I know, I know, I have lots of questions. I hope that everyone isn't sick of me. This one is simple, I think.
I am reading contrary ideas as to how to lead a horse. Should he be at my shoulder or behind me? He is fine behind me now when we lead but I want to be sure not to create a bad habit. Going for a walk one day he was behind me fine, only once tried to 'lead' me, but he did kick my heals once when he got too close. Is it safer to have him lead at my shoulder?
My horses are required to walk with their noses at my hip. If they are too far behind, they can trample you if they spook, and its disrespectful imo. If they are pulling, they can step on your feet and again, trample you.
His shoulder at my shoulder, no more no less.
I lead with my body inbetween the horses head and their shoulder (neck area). That way they won't run me over and they don't lead me. I like the shoulder area but then it seems like their leading me (I'm 5'3 and my horse is 16.5, so for me to be at his shoulder, it's long way to his head).
For me, I will never allow the horse's nose to move in front of me. If you pay attention to herd dynamics and watch mothers with their foals, you'll notice that mares will not allow their babies to put their noses in front of them when they are moving together. This is an established "rule" of respect and dominance. If we expect to be a horse's leader and expect him to be number 2, then we need to be number 1.
When I lead, I do not stand in really close and I do not hold close under the horse's head. I walk just in front of his left shoulder. If at any time a horse moves his nose out in front of me, I will do one of two things. I will use my body to put pressure on his (horses respect body pressure very much). I typically VERY ABRUPTLY pivot to my left and make a 180 degree change of direction. I don't wait for the horse and I don't urge him along. I move with purpose and expect him to follow. I have also stopped, abruptly moved my left shoulder in towards the horse, and ask him to back up. Bottom line, you should never adjust your rate of speed or direction to the horse. It must always be the other way around. Once this is established, you can typically relax with a horse and will rarely be challenged.
Two common mistakes with leading: allowing the horse small allowances of crowding your space or moving in front and holding tightly right at the top of the leadrope. I usually don't even hold with my right hand...just my left. I like to keep my right hand neutral.
And I'm so glad you're asking all these questions! That is how we all have to learn this stuff...by asking and asking and asking (and watching and practicing)!
Thanks for the advice and patience Cobalt, I appreciate it. I like your ideas on leading, I don't let him past me and hold the lead with my left hand too, unless I am unsuccessfully trying to get him to go faster...he is a really "left brained" horse, more Whoa then Go ;)
I don't see any need to be super strict about where my horse leads. I want my horse to be able to lead anywhereI put it - Different situations call for different things - I.e. on a trail I might need to go first with my horse behind - in the show ring I expect them to run with me at their shoulder.
My only rules: They never push into the slack in the lead, and they never crowd/run me over.
I set the lead however long I want it to be, hold it in my right hand with my arm relaxed. They usually just walk behind, sometimes beside. If they hit the end of the rope, I reel them back in. if they crowd me, I move their feet until they are away.
I agree with wild spot in that I don't make a big deal about WHERE my mare is in relation to me. More importantly is that she has good leading manners - she stops when I do, without any pressure on the lead rope. If I take a sharp turn, she must go with me. If I back up, she backs up too. It takes some work, but you should be able to have complete slack in the leadrope with your horse moving with you, wherever you go.
^ Lol, that is what I was trying to say, but you said it much better! My horses have a little orbit around me bordered by the rope, and they stay inside their orbit at all times :]
The "proper" possition is for the horses head to be in line with your shoulder. It really depends on you and your horse though. Here are some situations that can occure if the horse is in other positions.
Horses shoulder in line with yours: If the horse spooks into you he will hit your shoulder with his and send you off balance or flying.
Horses shoulder in line with yours: If the horse tries to reach back to get at a fly he may either hit you with his head and hurt you, or hit you in the head with his and kill you (this last one happend to a friend of mine, he hit her in the temple and killed her instantly)
Horse behind you: If he spooks he may jump forward onto you
Horse behind you: If it's a baby or excitable horse it may rear up to play and kick you in the head/neck. I have seen this one happen more times then I can count.
Now like I said, every horse is different and everyone leads differently. I just wanted to give some examples of what could go wrong if in the wrong position.
If the horses head is in line with your shoulder then if he spooks towards you he will generally go behind you but you also have much better control of the head.
If he rears or spooks forward he will go beside you and you can correct him.
If he goes after a fly he will reach behind you.
Hope that helps.
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