27 January 2009

How do you lead your horse?

How you lead your horse determines how your horse views your place in it's herd.

A very large British equine organisation teaches handlers to lead at the horses shoulder which immediately puts the handler in a subordinate position and increases the risk of injury.

When ever you see a mare running with a foal the foal is always at the mares shoulder, this gives the foal protection and allows it to follow the mare's changes in direction. By placing yourself in this position you are putting your horse in charge and many horses find this uncomfortable. If you are unable to see over the horses withers/neck how are you able to anticipate any difficulties that might arise from the blind side? If your horse takes a spook he/she will probably jump into you in an attempt to get away from the 'grab me gotcha' that has just leapt out of the hedge. When leading at the shoulder how do you perform a right turn at a junction? Usually, and I've seen it done so many times, the handler will turn the horse in a circle to the left and as they come out of the circle lead the horse forward.

Another large 'Natural Horsemanship' organisation based in America teaches it's students to lead with the horse following behind. Again this puts the handler in a subordinate position and increases the rick of injury.

We all know that in any type of herd one horse will lead from the front and another pushes from behind. By placing yourself in front of the horse you are allowing the horse to drive you forward. When the inevitable 'grab me gotcha' leaps out at the horse from behind you are likely to be trampled in the rush to get away.

It is far better to lead with the horse's head at your shoulder. Your position is that of an equal to the horse. You have good clear all round vision so nothing unexpected can happen. If the horse does spook into you all that is likely to happen is his/her head will knock into you. When you come to a junction and wish to turn right all you need do is take a slightly larger step and walk towards the horses head, he/she will move their head away and the body will follow.

By keeping your hand away from the horses head you are not creating an 'in-to pressure' scenario where the horse moves forward at a quickened pace. The only time my hand goes near the horse is to indicate a signal which might be slow down, speed up, move away, come closer, get ready to stop and stop. Once the signal has been given my hand returns to it's original relaxed state.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, i like your methods. I am a small woman and do find that my horse can sometimes use this to his advantage. When he was a youngster, he ran me down when he spooked at some people crouched down beneath a fence - they stood up and he wasnt happy at all and ran to me but didnt stop! We was working on a long line at the time. It caused me to have less confidence on the ground and i believe he lost confidence in me also. I will try to use your method for leading and see whether this improves my communication when leading.

I'll be storing your blog in my favorites! Thanks :-) Michele