By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
Many times people have issue teaching a young horse to lead. Often folks utilize the butt rope to help the horse move forward and some people use a small whip or stick to tap on the rear end of the horse. My recommendation is to teach your young horse the “Go Forward Cue.” I start this with the babies when they are still with their mothers. This is one of the greatest things you can teach your horse. If your horse will consistently go forward when you ask, then you can easily teach your horse to load into a trailer, walk into a stall, and stand on the “blue tarp.” The Go Forward Cue will help you and your horse stay safe when you are teaching or working your horse from the ground.
Here is how to teach the Go Forward Cue. Stand on the horse’s left side next to his shoulder. Hold the lead rope with your left hand. Point your left hand in the direction that you want your horse to travel. With your right hand use pressure and release on the flank, side, or rear and say “FORWARD.” Some horses may not move forward easily and you may need to reach back and tap the rear. As your horse walks forward, let the lead rope in your left-hand slide so that your horse experiences no resistance and is able to walk forward. As soon as your horse has moved far enough forward you can stop him where he stands. Repeat this exercise on the right side of the horse by simply reversing your hands. As you get this process working and your horse begins going forward and leading nicely you can change your aides slightly to get more response with less action/pressure on your part.
When you are now able to lead your horse normally, you can change your hand position to be open and facing upwards with the lead across the palm of your hand. Think of the underhand toss of a softball. That is the mechanics you want to use to encourage your horse to speed up into a faster walk or even a trot when you are leading him. This works great for teaching your horses for halter classes. When you want your horse to slow down, you can change your hand so that your fingers close over the top of the lead and point towards the ground. One further refinement is in your breathing. Again, once you have your horse leading and going forward, you can control speed and stopping with your breathing. Inhale and lift your shoulders to get your horse to move forward or exhale and slow down to get your horse to slow or come to a stop.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).