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An unruly horse on the ground can be intimidating, frustrating, and potentially indicative of more problems in the saddle. 

Whether it is pulling ahead to walk faster, swinging their head to look at something and clobbering you in the process, or otherwise having no understanding of space and pressure cues, leading a horse who doesn’t lead well is simply no fun! 

In today’s video, I work with Tilly, a young Thoroughbred mare who had just arrived at our farm, to demonstrate several basic leading skills for safety and better communication between you and your horse. 


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Instructed by: Callie King
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75 Responses

  1. This short demonstration has given me some ideas for managing my half Arab paint. He wants to lead always and we sometimes get into a tussle.
    One thing that stood out to me was letting them look a bit. And putting me between the spooky place and the horse.
    Thank you for offering up this information on safe handling.

  2. Putting your hands up to create space between you and the horse will be super helpful for me. Thank you! I have a 17.3 OTTB who often has no idea how big he is and has no concept of personal space. I plan on trying this the next time I’m out. Thank you so much! Loved this video!

    1. Thanks Stephanie, I’m glad you enjoyed the video 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  3. 2 things you reinforced for me, staying at the throat latch and setting the horse up for success. Do you have another video for more leading instructions?

  4. Thank you Callie. It does not matter how often we see good horsemanship there it is always good to see and be reminded of the little things that make a big difference. I LOVE how you can teach so much in a short time.

  5. Good sound common sense. And some very useful reminders. All I would say is that when leading a new, and green horse, part of the safety aspects would be to wear a hard hat. I do know someone who wasn’t wearing one in such a situation, and ended up being air-lifted from the stables to hospital. And she was pretty seriously injured.

  6. Thank you Callie,
    This was a good intro lesson in ideal conditions. What about problems leading a horse that wants to graze every possible blade of grass between the barn and the field, so jerking and pulling sideways?

    1. You can use similar cues like Callie covered in the video Tracy!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  7. I’ve seen several trained horses with terrible ground manners. Sometimes people forget the basics and only think about the training under saddle. I like the idea of putting your hands up. I have been hit by my horse when he has turned to look at something and horses have heads that are like clubs, ouch!

  8. As always, a wealth of information in a short period of time. I was happy to hear you talk about the area you place yourself in, in case the horse were to spook. I have been working with a very spooky Arabian and this has always been my practice as well but it’s great to have you confirm it! I respect your abilities incredibly so much! Thanks again for your videos.

  9. I volunteer at a Theraputic Riding Center and this video reinforces much of our lead walker training. One thing that especially struck me was being aware of what seems to be troubling the horse and turning so as to be in between the horse and “trouble.” However, 99% of our “trouble” spots occur when we are out on the trail with no way to turn away. Any suggestions for what side walkers or lead walker can do in a situation like this. We all know to get the rider safely off first in this situation but any tips about how to handle the horse in this restricted space would be appreciated. Our training is very good but there is always another experienced suggestion to add to the book.

  10. I have a horse that rushes around me, usually trotting to get back to the way we came from. If I try to cut her off she just runs into me. I circle her around and make her back but I’m thinking there’s a better way. In a round pen she’s perfect but outside she’s insecure.

  11. Thanks Callie, Giving me something to work on. My thoroughbred can be a real handful, I haven’t ridden him for quite some time so need to start again with some serious groundwork, I have to admit that I have probably put too much pressure on the lead rope in the past which is most likely making him a lot more tense.

    1. Hi Cathy, that is a great question! The key is to having a horse with walks with connection and asking for that connection back when they lose it by grabbing some grass.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  12. Thanks for the tip on letting the horse look around. I have a ‘looky loo’ mare and I’ve gotten conflicting opinions about letting her look. It makes more sense to manage my body position and give her some space to safely help herself get more comfortable.

  13. Perfect! Thank you. I’m moving my horse to a new barn at the end of the month and I know he will be interested and distracted by the newness of everything. Love the way you work with your horses!

  14. This was great! I’ve always been taught to yank at their face if they were pulling and distracted. I like the idea of not micromanaging each movement, but in giving the horse a chance to look. I also like watching you hold the rope and watching your movements, which are subtle but strong. Thank you!

