Ok, this is how it was said to me: a horse knows exactly where his feet are at all times. Take crossing and obstacle for example... A small creek. That horse will walk right up to the very edge of where the water meets the mud, but will not step forward. Another example: trailer loading and unloading. Getting in, the knowledgable trailered horse knows where to put his feet in order to clear his knees from getting whacked. At the same time, even a horse that's never backed out of a trailer will shimmy and quiver on the way out.
That being said, your horses are showing you both a lack of respect for your space, and dominance by pushing himself/herself into the place your feet are occupying. Try stepping on your horse's feet. Kick the hoof with the toe of your boot and see what happens. Step on it like you missed a step on the stairs. The horse will move its foot (or push you back depending on the severity of the problem) because the horse knows you are on it. When leading, a few bumps on the nose with the halter should get your horse moving away from you.
I ask that my horses ears be at my shoulders, but a bent elbows distance away. If I make my arm into a "chicken wing" I won't be able to touch my horse. This allows me to be at a 45 degree angle of his shoulder, eliminating stepped on toes and getting pushed or leaned on. As soon as the horse crosses my boundary without my instruction (and I don't mean without 'allowance'... I mean giving the horse a specific cue to follow that asks that he be closer) I immediately face him, square shoulders, head up, ears back, and put both of my hands up, level with my face, and make a pushing motion in his direction and take a step toward him. If he still does not move, a good yank on the lead at the same time can help, or a quick, noisy slap on the chest should do the trick.
If your horse doesn't respond to the above request and action, its time you went back to square one and establish some ground manners. I refuse to climb on a horse that is disrespectful on the ground, because the attitude transfers to the saddle, and I will not ask more of a horse if he cannot even give me the time of day it takes to focus on NOT stepping on my toes, until he learns that is a respect he must give me.
You will never see a horse lower in the herd bumping anything with the lead horse. The lead horse will ward that lower guy off, long before he gets the chance to hurt the leader.
If I can help you more, please let me know! I just hate hearing all these replies that its ok your horse does something that could potentially send you to the emergency room, or even prevent you from ever riding (or walking correctly)... Like breaking the small, fragile bones in the top of your foot 'by accident' when it can absolutely be prevented.
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