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Leading a tacked up horse?

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  • Leading a tacked up horse?

    When leading a horse that is tacked up do you have the reins in both hands or do you keep the reins over the horses neck and just hold one rein at the side?

    I was taught and have always taught my students to hold the reins in both hands about a foot apart. A friend of mine occasionally rides my horse. She insists on having the reins over his neck when leading him from the barn to the arena. I think if a horse spooks with the reins over his neck you do not have any leverage to contain him and the restriction of the rein around his neck could cause him to panic and rear.

    This person is not inexperienced. She was a groom for a BNT in the past. I would like other views before I ask her to lead him my way.

  • #2
    Reins in both hands. Not with reins over neck, like for riding. You are correct, if horse spooks you have no leverage. For proof...look at how you jog horses at shows, or how in a handy hunter, if you get off to lead over a jump, you dont leave reins over neck.


    • #3
      Better control with both reins in hand, so you have contact with both sides of the bit. But that's just my experience and how I was taught.
      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


      • #4
        I feel that the reins in both hands is more secure. That said, if I have confidence in the horse, the area is very calm and the trip short, then you are safe leading with the reins over the neck. I think it really depends on how confident the handler is, and how jumpy the horse is, and how good the handler is at reading signs the horse is getting "up."

        I don't think having the reins over the neck will cause the horse to panic and rear. Think about all the times the rider falls off the horse and the horse goes for a rip roaring full out gallop around the cross country field or the indoor arena or down the trail with the reins over his neck, basically just like if the rider was riding "on the buckle." The reins do not constrain the horse with or without a rider, and they are less likely to get stepped on, break, or trip the horse, if they are over the neck and the horse is running free.

        I expect that your friend thinks you horse is completely safe, your facility is completely safe, and that she would notice if the horse was at all "up" and adjust her behavior accordingly. She may feel that the horse is basically just following her, and if she let go entirely he'd give her no problems.

        Honestly, if that's the worst problem with her riding your horse, I would let it go.

        Also when you are teaching the students to lead, make sure that they know to lead on loose rein. I see a lot of kids come out of lesson programs keeping a super tight grip on halter or bit when leading, constraining the horse's head. They need to let the lead rope or reins out a foot or so, and have the horse walk correctly on a draped line. That way they are not pulling the horse on top of them in case of a spook, and they are not bothering the horse's mouth.


        • #5
          Definitely safer to bring reins over head & hold with both hands UNLESS someone is too busy/lazy to disconnect a running martingale...


          • #6
            Reins over the head, stand on left side, hold reins about 8 “ below the bit with right hand, hold the remainder of the reins in left hand held at your left you or horse don’t step on or in them. That’s pretty universal in all disciplines and the same as holding a lead.

            Friend is riding and leading your horse so no matter what she did in a BNTs barn or not...and she obviously has never lost one and had to chase it when led that way. Don’t be shy here, tell her to lead it properly in the manner proven safest over centuries. It won’t spook the horse or make it rear, just make hanging on thru a spook or catching it more of a challenge.

            Sometimes we all get complacent, maybe a bit lazy, and could use a reminder. And remind her you teach others the accepted and safe way and those others are not her or always going to be leading confirmed safe, bombproof horses. They see her doing it the lazy way and try to emulate that instead of what you teach them and it could result in some horse chasing.

            She can lead her own horse on her own property however she wants but she can’t lead your horse that way on your property in front of your students that way. That’s actually rather rude of her, smacks of entitlement, not her horse.
            Last edited by findeight; Aug. 19, 2019, 04:45 AM.
            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


            • #7
              If you have to lead with the reins, definitely reins not over the neck as riding, using both hands, as you should do witb a lead rope, but frankly, from a pro groom standpoint, best is to use a lead rope attached to the bit with reins done up.

              I don't know whom your friend groomed for but that is absurdly not normal for a pro groom.
              Let me apologize in advance.


              • #8
                I've been taught both ways. Some argue that it's easier to control the horse should they spook if you hold the reins similarly to a lead rope. The others argue that if the horse gets away from you he's less likely to trip and tangle himself up in the reins if they're over his neck.

                Personally I have a calm horse and I'm kind of lazy so I lead her with the reins over her neck and a one-handed grip on both reins. I do a lot of other definitely-not-Pony-Club-approved things so don't necessarily use me as an example of what to do, kids!


                • #9
                  I think it is definitely easier to hang on in event of any hijinks with the reins in both hands, not over the neck. At any rate - your horse, your rules! You dont really need justification beyond that.
                  BTW, findeight I think you have your lefts and rights mixed up!


                  • #10
                    Reins as if they were a lead rope, not as if you were riding. And stirrups run up and secured. Basic safety that we learned in Pony Club and it’s a bit of a pet peeve to see people not do it that way.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks everyone for your opinion. In my lesson program I was a stickler for correctness and safety regarding leading, hand grazing, tacking up etc. I was one of the coaches at our local Pony Club. I have been reluctant to say anything to my friend but since it bothers me I may just state that I prefer that she would lead him with the reins at the side. I won't make a big deal of it. It will be interesting to see if she complies.

