Gate Safety Image

Accidents do not only happen while riding. They can happen at anytime, sometimes while doing the most mundane of tasks.

Staying safe involves a combination of both skills and awareness. This is true for our riding, but also true for a chore as simple as moving a horse through a gate.

When moving through a gate, we have a lot to coordinate, the horse we are handling, the gate, and potentially other horses who would love to push past and make an escape!

Watch the video below to learn how to safely bring a horse in and out of a gate, even when there is another horse close by!


If you would like to watch more “in the moment” training videos, addressing riding problems, issues on the trail, and groundwork and handling problems, then check out Training Journals, a full library of Training Videos, Horse Care Mini-Courses, and much more! 

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92 Responses

  1. I have four horses and keep them together as we rotate from one field to another. Depending on the time of day (and sometimes any time of day!) all four will crowd the gate when I come to get one out of the field to ride. Tips on managing moving through the gate with a horse in that situation would be really helpful. The technique you showed in today’s video was really helpful. I wonder if the same twirling of the end of the lead line would work well when multiple horses are involved. Thanks for the great videos. I look forward to them every week and usually watch more than once.

    1. Judy, yes it can definitely work when more than one horse is involved!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. Thank you for this type of advice, I have my 3 horses at my Owen farm for the first time and the bigger ones make it hard for me to get the smallest,youngest one out of the gate !

  3. Hi Callie,
    I ride school horses and take lessons on the weekends. I live in Florida and right now it is gator mating season! The horses smell them a mile away and get really nervous on trail rides. We also have many trails around properties that have not-so-nice dogs who like to bark and chaise after the horses as well. What is the proper way to handle or comfort a horse when you’re either riding or walking him if a dog/alligator or any other type of animals comes our way?

    1. Can’t say we get much experience with alligator spooks in PA! Whitetail deer are sort of the animal that can cause problems here. Honestly, the best thing to do is get the exposure of the sounds and smells of the environments in a controlled setting, so maybe expose to dogs at home and work with some positive reinforcement?

      The alligator might be a bit more difficult to bring to the barn!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. Thank for the helpful video. I have three horses in a pasture and it is sometimes challenging getting just one out. I’m going to try your technique. I am new to your blog and would like to know if you have ever done any videos regarding ring work? Unfortunately my horse knows very well where the gates are and tries to speed up when approaching a gate and slows down when we pass it. You seem to have a keen understanding of the horses mentally as well as physically so I am hoping you can provide some insight regarding this matter. I truly enjoy your Friday videos and tips. I’m looking forward to the next one.

    1. Hi Patricia! This would be a great video for a future blog! I would recommend checking out our Understanding Your Horse in 7 Days series!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  5. I was out riding on a trail near my house today and going along pretty nicely. Completely out of the blue 3 dogs appeared, one being a German Shepherd all barking ferociously and I thought they were going to attack us. My horse immediately went into flight mode spun around nearly reared and I hung onto his neck. I didn’t come off but it was frightening to say the least and I eventually got him under control all the time these dogs were going crazy.
    I thought that my horse had been desensitized to most things but 3 dogs coming out of the blue like that made me realize what else could I do for safety sake.
    You always help with your videos and suggestions and wondered if you had any on this situation.
    I am not a young person (68) and do not want to experience this again.
    Thank you
    Maureen Barman

    1. This is a hard one, and I’ll be interested if others have good advice. If YOU thought the dogs were going to attack, I’m sure that your HORSE thought so too, so I think that some level of reaction from your horse is expected. My horse is totally fine with dogs that she knows, even the big ones that might run up to us or run around her legs when I’m riding her. She is suspicious though of dogs she does not know until they “prove” themselves trustworthy. We did have two dogs run towards us barking and seeming very mean last Fall. We turned to face them. Luckily there was a fence between us that slowed the dogs and their owner was able to call them back. I’m not sure what would have been the right strategy if the dogs had continued and gotten aggressive. The only choices seem to be let the horse run for it (at whatever speed/gait you’re comfortable with) or let the horse fight with the dogs. Am I missing an option? If I carried a dressage whip or used mecate or split reins, I guess that I could hit the dogs from horseback, but I don’t ride with any of those possible weapons. If you “run”, you may not need to go far. Once you leave the dogs “territory” probably they’ll leave you be.

