Leading the Horse
Sprite stands in her stall with saddle pad, saddle, girth and bridle on. Your first task is to lead her
from the stall to the ring for her lesson. Make sure your riding helmet is on and fastened securely.
Now here you go, into the stall. Sprite sees you. She's smiling, with a faint twinkle in her eyes. Her
ears are up. She seems really friendly.
Does she know you're a beginner? You bet. Horses can read body language. After all, that's their
main method of communicating with other horses. You're acting a bit timid, and that's how she knows
you're a novice.
The next five minutes will largely determine how your horse is going to behave during the riding
lesson. If you know what to do and act with self-assurance, the horse will be more likely to
cooperate. Stand up there and have confidence!
Always work form the horse's left side, which is what she's been trained to expect. Stand facing
Sprite's left shoulder and gently but confidently lift the reins off her neck and bring them over her
head. It's a good idea to talk to her in a calm, friendly voice. Continue to stand at her left shoulder,
but now face forward - the same way Sprite is facing.
With your right hand, hold both the reins about four or five inches below the bit, under Sprite's chin.
Gather the surplus reins in your left hand, being sure not to let the ends drag or droop. You certainly
don't want to trip on them, and if Sprite steps on them, she could panic and rear back. Don't loop the
reins around your arm or hand.
Horses are led with the reins off their necks and under their chin so that if something untoward
happens, heaven forbid, you can quickly move away from the horse. You can't do this if the reins are
still on the horse's neck and you're holding them under the chin.
Despite what you've seen in movies, you should never tie the horse's reins to anything. John Wayne
may have ridden up to the saloon, tied his horse to the hitching rail, sauntered into the saloon for a
drink, but if a tied horse panics and pulls hard, she could seriously injure her lower jaw.
Open the stall door all the way. Otherwise, the horse could bang her hips as you lead her through.
Make sure you close or push aside the latches, locks, or anything else that might jab her in the side.
You don't want to start your first lesson on a horse that holds a grudge. You also don't want the
saddle to get torn (saddles are very expensive).
Now step ahead of Sprite to lead her out, since the two of you can't get through most stall doors at
the same time, and then resume your position at her left shoulder as you walk with her.
Look where you are going, not at the horse's feet. You'd be surprised how easy it is to walk into
Even with the best planning, a few things can go wrong. Don't worry, you can fix them.
What to do if...the horse won't move.
Don't try to drag her by the reins. Most horses weigh nearly half a ton or more. You're not going to
drag her anywhere.
Try a little cluck with your tongue or a gentle tap on the shoulder to get her going. If that doesn't
work, ask for help. Barns generally are full of friendly people who will gladly help you out. Don't be
afraid to ask.
Once out of the barn, your horse stops again. If she refuses to move. Simply use the reins to turn
her to the left or right a bit until she has to take a step, and then walk forward. You control horse not
by overpowering them but by changing their thought process. That's why turning them to the left or
right will get them going. Turn your horseback the direction you want to go. Remember, never try to
drag a horse anywhere.
What to do if...the horse seems to be chasing you.
She isn't really. Beginners are usually unsure of themselves and tend to stand too far from the
horse. As a result, she follows you, moving closer and closer, until you are convinced she is chasing
you. But try to remember you're leading her, she's not chasing you. Walk where you want to go, next
to your horse's left shoulder.
What to do if...the horse puts down her head, eats grass, and won't budge.
Prevent the horse from getting to the grass in the first place. But if she's already there, try to turn her
away with the reins. Step away to get her head up.
This time when you lead her, keep her head up a little higher than she wants it - at about your
shoulder height - so she doesn't have a chance to get to the grass. If you let her carry her head well
below her shoulder, she can grab grass before you can respond.
What to do if...the horse is pulling you.
Give a little check with the reins. Just make a sharp upward, snapping motion. That's a check.
Steady pulls don't work with a horse. (Note: Before you give a check, there should be a little slack in
the reins). The check should tell her to slow down. if that doesn't do it, try again, more firmly. Let
the horse know that you are in control and that she must walk at the pace you dictate.
- Make sure your riding helmet is on.
- Lift the reins off the horse's neck and forward over her head, and carry the under her chin so
they don't drag.
- Stand on the horse's left side.
- Keep the horse's head a little above shoulder height.
- Open the stall door all the way; make sure latches are pushed back or in.
- Walk in front of your horse to get her out the door.
- Resume your position close to the horse's left shoulder.
- Give a little tug up with the reins to remind her she's not going to eat the grass ahead.
Sprite is a small, stocky, sturdy, cute horse. If she were any shorter, she'd be a pony. In the
winter, her coat gets very long and she looks like a woolly mammoth. She's sassy in the field, and
you can tell she was hot stuff in her younger years. Now that she's getting a little older, she has to
watch what she eats.
Sprite's also the motherly type. She babysits horses that don't like to stay alone in the barn or
pasture. She stands nice and still when a new student mounts, although she might move if you jab
her with a knee or toe. A terrific trail horse, Sprite proudly leads where other horses fear to
venture. Being calm and trustworthy makes her a good confidence builder for the beginning rider.
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049