  15. when leading my mare( I use a cane to walk) I spend a lot of time allowing her to look around & then continue forward. (She is the herd leader& is super aware )

  16. Thank you Callie! You’re reinforcing what I’ve been taught. The swinging of the lead rope in front of the horse is extremely effective. My horse is very food driven and tries to pull forward to get grass. Also, taking time and setting boundaries when ready to move forward, not rushing out of the barn or paddock works well. How long is the lead rope you used? Great video on leading!

  17. Thank you ! I am going to pass this info on to our barn volunteers to not constantly yank on the lead rope to get results from the horses.

    1. This would be a great one to share with your volunteers Judy, thanks for sharing our videos!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  18. I too have an Arabian who often spooks and turns quickly so I like the hands up idea. He’s also very verbal and herd bound often calling out to his buddies and jerking his head around. What do I do about this issue? He’s obviously not in the moment with me!

  19. Excellent information! I have an OTTB mare who is also very easily distracted and is a work on progress with respecting personal space. I’ve found the twirling of the end of the lead and the hands up methods to be very effective in regaining her focus. Practice makes perfect and we enjoy going on sunset walks together around the property. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

    1. Thanks Dalynn, I’m glad you are enjoying the videos 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  20. another fantastic video, thank you, great little reminders, plus a few new tips I’ve learned. Love Horse Class!!!!

  21. Great video! Although you didn’t mention it, you were walking freely and relaxed and the horse picked up on that. You engaged when you needed to at the time that you needed to.

    Looking forward to Day 3!

  22. Great, thanks! Especially useful was the idea of whirling the rope in front rather than pulling on the halter.
    I have a horse that tends to rush off the float (trailer?), and has gone off the side of the ramp, injuring herself. I now have a float with a front ramp and that’s much better, but still several times has rushed past me down the ramp, banging me into the doorway.I see that some of these techniques might help, but do you have anything specifically on safe unloading? Thanks!

  23. Great video. I loved how you took a few moments at the start to set yourself up for success. Reminded me to not be in a hurry and to take a few extra minutes to train rather than just get the job done.

  24. This is my horse! She was a racehorse and then a broodmare (briefly.) This was recorded shortly after we adopted her. She had never been taught to lead politely, and I believe she was on stall rest when this video was taken. She is so much better now thanks to the great training she has been receiving.

  25. Excellent advise about putting your hands up and how to use the lead rope to help keep attention and distance. There was a brand new horse to our riding program where I worked that gave me a black eye as he swung his head trying to get a look around the facility. I wasn’t expecting it and he made a very sudden turn towards me. Love your videos Callie!!

  26. This is excellent. I have used many of your tip
    About using your hands simply as a barrier to preserve your own space. Everything you do also reinforces patience and repetition which is good. Now I would love a video to teach your horse how to be lead when they don’t want to be. Some are just the opposite of nervous and just plant it.

    1. That is a great suggestion for a future video Claudia!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  27. There is a large thoroughbred at the farm that is basically a lawn ornament. It’s not handled very much so many times letting him out in the morning is a trial. I try not to yank on the halter but it’s difficult getting him to walk out of his stall without blowing through the door and dragging me down the aisle. Sometimes I find the only thing I can do is bang the halter to get him to pay attention and not run over me. When we get to the gate he’s spinning in circles and I can barely get the lead rope off of him before he plows through to get to the field. He’s not my horse, I try to work with him as much as I can but I don’t have enough time sometimes. Any quick fix suggestions.

    1. Hi Nancy, first quick fixes don’t typically workout in the long term! Have you ever tried walking him with a stick in hand to just keep him at a safer distance from yourself?

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  28. Great video Callie. I have been very successful using the rope twirling technique with my horse Lenny (a standardbred) who had a tendency to walk very quickly and ahead of me when being led. He’s much better now!

  29. Thank you for reinforcing the basics! I realized I need to work in a smaller space to get good responses to cues before heading down the long driveway between the turnout pasture and the barn with a million distractions in between.