  6. I’ve owned horses for 50 years and still, occasionally, get into difficulty at the gate – usually when I’m trying to stay out of the mud in the paddock and the horses are ALL eager to get through the gate to have a chance at the grass between the paddock and barn. This is a procedure that should never be taken for granted. You need to completely stay in the moment and be aware of any and all potential “drama” in the area of the gate

  7. Always great advise. Thank you!

    Suggestion for training tip
    I have a large horse who is sometimes overpowering for me to hand walk.
    I am trying to do as much ground work as possible , when he’s good he’s good . however, if he sees something that distracts him he may bolt.

  8. Great video, I run into this every day so good to know I’ve been doing it well. I still struggle with if my horse is tied up after a ride and he is getting his supplement feed/ gain, the idea is to make the tie up rope longer so he can reach the bowl on the ground. When I’ve tried to do it, I’ve had times when I made it too long and it seemed like he could have hurt himself. What is the proper length for a tie up?

    1. Carly, I would not recommend leaving him tied with a long rope they can very easily injury themselves this way. The rule of thumb that was thought to me was that when you are tying a slip knot tie give about as much rope as the length of your arm or forearm depending on how long your arm is. You could try a feeder that hooks to a fence perhaps?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  9. Hi Callie, really useful video, thank you. As someone who loves riding but has limited handling experience, please can you share your wisdom & experience of how to read horses. For example, when would you respond, & how, to behaviour you’re not happy with, how can I tell if (s)he’s just being a horse rather than showing disrespect? Obviously this can differ with the horse. Apparently horses have 17 facial expressions – can you help with deciphering these please! Any thoughts gratefully received! Many thanks, Emma

  10. When I’m out trail riding with my horse she will often see something in the distance that concerns her and she’ll freeze. She’ll stop going forward and keep her eye and head on the object. I’m unable to move her forward and I’m unable to get her to respond to the rein. Should I let her continue to look at whatever it is or can you suggest a way for me to get her to respond to my aids. Sometimes she’ll start backing up or feeling like she is going to bolt. As I am 64, if she feels like she is going to explode I get off of her and feel like I have more control.
    Thank you,
    Jean

    1. I think you are handling this appropriately. There is nothing wrong with getting off for your own safety! You can work through whatever she is afraid of from the ground just asking her to take one more step to investigate when she is ready.

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. Hi I do enjoy your videos . I lease a horse that is sometimes unpredictable my major concern is that she will sometimes bolt out of the cross ties as I am bridling her I do keep her halter on her neck and hold on to it as I proceed to bridle I have been able to catch her from bolting this way but still get nervous that she will get away from me. I do give her treats sometimes during this process that also helps but this is cumbersome.
    Thanks for any advice

    1. Stephanie, is it only when you are going to bridle her? Has she been evaluated for any discomfort in her teeth or head by a vet? Is it available to try to bridle in a stall?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. Heya we have a horse that runs around the paddock when our other horse goes for a ride. She pushes against fences if they are not electrified. She is only 3 and not broken in yet. We have only had her for 2 months and are working on general ground work training.

    1. Lara, do you have a safe place that you could put her? Is she alone when the other horses leave for a ride? Because horses are such social animals begin alone really affects their mental well-being!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. Heya Julia,
        Yes she is alone when other horse is out. Only 2 horses. We do have a round yard, but when in there, she continually paws at the panels, with her hoof.

  13. Thanks for all your training tips. They help a lot ……. However on this one I could hardly focus on what you were doing. I was expecting the horse to catch her eye or nose on the hooks by the gate. It is scary how easy and quickly they can hurt themselves.

    1. Hi Marayah, thanks for your concern! We use those hooks to hang the halters on we’ve never had any accidents and they haven’t seemed to cause issue!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  14. I have three horses that I lead out; all together at one time; and turn out to a pasture. How do I NOT get the lead lines tangled and keep the horses from getting caught in the lead lines as we go through the gate? Mind you they are excited to be turned out !!!

    1. My first question Mary is, is this safe to lead all of them together? We have horses that we do lead two or three at a time but they are ones that I feel very good about leading together and are very quiet. It is really important to NEVER (no matter how quiet the horse) get any rope twisted around any part of your body.

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

    1. Hi Elizabeth, do you have a specific challenge with leading into the stall?

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  15. I was bringing the horse I lease in the other day. As I approached him in the middle of the field, about 3 others starting running form the far side of the field to the gate. I decided to step aside and allow the horse I was bringing in to run if he wanted to. He stayed with me, and I was able to halter and walk him to the gate at my own pace. Is there anything else I should have done? Ideally, I want to work with him so I don’t have to fetch him far from the gate.

