Cat, if I hadnt taught my gelding that the lead rope isnt gonna eat him he would havebeen running arounf like ur horse, notice the rope, THEN became even more terrified b/c of it. In the case he would ever get loose or even to teach him to ground tie, he must know that dragging rope isnt a snake.
Keep in mind, I could take this rope and swing it all over his body (making contact) and he will not flinch, but the moment it went on the ground he was scared of it. He even drops his head and gives to pressure really well.
Its an emergency plan, really. And u (not pointing you in particular out, lol... b/c I know he got away on accident) dont want them freaked out by not only...say the backfiring lawn mower bolt from me, then just as they are relaxing freak b/c of the rope. But you want to keep them in a small area, so they cant get i nto a canter. A trot isnt even very safe. A small pen is nice. It took several days of this before my guy didnt worry. Im still hesitant to drop his lead.
This year before I started him on it again, he was so scared of a blanket that he yanked the lead out of my hand (by rearing then turning on his heels (im letting go-he's a bucker...I didnt want my face to formally meet his hoof, lol...) He flipped again b/c the lead drug around... So thats when we started the loose horse with lead thing.
Let me also add that he ran through a fence b/c he was so scared of the lead, so its a safer option for him.