Leading Lesson
Once your horse is haltered, pay attention to how you hold the lead rope. You want to grasp the rope firmly in your hands, but never gripping it. Gripping creates a current of tension that radiates up the rope to your horse.

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No matter what you do with a horse, you must capture his mind before you can ask for movement. If your horse is asleep, grazing or looking at something other than you, before you lead him, gain his attention by gently bumping the lead rope, bringing his head toward you, snapping your fingers or delivering some other low-pressure cue to attract his attention.

If you were to walk forward without his attention, the rope would jerk the halter when you reach the end of the rope, startling your horse and probably causing him to pull back.

This simple mistake happens often and people don’t think anything about it, but they’re actually encouraging resistance in their horses.

When you lead your horse, you want him to respond more to your body position, breath and energy than to lead-rope pressure. This will keep him responsive to light rein pressure when you’re riding. Standing relaxed with energy in your body, take a deep breath, increase your energy and bump the halter rope to the left or right if necessary, signaling your horse to think about moving forward and releasing the weight from one front foot, which enables him to strike off smoothly. To move his left foot, move his head to the right with your lead rope, and vice versa.

As your horse strikes off, allow a little rope to slide through your hand, easing any pressure. Keep your energy up, however, so he continues to move in response to your body language.

You should encourage your horses to want to be with you, but occasionally, if a horse pushes the boundaries, you might have to remind him to respect your space. If you’re a timid handler, this can be difficult. But be aware of what your horse is doing, think ahead, and find the confidence and energy to say, “Enough is enough.”

For example, if you sense your horse’s energy is increasing and he’s moving too close for comfort, turn toward your horse and raise your hand to him, signaling him to stop. Then position him at a safe distance and start to lead him again. If he continues to be pushy, flip a coil down your rope and say, “Enough.” It may take awhile, but he’ll eventually learn his boundaries and to gauge his distance.

To stop your horse, exhale, slow your energy and apply rope pressure if necessary. Encourage your horse to respond more to your energy and body movement by practicing striking off and stopping often, relying less on rope pressure.

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