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Getting a horse to follow properly

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  • Getting a horse to follow properly

    My lease horse allows me to catch him, but then it's a struggle to get him to the barn to tack him up for work. The owner doesn't want me to smack him with a crop. Any suggestions on how to train him to follow alongside of me?
    Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!


  • #2
    What does he do?

    If lolly gagging around behind you, carry lunge whip in left hand behind you and tickle/smack him on the rump?
    You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something… S. Jobs


    • #3
      If the owner gets upset with you even carrying a crop, just use a longer lead rope. Have the long end in your left hand. As he lags behind, flick the end on his butt with a verbal command, like 'walk on' or cluck. He'll catch on quick.

      “You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take.” - Wayne Gretsky


      • #4
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


        • #5
          A lead with a chain, put under the chin will work. Don't yank, and make sure the chain will slide through the rings on the halter so that when the horse is walking nicely next to you, that there is slack in the chain. If the horse is a lagger, straighten your lead arm (right) so that you take the slack out and get the horse to move up to the proper posiition. If the horse is a rusher, as soon as he surges past you, stop, and make the horse stop, back a few steps, and start again. Repeat until the horse is leading in the proper position.

          Works with our horses that are trained for showmanship, and we use a chain under the chin in the class, with lots of slack in it, because they are now trained to respond and lead based on body position.
          There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


          • Original Poster

            Do you mean something like this?


            How exactly is the chain threaded through the halter?
            Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



            • #7
              Is leading a problem when he's out of the pasture? If so, sounds like it's time to go back to basics.

              I use a lunge (for the big boys) or dressage whip to move a reluctant horse forward and just gently tap them on the hindquarters. They've been taught to disengage and hindquarters and move over from pressure.

              Maybe you need to have a talk with the owner about exactly how you'll be using a crop/whip. I imagine you don't plan to whale on him.


              • Original Poster

                Well, if that lead rope with chain works, I'd prefer to go with that, but yeah, It wasn't my intention to beat on him.
                Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                • Original Poster

                  A rope halter has also been suggested as an alternative to the lead rope with chain. Anybody have opinions about the relative merits of the two?
                  Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                  • #10
                    I would say it depends on the horse. A rope halter can be pretty effective if used correctly.

                    Having said that, my mare who does respond well to the rope halter also responds nicely to the longer lead rope when flicked at her behind to get her moving.
                    You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something… S. Jobs


                    • #11
                      Personally, I find chains and rope halters better at stopping a horse than making it go. I have never put a chain under the chin, however, just over the nose (again, for stopping a puller).

                      The advantage of a rope halter, with a long lead is the "smack em behind" ET described. That would be the first thing I would try. Drive the horse forward instead of trying to pull it.

                      I don't understand an owner that won't let you use a whip, but will let you use a chain?? You can do a heck of a lot more damage with a chain...but whatever...not my horse.
                      DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


                      • #12
                        the thought of using a halter to train a horse to go forward goes against my grain. Mostly horses push into pressure. pressure on the poll area, as from a rope halter, is usually going to result in a pull back.
                        There are ways to stimulate a horse to go willingly forward without use of restrictive devices, with the use of rewards, voice and body posture. These cannot be taught in words over the internet. And they all take time and input on a daily or more often basis, for a while.

                        The key is in shaping the behavior and rewarding the least little efforts at first.

                        Never forget the great principle of Beudant, “Ask little, ask often and reward a lot”.
                        "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ET's Home View Post
                          If the owner gets upset with you even carrying a crop, just use a longer lead rope. Have the long end in your left hand. As he lags behind, flick the end on his butt with a verbal command, like 'walk on' or cluck. He'll catch on quick.

                          This. And it's a matter of startling him, not hitting him. If your timing is good you should only have to do this once or twice.
                          Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


                          • Original Poster

                            Well, I have smacked him with the lead rope, and it isn't much of a hit. He just looks at me like "that's the best you have?". There's actually two problems. Initially, he won't move and I have to just pull and release somewhere in the range of 5-15 times before he decides to come along. Then, once in movement, he lags behind, causing me to have to kind of pull him along. Oh, and a third thing is, when headed back to the pasture, he pulls me along.
                            Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!



                            • #15
                              Practice everywhere else besides heading to or from the pasture. Around the barn, up and down the aisle, in the arena, in the parking lot. Basically, you want to do lots and lots of walk-halt-walk transitions, turns (always AWAY from you!), walk-trot transitions, and anything else you can think of to get him to pay attention to you and match what you're doing. Use your voice commands at the same time. You're trying to teach him two things: 1) pay attention to ME! and 2) go at the speed I tell you to. Make a game of it, bring some treats and a dressage whip, which you will use to point at him and threaten a little, not whack him, of course. It will take some time and commitment on your part but it will pay off in spades later. If your guy is like my guy, the "go button" wasn't fully installed but the "I think I'll go back to my friends NOW" button was. Mine was a youngster when he pulled the rope out of my hand, reared and galloped back to the pasture. Once! Intensive ground work boot camp followed and now he's much better about walking at MY pace, and focusing more on ME than his pals. I can ask him to jog in hand from the pasture to the barn if we're late for a lesson - even I'm surprised by that one from Mr Balky. A few handfuls of grain waiting for him at the barn probably also contributes to his new-found enthusiasm!


