facing his shoulder and point to his hip. If he doesn’t move keep pointing and cluck at him. If he still doesn’t move, twirl the end of your lead rope at his hip and cluck. If he still doesn’t move tap him with the lead rope while clucking at him.
At any time he moves, take the pressure off him immediately. Give him a pat and a “good boy” and ask for another move. Repeat. Then ask for more steps. Remember to do this on both sides of the body too. It won’t be long when you will simply point at his hip and he’ll move them for you. Do this every day for a while to get it in his mind that you are in control.
Okay. Now that you moved him, turn your body to walk forward while holding your lead line. Something magical happens right here. Your horse suddenly focuses his attention on you. He’s very aware of your movement and what you’re doing. If he messes up because he was distracted or something scared him, all you have to do is move his rear end again. Eventually your horse will start gauging your pace and keep up with you at the same pace you move.
If your horse starts to get ahead of you while leading, move his hindquarters. If he’s lagging behind you, move his hindquarters. If he goes off into La La Land, move his hindquarters.
Having good control leading your horse is perhaps the most basic training technique there is. But it is also the way we get horses in trailers, moving them around, bathing them, and even riding them. This will help teach your horse to be soft and responsive. And if you have a soft responsive horse while you are on the ground, then you will more likely have the same kind of horse while you’re sitting in the saddle. And that is the ultimate goal.
Andy Curry is a nationally known horse trainer and author of several best selling horse training and horse care books. For information visit his website at www.horsetrainingandtips.com. He is also the leading expert on Jesse Beery's horse training methods which can be seen at www.horsetrainingandtips.com/Jesse_Beerya.htm.