  30. Hi Callie: thank you for the great learning video. This dangerous problem started about 2 weeks ago. When my horse & I walk down the road, which we have done over a hundred times in the past 5 years, she started very sharply pulling on the lead behind me to go graze on some grass at the side of the road, same spot every time, she pulls so hard the lead is pulled out of my hand. Luckily it is a very quiet road, she then trots back to the pasture gate which is beside the road, then waits for metro let her thru the gate. She is lunges great, her attention is on me totally & we used to walk about 1 1/2 miles up this road with no problems, only would let her graze when we reached our destination. Do you have any videos or suggestions to help me please, I haven’t taken her walking since she started this, did it 3 times on as many walks.. thank you Jill

    1. Hi Jill, have you ever tried to carry a stick with you to help encourage her to not graze?

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  31. Thanks Callie, this video makes it all clear to me where I need to work on! I’m working with a horse with a lot of tension and when doing groundwork I always think that she will get more stressed when I’m using my rope to make her go back. So I just don’t do that. But after watching this video I realize that it actually will work the other way around. When I do use the rope and make clear where my space is, I am showing leadership, which is exactly what she needs to get trust and in the end that will make her more relaxed.

    I’ve watched a lot of groundwork video’s, but you just explain things so simply and make everything so clear. Thanks a lot again!

    Greetings from The Netherlands!


  32. You were pretty much showing me MY rising 6-year-old last year!! She’s still not perfect, but the tips about standing on the side of potentially spooky things, as well as the two hands up, were two things I’m definitely going to incorporate! Thank you!

  33. Good Morning.
    What is the difference between signing up for Lifetime Membership and Horse Class (which I have).
    Thank you for your help.

  34. Thank you Callie, very interesting and practical techniques for staying safe when leading a horse and managing it on the ground. I echo the lady who said to wear a hard hat when working with horses on the ground. It could save you from a very nasty injury.

  35. This was very helpful. Especially how to create space as my horse often swings his head into me. Often my horse will plant his feet when I’m leading him and refuse to move forward. How would I deal with this?

    1. Hi Tamara, is it due to him looking at something or more out of he just stays behind you?

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  36. Hi Callie 🙂 Very instructive video! One question: What do you do with a horse who is completely insensitive towards the rope?

    1. Hi Frauke, thanks for your question. You can also use a whip to help reinforce the cue with the rope.

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  37. Thank you for advise putting your hands up,this is good tip for me .
    I love your videos 🥰

  38. My mare is very hormonal and can get pretty unruly when walking her out of her paddock and up to the barn. I’ve had her for a very long time (19 years) but this is something that I always have to go back to and address. It can be quite frustrating, but if I have a plan of good, consistent methods to address her, it makes it better for both me and her! Thank you for this!

  39. Hi Callie my mare has been very pushy and difficult to lead since moving yards there are just two of us there and she has separation anxiety I’m hoping your courses can help .I’m gonna try the leading issue first as she is putting her head low and pulling me along many thanks for your videos x

    1. I hope this video gives you some tools to help with your mare!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  40. Nice instruction! I’d love to hear some tips for handling the horse that simply drags along behind you and walks at a lethargic pace

    1. This would be a great one for a future video! I would recommend working on the connection between you and your horse, that can keep them much more engaged 🙂

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  41. Thank you Callie. My instructor always tells me not to let my horse look in other directions when I hand walk her because she could spook. My instinct is let her look for a bit and walk her away from it, come back let her look again till whatever she is looking at presents no interest or no fear.
    The whole barn is moving to a new much better location. I know my mare will be super nervous and will look everywhere. Taking her on short walks and following your guideline will help a lot, as always.
    My sincere thanks for all the help you have given me thru your amazing videos.
    I am very grateful.

    1. Glad this video can be helpful with your barn’s upcoming move!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  42. Hi Callie

    How important is it to stand on the horse’s left side? When walking back to the field, my horse always wants to push to the left into me to see the other horses. If I stood to his right, it wouldn’t be so bad.

  43. Thank you for this.
    Please include the rope/lead handling from the human side. Even experienced horse people get lax… on the proper holding of lead (and why)

    1. Hi Sue, thanks for the suggestion for an upcoming video!

      -Julia, HorseClass Community Manager

  44. Thank you, Callie, I love the fact that you used a horse that isn’t trained for this video, so we had ample opportunity to see you correcting Tilly. I’m going to try the hands up next time I’m leading my horse as he tends to come right next to me and it’s probably my fault because when I get nervous I tend to hold the lead closer to his halter. Something to work on 🙂

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