                              • #16
                                clicker-train him to heel, it's the fastest, easiest way to get the proper result. There's no need to hit him with a whip or attempt to drag him around, although putting a chain over the nose "just in case" may be a good idea.

                                Clicker-training is so underused in horse ground manners. You can rapidly teach your horse to come running to the gate when called (no more walking out in the field or chasing him), stand quietly to be haltered, lead quietly, ground-tie, pick up feet, load on trailer, etc.


                                • #17
                                  I agree with working with him on leading in general, not just back and forth to the field. It will translate to the field better. It sounds like horse has horrid ground manners and is walking all over you. But he will only do that if you let him.

                                  Don't get out in front of him and pull. Get beside his shoulder, click or say walk or whatever he knows, tug once lightly on the rope and step forward. If he doesn't step forward with you swat his bum with the end of your lead. You don't want to get in a tug of war. Ask once nicely, then demand a response.

                                  On the way back to the field, if he gets rushy require him to stop, back up, then turn around and walk back to the barn and wait for a minute or so before starting again. Repeat until he can be polite about it. Make it clear that he will return to the field on your time, not his.


                                  • #18
                                    Are you allowed to lunge him? If so, take a lunge line and lunge whip, and when he ignored your request to walk along, lunge him right there in the pasture for a minute, then try again. They tend to figure it out quickly.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by altjaeger View Post
                                      Well, I have smacked him with the lead rope, and it isn't much of a hit. He just looks at me like "that's the best you have?".
                                      Because, and excuse me but I am going to be blunt, but you are doing it wrong. Do it in PHASES. It is not about the hit itself, it is about your body language. You point the direction in which you want him to move or apply pressure on the lead, hold an assertive stance, then start wiggling the rope and getting "louder" with your wiggles until you are touching. Then get "louder" with your touches until he moves. Ask much, reward little. Reward when he shifts his weight if that is what it takes. Then build off that and ask more of him. Think of a boss mare: what she says goes, and NOW. You need to be assertive. On the other hand, keep in mind your horse is an individual too and respect goes both ways.

                                      Basically, you need to learn to ask and be assertive with your body language.

                                      Initially, he won't move and I have to just pull and release somewhere in the range of 5-15 times before he decides to come along.
                                      Why are you releasing if he is not moving? Teach him to release from pressure and to be light (in general, with exercises). Then only release when he TRIES. Do not "pull", but "hold" instead, that way when he DOES try, HE releases the pressure himself. Hold and wait, and increase your phases of ask by using body language and the end of your rope (as I mentioned above, getting bigger in your wiggles until you touch, and increasing the touch). Release ONLY when he tries, otherwise you are only dulling his response. He knows that if he holds out long enough you will release without him having to do anything. HE is conditioning YOU. Then when he finally does decide to move forward, he lags, because he never really wanted to move in the first place.

                                      Then, once in movement, he lags behind, causing me to have to kind of pull him along. Oh, and a third thing is, when headed back to the pasture, he pulls me along.
                                      Don't pull him along. You are dulling his response. He doesn't respect you enough to move when you ask him to move, so earn his respect. Teach him to move off pressure and to respond to your body language whether it is assertive or relaxed. Instead of pulling, "drive" him forward with your body language and the end of your lead (used in PHASES, again, don't just go from zero to slapping him).

                                      Lastly, he sounds like he could care less whether or not he left the pasture, so make time with you enjoyable and engaging for him. Make spending time with you the best choice he ever made and he will start running to you in the field and following you around willingly.

                                      ETA: clicker training is a great idea. It's all about earning his respect and installing that "go" button, balancing the "go" with "whoa".

                                      I personally do not use chains (except in very extreme and rare circumstances, where my life or well-being depends on it, until I can re-train the horse) but do use rope halters...the pressure is not distributed as well (read: comfortably) on a rope halter versus a web halter, when a horse goes to apply pressure to it. It's easier to lean against something broad than something narrow and skinny (and with knots, which will cause pressure points, in it). Ultimately though it is not about the halter, it is about YOU, though certain tools you may find helpful.
                                      Last edited by naturalequus; Feb. 3, 2011, 07:39 PM.
                                      ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                                      ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Thanks for all the good responses. I think I'm going to start with the rope halter and see how quickly/well that works. Simultaneously, I'm going to research clicker training and if the halter isn't getting good results, use that.

                                        naturalequus, I am releasing the pressure because I've always heard not to get in a tug-of-war with a horse -- the human will lose. I was tugging/releasing to, basically, be a pain to him. I've learned that horses do a lot of stuff they don't want to just because their human handlers have these super powers of concentration and focus (so it seems to the horse).
                                        Yes, I know how to spell. I'm using freespeling!