    1. Hi Kate! I think you handled this very well – as long as you kept yourself safe and out of their way! It sounds like you two have a pretty good relationship 🙂

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  16. I have 2 horses in a pasture and one is very dominant and jealous. She chases the gelding around and he is quick to run when she gets too close with ears back
    Often when taking them out he wants to go first and rushes to the gate but keeps one ear and eye on her as he leery of her. If she comes at him he rushes off when I am trying to halter him or lead him out. I usually try to put halter on over the gate because he almost ran over me once when I was inside the gate and she came at him. She kicked at him once when he was getting attention and got me. So, I am VERY cautious getting him in and out because she is so unpredictable. Taking her out first requires going inside and then I run the risk that he will try to come up and catch me between them and she will try to run him off thru me. She is a 3YO Arabian and VERY hot blooded.

    1. Dian, is it possible to put out a few piles of hay maybe to diffuse the situation?

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. Great video! Leading horse past scary objects is something I would like to learn to do better. Also leading horse as scary things approach, such as when walking along edge of road between paddock or arena and barn. So scary thing (horse and buggy, dirt bike, trash truck) is also moving.

  18. That one was easy! Leading a horse through fields with other horses, often galloping around, in and then get them into a separate field and gate while others are crowding both sides of gate is a nightmare. Likewise to get back in. Especially if it’s the yard owner’s pride and joy being the tricky one.

  19. I had a gate accident a few years ago. Your advice is sound. It’s always a good idea to stop and think about your surroundings beforehand . Make a plan before you proceed.

    1. Hi Gretchen, that is a great idea for a video. Thank you for the suggestion!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. Hi Callie
    I just broke my pinky toe with the exact same situation. Removing my horse from the paddock and his friend tried to bite his rump as he was leaving, he rushed out and accidentally stepped on my toe.

    The horse that tried to bite him is a definite bully and from now on I will always ask someone to hold him while I take my horse out.

    As always thank you for your videos and sharing your wisdom.

  21. We have 5 horses that share a pasture and the 6th to join soon. 2 geldings and others are mares. My gelding loves his mares and gives others difficult situations when they try to remove their mares. He also has charged the horses going back in or out trying to show his what I guess dominance. How should they handle that without taking a whip with them for safety?

    1. Pattie, is there a specific reason you don’t want to take the whip with you in this situation? A whip in that environment might go a long way for keeping you safer!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  22. Very practical topic. It’s easy to get into a bit of a pickle at the gate. Love your down to earth approach to all things equine. Thank you!

  23. I have been working with a horse who is somewhat reactive. She rushes thru gates and once knocked me over. Any tips?

    1. Hi Judy, is there one specific moment during the gate process that seems to set her off? The other horses? The narrow space? Could it be solved by perhaps having a helper that opens the gate so you can focus on just getting her to slow down (possibly even reinforce for stopping) while going through the gate?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  24. I had just brought a quarter horse to my place today. He had been on my land in the fall and so was familiar with me and the place The grand children had been leading him around and they were on bareback. When my older granddaughter got on his bare back and was trying to get him to run a little, he started to buck. She fell to the ground. Did not hurt herself. We put the saddle on him and she rode without difficulty. This horse has been quiet most of the winter and maybe he was over loaded. Any thoughts?

    1. Joan, it is really tough to say what might have happened in this situation without having been there to see it. He could’ve had a fly or something bothering him or he just isn’t used to being ridden bareback. Does his back sore if you press your hand running down along a side of his spine?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  25. I appreciate this video because taking my horse in and out of his paddock has been tricky for me. I am getting better at controlling his rushing past me, and always make him do it again if he is moving faster than a careful walk or bumps me with his body. We are making progress! I would like to know if you have any horses who are territorial about their stalls, who act like they’d prefer you stay out, or who always turn their bums towards you when you walk in? This is not at feeding time, by the way. Thanks, Debbie

    1. Debbie, we don’t have any horses at this time that I would say are territorial about their stalls. Typically horses become territorial about their stalls because they are protecting their food. Even if this isn’t at dinner time his hay, I’m guessing, is in his stall so he could be protecting that resource.

      It could also be a learned behavior from people feeding him treats!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  26. Thanks Callie for the gate video. Gates can be quite challenging. My neighbour lets me use her arena to school my horse, which is great. I have to walk through one of her paddocks to get to the arena. It’s a long story but I usually also have to take my dog when I go there to ride. The gate is even more challenging when leading both a horse and a dog and trying not to let the dog be trodden on or let her horse escape as I go through.

    1. Robyn, just so I understand correctly – are her horses in this pasture you are walking through? This might almost be a question for a dog trainer to maybe teach the dog to follow you along the fence until you have reached the arena?

