A few holes in your horse’s training can turn an easy stroll from the barn into a fight when your horse decides he doesn’t want to go and plants his feet. Despite all of your pulling and coaxing he still won’t budge. You may also have the opposite problem, when your pony morphs into a race horse charging ahead and dragging you around instead of you leading him. Regardless, any leading problem can be solved by going back to the basics.
When working on this lesson I recommend being in an arena of some kind, giving you enough space to maneuver while still being in a controlled environment. It is ideal that your horse walks either beside or behind you, based on your preference, but he should never pass in front of your shoulder or lag behind so much so that he is at the end of your lead rope.
The horse’s head should stay behind you about a foot or two. This way the horse says out of your personal space. I do this mostly on young horses, horses in training and ones I don’t know. Once I know that the horse is going to respect my space, I will let him get closer to me when leading. Make sure that you are not holding the horse too short on the lead rope. When you hold onto the halter or near the clip of the rope you are causing the horse to feel claustrophobic. For example, say you are walking with your significant other. You lightly hold the other person’s hand and go wherever you are going together. Never would you put your hand around his or her neck and walk like that. You should allow your horse to have about two or three feet of rope between the snap and your hand. This lets the horse move around freely and not feel restrained.
Teach the horse to stay out of your space by first leading him forward on his left side with about two feet of slack in the rope. Take a few steps forward and stop. The horse will most likely continue walking into your space. When he does, stay facing straight ahead and swing the last few feet of lead rope at the horse’s chest. Continue to do so until takes a step or two back. When he gets out of your space stop swinging the rope. Then walk forward again for a few more steps and try again. After doing this a couple of times the horse will start paying more attention to you and keep his distance. Once the horse understands the lesson you don’t have to stop so often. I usually stop maybe once on the way to and from the barn. Consistently correct the horse if you see him start to get into your space or if he walks past you when you stop. Remember not to move your feet. You want the horse to back away, creating a space between the two of you. If you back up with the horse you are not telling him to get out of your space, you are only telling him to back up.
Start by leading the horse on his left side with your right hand closest to the horse. Leave enough slack in your lead rope to allow your horse to walk 2 to 4 feet behind you. When your horse starts to lag behind correct him by sending him forward just as you would when asking him to lunge on a circle. Hold your left arm up horizontally pointing it in the direction you want him to go and creating tension in the rope. Have your training stick or the end of your lead rope in your right hand and use it by swinging it towards the horse until he moves forward with energy. Once he is moving, stop cuing and make a left turn to stay in front of the horse and continue walking. Keep doing this each time the horse lags behind you. He will find it easier to keep up with you instead of quickly being sent off. Soon with an occasional reminder your horse will choose to walk next to you instead.