Who’s Leading Whom?
You have probably noticed that horses are generally really big, and when they start throwing their weight about it can be truly frightening. Whether it’s because of rearing, spinning and striking or pulling, towing, nipping and general barging, it’s unpleasant to feel out of control on the ground, and it can obviously be dangerous to you, your horse, and any bystanders. Fortunately, there are simple, straightforward and effective solutions that you can learn, and in the process make your horse happier, too. However dominant or determined they might appear, horses generally do not want to lead you, they are almost always happier being lead, but if they feel you are an ineffective leader they will feel obliged to take over.
Developing your skills as your horse’s leader in general starts with being effective at leading them around, and once this process is fully understood and integrated, it can easily be applied to loading, standing still to mount, having feet handled and a whole host of other areas of your horse’s education.
In most instances we recommend people take a different approach to leading than the BHS recommends. We lead from a position of authority where the human is in advance of the horse and therefore is really leading, like a mare would lead a foal. If executed competently this is a safer position where you cannot be so easily stepped on or barged with the shoulder. Many people find it a challenge to alter their habit, so we have developed a way to train people without their horse in role-play exercises.
We seek to communicate to the horse that we wish him to walk when we walk, trot when we trot, stop when we stop and step back when we advance into his space in a certain fashion, all with progressive reduction in, and eventual removal of, pressure from a hand or halter.
We teach leading skills on Clinics (- often because we have to!), or of course a Callout is a great way to deal with problems in the horse’s own environment. Tailored Tuition is another way of tackling the issue, too.
Occasionally, leading problems are very severe and it might take a few sessions to work on, but usually one or two hours will be enough to change the picture completely. As usual we focus a great deal on improving your skills, to enable you to keep in place the work we begin when we are together. Work on leading is often explained as a continuum with ground driving (lungeing, long reining and loose work) and integrated with work on other areas during Clinics and Tailored Tuition.