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

      1. I think this is can be a solution if it is available and the barn management allows it!

        -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. Callie ~
    As you know, this is one of my least favorite things to do for all of the reasons you clearly stated in the video. There is a lot to manage at the gate bringing horses through it and you may inadvertently get injured. I have watched a similar video in Training Journals multiple times to try and get the hang of it. I feel that most of my challenges have to do with managing other horses and the herd rather than my own, who is fairly calm and compliant, so any videos to help manage the group is helpful. I like all topics related to safety as being a more mature rider, I try to stay as safe as possible to avoid injury. Thank you for this video as this is one of the hardest things to manage, in my personal opinion.
    Nancy

  28. Thank you for posting this help. I always push the gate in and let the horse pass through past me at the gate and pull the gate clised as the horse I am holding moves through. That way if the other horse decides to try to get out they cant. The gate and horse I am controllung is in the way. I can control the gate quickly without having to change hands. I also can stay out side the gate while the horse I am moving goes in or out. I stay out of the way of any interference by the horse in the pasture.

    1. Susan, that is another safe way to handle the situation thanks for sharing!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. Callie
    That was very helpful but what if Herman decided to come up behind her as you were getting your horse out quickly. You had control but he could have pushed through quickly behind and in turn made her feel rushed. Then I would have felt out of control.
    Love your videos
    Marsha

  30. Thank you for sharing. Would you mind doing a video with unruly horses? My issue is when I help with turn in; there is a paddock of five gate rushers. With it being tun in (dinner time) the herd tries to rush the gate and a couple of times we’ve had escapees. I don’t want to discipline someone else’s horse so am looking for guidance on the safest way to manage the “children” without upsetting anyone.

    1. Hi Patricia, just so I’m understanding – you are just looking to put your own horse back in the pasture? I would recommend taking a long whip – not that you have to discipline the other horses but for the safety of everyone involved keep the other horses away with the whip.

      Hope this helps!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  31. Ha! I wish I saw this a few days ago. I may have controlled my horse’s head better so he would not have stepped on my foot with all of his weight. Thank you for sharing these practical videos!

    1. Donna, maybe this video will help prevent it from happening again 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  32. Hi loving you videos. I have just picked up a short term loan horse that is very anxious outside his box. He seems very relaxed and well behaved in his box. Turn out and in I do with a bridle as he runs and barges in a state of fear with anything and everything in the big wide world. I would like to hack out but feel he would be unsafe due to what seems like a fear of life outside his box. Except he lets me ride him in the ménage and is reasonably behaved but still spooking. Any help to help me ride him out would be great.
    Thanks
    Lesley

    1. Hi Lesley, it does sound like he isn’t ready yet for you to be riding him out – for your own safety. Is he fearful when he is out of his stall or are you referring to when he is outside the arena? I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly 🙂

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  33. Thanks for the safety/gate video. Seeing the action makes it much more helpful. I enjoy your videos and lalways learn something!

  34. This was really helpful for me! I’m fairly new to horses (just started taking lessons last September), and getting my lesson horse in or out of the gate has sometimes been a challenge. A few weeks ago, as I was returning my lesson horse, Hershey, back through the gate to the pasture, another quite large lesson horse muscled his way out on the other side of my horse and was off to the races! I was so flummoxed that I then let yet another horse out while I was trying to run after Avery! At least I held on to Hershey (embarrassed emoticon needed here). It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who sometimes has a hard time with gates. I will definitely work on applying these tips.

  35. Great gate video.
    Hand walking through narrow spaces ( in short stretch of woods) and keeping horse back off you if he gets spooked from behind.
    Thankfully he always has purposely avoided me during any spook on ground. When he did rush forward a few steps he went off Into the woods and did not bump me at all. We stopped regrouped and continued on after backing a bit. When we came out I lunged him a bit in street, let him rest and graze then did much better on way back . still did have one spook but recovered better. I was more purposeful in my walk not letting him stop and look if he heard anything.

    Thinking of setting up narrow spaces in arena to walk through ( with easy exit for me) and maybe have helper make noise.?

    Also in walking , my dogs know to stay to same side of obstacles as me, he doesn’t seem to see that we have to navigate through the same trees if they are small.

    Do you think the fly mask inhibits their vision to detriment?

    1. Hi Ro! I think that is a great idea on setting up the same sort of situation in your environment at home! As long as the mask is fitted properly it shouldn’t interfere with Jelly’s vision.