                      I guess I was looking for reassurance from Coth.


                      • #12
                        The way you describe is the “correct” way. It is safer and I insist my students do it like that. That said... I will often lead horses with the reins over their neck, given that I don’t usually have to walk a long way from the stall to the mounting block. Partially because it’s quicker, and sometimes because if the horse is fractious, I want to avoid the vulnerable moment of putting the reins over their head at the mounting block. With your horse, your friend should comply with whatever you prefer.

                        ETA- I groomed for a BNT and can’t say we used a one size fits all approach to this kind of thing. Leading a horse from a stall to a mounting block right outside of the barn- reins over the neck. Bringing a horse out to the ring where we might have to hang out for a few minutes- reins like a lead rope. Bringing a tacked horse anywhere at a show- reins over neck and done up, halter over bridle, and lead or shank attached to halter. To each his own.


                        • #13
                          Reins over head, left hand around the bight, right hand about 18" under chin, with index finger between the two reins. That way the reins won't just slip through all the way your hand if the horse pulls. That's how I was taught as a kid, and it's just instinctive.


                          • #14
                            I don't know how, but my horse developed a little behavior tic that I ended up accommodating. I always lead with reins like a lead rope, not over the neck, BUT....He always will stall out a foot or so from the mounting block. While I can tap with the whip and ask/make him move up to the block, if I put the reins over his neck, he immediately moves forward and squares up to the block. It's as if he's saying, " Well, you can't get on if the reins aren't around my neck, dummy!" I wonder if some of the people who lead with the reins around the neck I are harking back to the pattern that used to be (still is?) followed in flat eq classes when you are asked to dismount and mount? Generally, dismount, run stirrups up, go to the head and hold the reins, still over the neck, close to the bit, then check girth, pull stirrup down and remount.


                            • #15
                              I tend to disagree with the average answer! I like to have my spookier horses have their reins over the neck. It scares me that if they get loose, they can get tangled in the reins and hurt themselves in the process.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Belowthesalt View Post
                                I don't know how, but my horse developed a little behavior tic that I ended up accommodating. I always lead with reins like a lead rope, not over the neck, BUT....He always will stall out a foot or so from the mounting block. While I can tap with the whip and ask/make him move up to the block, if I put the reins over his neck, he immediately moves forward and squares up to the block. It's as if he's saying, " Well, you can't get on if the reins aren't around my neck, dummy!" I wonder if some of the people who lead with the reins around the neck I are harking back to the pattern that used to be (still is?) followed in flat eq classes when you are asked to dismount and mount? Generally, dismount, run stirrups up, go to the head and hold the reins, still over the neck, close to the bit, then check girth, pull stirrup down and remount.

                                But that routine is just mounting and dismounting. OP asked about leading and I was referring to from stall or grooming area to ring and vice versa. Any greater distances, like to and from show rings from distant barns, you need a halter and lead over the bridle as mentioned upthread. You don’t want to risk a spook when you are leading with a bit regardless of what you do with the reins.
                                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                                • #17
                                  Only the English as these kinds of questions, and give these types of answers. Get the horse trained up (and a trainer asked the question!) so the horse is not spooking and panicking and breaking things. Such a fearful "what if" world you live in. If you can train a horse to do lead changes and jump a course, why can't you get it to lead calmly?

                                  And the first person to answer, "Anything can happen" gets a prize. Yes, anything can happen, so teach the horse to deal with it.


                                  • #18
                                    I rode at a barn that required the reins to be over the neck before leading. They did a lot of lessons and riders had to walk horses from the barn to a separate indoor arena. The trainer felt it was safer to keep reins over the neck, no dropped reins with horses stepping into them.


                                    • #19
                                      Completely depends on how far I am leading, and where I am. I nearly always lead with reins over the neck and one hand, unless I'm at a show or in a strange environment.


                                      • #20
                                        We do like to debate details, dont we? Even the predictable "Just train your horse!" response.

                                        So much depends upon the situation and the horse. In this case, the horse belongs to the OP, so she can require the way she prefers. Period.

                                        In the more general discussion, many of us take shortcuts in some situations. I can see leading with the reins over the neck when you are going from the tack up area in your barn to the mounting block in your attached arena with your generally calm horse. I might do that except I tend to break another rule and often dont put the reins over the neck before bridling so I have the reins down to lead with anyway.

                                        For walking any distance, having the reins down just allows me to lead more correctly with the horse respecting my personal space. I also have a much better chance of maintaining control in the event of an unexpected spook. For me, that is a more important consideration than having the reins flopping should the horse get loose.

                                        And if there is a need to walk more with the bridle on, the reins are secured and there is either a halter or at least a lead attached to the bit adapter.