Every equine that is handled by humans must learn ground manners. Ground manners is training that keeps the horse or pony from biting, kicking, charging, stepping on you or leaning on you. This includes letting your horse rub it’s head on you when haltering or bridling. Ground manners enables your horse and you to have a better relationship. It won’t move around when you saddle, brush, pick it’s feet or do other chores that require you to handle your horse.
Your horse has probably learned a few lessons from when you halter broke it. If you haven’t done that first step, you should go back and read the first article in this series – Halter Breaking, and also Ground Manners for the Young Horse. This article deals with the horse that pulls ahead of you while leading.
Things You Will Need
- Lead Rope
- 8 – 10 foot soft cotton rope
- Lounge line or Long line
- Lounging whip or dressage whip
- Fence post in an enclosed area
- A print out of this lesson (you may print one (1) copy for personal use)
Pulling ahead of you while leading
Horses are so big and much stronger than us. That means you can’t force them to do what you want. The horse has to be willing to do it. Jerking, yelling, hitting and other such tactics only serve to make the horse afraid, nervous, and resistant. It is important to teach the horse how you expect it to act by taking your time and building a foundation one lesson at a time. Is your horse halter broke? If not, refer back to the article Halter Breaking.
The horse that pulls on you or drags you to a choice patch of lawn is not responding to your wants, obviously! So, you want to train it to respond, to give to you. The best place to do these exercises is somewhere that is NOT grassy and delicious looking to your equine friend…like a round pen or arena.
Put the halter and lead rope on your horse. Have your whip in hand. Have you taught your horse to go forward on command? No? Do this:
Stand near you horse’s left shoulder with the lead rope in your left hand, you are facing it’s rear. Have the whip in your right hand. Now, kiss to the horse or say walk at the same time you tap him gently on the hip. If the horse talks any step forward, praise it. If not, repeat. Keep working on this until the horse responds as you want. This is a very important lesson because once the horse has learned to go forward like this you can get it to load in a trailer or do other things that horses don’t do easily sometimes.
After the horse is going forward well, practice without the whip. Do this from both sides. If the horse doesn’t go forward with a light tap, use a little firmer tap. Don’t wack it though, this will only scare it. Reward it for ANY forward motion, no matter how small. I believe in treats for difficult horses, I am sure some would disagree, but I find it can cause a horse to really warm up to you if you have a tidbit of carrot or other favorite food in hand. This works very well with abused horses. Gaining trust is the FIRST step when dealing with an animal that has learned only pain from humans.
Now, to the pulling. If you are leading your horse and it pulls ahead of you, stop your forward motion and turn the horse in a circle toward you. See illustration. Bing it back into line with your shoulder. You should be leading the horse with it’s head at your shoulder. The lead rope should be 12" – 18" in length. Each time your horse pulls ahead, make the turn. Praise it when it is in the proper position. When it moves ahead, say no, give a slight pull, if no response, turn. When the turn is made take a few steps then praise it as long as it is in a good position. Stop and give it a treat or pet it.
If the horse really pulls hard, use a ring or D-ring snaffle bit with the lead attached to the right ring, run it through the left ring. Then do the same exercise. Be careful not to jerk on the horse’s mouth. This method just gives you more control. You are aiming for the goal of the horse walking next to you. If you pull on its mouth, it will just pull away.