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  36. Hi Callie,
    Absolutely love your videos. Even though I am not an equestrian, I love horses. I am researching a novel and wondered if you have any experience with Arabian horses? Especially mares?
    Thank you.
    Angela

    1. My daughter rides for Ramalea Arabians. Pure bred Arabian horses for endurance. True athletes. Owner is Leanne. You can find Ramalea Arabians on Facebook. She knows heaps about the breed. In Australia Lara.

  37. In this particular situation my training would say to move, or shoo (at whatever degree of pressure required for that individual), the horse already in the paddock to the other side of the gate (hinge end) and then push the gate inwards ( presuming it opens into the paddock) so that you, the handler, and the horse you are leading on the headcollar, have a degree of protection from the loose horse in the paddock if it tries to barge out of the gate and onto you and the horse you are leading (not the case with the horse in this example but can be a problem with some and even the best behaved horse can become startled causing the domino danger effect).
    You can then bring the led horse around you, turning it with you at the latch end of the gate that you have pushed into the paddock, so that the led horse then reverses in to paddock and you can then manoeuvre yourself around the gate as you push it back to it’s closed point.
    I think this might be slightly safer and is my preference as the gate acts as a safety barrier for the handler and both horses during the short moment needed to get the other horse into the paddock.
    There is some potential for the loose horse to get too close to the hinds of the led horse but this is a danger whatever method you use. As long as the horses are used to each other, as appears in this case, then usually, either way should be safe enough.

    1. Hi Mary Lou, great suggestions! I think sometimes we have to evaluate every situation and make a decision on the best course of action to keep ourselves and the horses safe. Having a wide variety of tools and ideas to bring to each situation can really help set ourselves up for success!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  38. I would personally want the horses to be even more and reliably out of my space before going through the gate. Horses can so quickly shoot into space and through a gate. I first teach a bubble space and stay there unless invited in, taking as much time as needed to insure the horse is quietly able to stay outside that safe zone space.

    1. Robin, if we can teach them a safety space that can definitely come in hand during these types of situations!

      -Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

  39. Good advice for horses that are so excited about being turned out they can be silly all by themselves (I have one like that).

    OT: Are those three hooks by the gate metal or are they flexible? I would be concerned that a halter or “horse part” get caught on them if things were to “turn silly.”

    Love your site and your weekly videos. Lots of good basics and safe ways to handle horses. Glad I found you!

  40. This was really helpful. We are at a new facility and my horse is always anxious to get out of the gate but then he stops outside the gate in the way of closing it. This causes all kinds of problems. You make me realize that I need to move him on and out of the way. Changing hands was a good idea too.

  41. Your tips are always good value Callie.

    My tip for all newcomers to riding, is “never tie a horse to a gate.”
    I have seen several accidents stem from this practice over the years.

    Thanks again for all your valuable videos.
    Caroline, Australia

  42. Great video! I would like to see you make one teaching a horse to come to you at the gate using clicker training rather than having to trek out in the pasture to retrieve him, especially if there are other horses there in the pasture as well.

  43. Love your videos. I a relatively new (a bit past a year now) Centered Riding student. Your videos reinforce my understanding of what my instructor teaches me. It is oftentimes helpful to see the video and also to hear the exercise or lesson in some else’s words. Thank you for sharing your insights and knowledge.

  44. After reading the comments, it seems that so much depends on the nature of the horse and the situational circumstances. We have a Percheron (19 yrs) and a Cheval Canadien (8 yrs), both mares. The Percheron is “gently dominant”. We have few problems in leading them to and from pasture and through gates. I prefer a close hold on the lead rope, but with my arm fully extended sideways. I talk to the horses in a familiar way enroute. When stopping at the gate, I firmly signal “whoa”. I keep ahold of the lead rope with the same, leading hand and open and control the gate with the other hand, never letting go the gate as I push it away in the direction of movement. Here’s where I break from your advice. I step through FIRST, drawing the horse through behind me in a continuous motion and wheeling her around to face the gate. I then secure the gate, wheel her around to face the pasture, and walk some distance, another “whoa”, and remove the halter. The younger horse is usually more anxious to get out, feed, and exercise, but a little louder tone advisory is usually sufficient to manage her. I do think the handler’s familiarity with the horses, recognizable daily routines, and the horse’s personality are factors in the outcome.

  45. Thank you. I’m just adopting my first horse. I have worked with horses off an on for years- but I’ve never worked ground work with a green horse, let alone taught basic etiquette – so your videos are my life line right now. Basic safely in regular activities – might be conmen sense to some, Boeing to others – but I really appreciate it. Learning things safely and correctly the first time is really important to me and to my new horse.

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