How to Lead a Horse
- October 14, 2014
- Jenn Zeller
Helmet manufacturers claim that many horse – related injuries occur while riders are on the ground.
I don’t doubt that that’s true. But I’d also argue that it’s often because people don’t pay attention to what their horse is telling them when they’re on the ground. I’d also say from experience that many people don’t safely lead their horses. It’s possible they don’t know how to safely lead a horse, or they’re just unaware. Whatever the case I’ve got a solution.
Racehorses are a great example of how not to lead a horse, in my opinion. Grooms, and assistants lead those horses from right where the lead-rope attaches to the halter. If the horse has to come apart for some reason – because he feels the need to save himself – he may simply come over the top of whoever happens to be leading him.
The other day I led one of my horses through our big barn door into the barn to be saddled. Bob, the new barn kitten, jumped out behind him, and my horse nearly came apart. He wasn’t expecting Bob to jump out behind him. Had I not had my horse on our standard issue 12’ lead, about 8 feet behind me, he would probably have run me smooth over in an effort to save himself.
We take great care here to teach our horses that we are as immovable as a post; so that they’ll learn the best escape route is the one in which they go around us, lest they run into something hard. Further, we teach them to stay behind us when we lead them so they’re not leading us. They learn to walk slow or fast, based on our speed, and we teach them to follow us at a trot if we need to get somewhere in a hurry.
One of the ways we do this is to only use rope halters. Rope halters, since there are no metal parts, are the best for teaching feel because there is a release when you ask a horse to come forward or go back. We don’t use the halters with knots in the nose, however, and we don’t have any hardware between the lead rope and halter. The horse is taught how to back up by sending the lead rope backwards, towards them.
Do as little as necessary, but as much as you need to do to get the change and eventually the thought of it will work, I promise! By teaching the horse how to back up, when they get too close as we lead them, we can send some “back up” energy down our lead rope and our horse should slow down. Think about these things the next time you lead your horse and see if you can’t work to keep yourself safer while on the ground with your horse.
Happy Trails and Happy Riding!
About Jenn Zeller
Jenn Zeller is the creative mind and boss lady behind The South Dakota Cowgirl. She is an aspiring horsewoman, photographer, brilliant social media strategist and lover of all things western. After a brief career in the investment world to support her horse habit (and satisfy her...