wikiHow to Lead a Horse

Four Parts:Preparing to Lead Your HorseTeaching Your Horse to Yield His HindquartersTraining Your Horse to Move Forward and HaltLeading Your Horse Through Various Openings

Leading a horse is an important component of ground training—training that you do with your horse when you are standing on the ground.[1] When you are able to lead your horse, you will have a much easier time controlling his movements, as well as tying him to a hitching rail and trailering him.[2] Leading your horse will also help you better communicate with him.[3] With time and patience, you will be able to successfully lead your horse and improve your relationship with him.

Part 1
Preparing to Lead Your Horse

  1. 1
    Obtain the equipment to lead your horse. You will need a few tools to lead your horse: halter, lead rope, gloves, and dressage whip. The halter will fit snugly yet comfortably on your horse’s head, and the lead the rope will attach to the halter. The gloves are useful to protect your hands from rope burns and/or irritation.[4]
    • The dressage whip is a semi-rigid rod that is about 36 to 44 inches (91 to 110 cm) in length. The semi-rigidness will prevent the horse from experiencing painful or bothersome pokes from the whip.[5]
    • Lead ropes come in different materials. Cotton lead ropes can be more forgiving on your hands (if you are not wearing gloves),[6] but may rot or mildew if stored when wet. Polypropylene lead ropes have several advantages, including being soft and flexible and easy to grip.[7]
    • Nylon lead ropes are also available.[8]
    • Choose a lead rope that is about 8 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) long.[9]
    • A rope halter with a rope crown snap is useful when teaching a horse to yield to pressure. Pressure is sometimes needed when leading a horse.[10]
    • Treats will also be helpful to have on hand. Examples of tasty treats include cut-up apples or carrots and horse cookies.[11]
  2. 2
    Place the halter on your horse. Attach your lead rope to the halter before placing it on your horse. Holding the unbuckled halter in your left hand, stand on your horse’s left side and slowly guide your right hand over his neck to guide his head toward you. With your right hand, slowly guide the halter’s nosepiece over your horse’s muzzle and the headstall over and behind his ears.[12]
    • Do not poke your horse’s eyes as you are positioning the halter.[13]
    • Secure the halter. Keep in mind that halters have different ways of being secured (e.g., buckles, snaps, clips).[14]
    • Talk to your horse in a reassuring voice as you are placing the halter on him.
    • Having the lead rope already attached will give you some control if your horse tries to pull away as you put the halter on.[15]
  3. 3
    Check the fit of the halter. A halter that does not fit properly will create challenges when leading a horse. You should be to fit two fingers easily and snugly between your horse and the noseband.[16] Adjust the halter accordingly if it fits too tightly or too loosely.
    • Your horse may signal his discomfort if the halter is too tight on his head or behind his ears.
  4. Image titled Lead Your Horse or Pony Step 5
    Stand on your horse’s left side. A horse’s left side is the customary position to lead a horse.[17] You can stand so that you are either even with your horse’s head or about halfway between his head and shoulder.[18]
    • Stand about 12 inches (30 cm) away from your horse.[19]
    • Leading a horse is possible from the lead (in front of your horse) or drive positions (behind your horse’s withers), but is not as safe as standing by your horse’s side.[20]
  5. 5
    Hold the lead rope. How you hold the lead rope is essential to safely leading your horse. Hold the lead rope with your right hand.[21] Fold or coil the excess lead rope in your left hand.[22]
    • Never wrap the lead rope around your hand—if your horse decides to bolt, you could get dragged by your horse and seriously injure yourself.[23]
    • Keep the excess lead rope off of the ground to prevent you or your horse from tripping over it.[24]

Part 2
Teaching Your Horse to Yield His Hindquarters

  1. 1
    Apply pressure with your lead rope. An important aspect of leading your horse is teaching him how to yield his hindquarters from a standstill. To begin, face your horse’s left side. With the lead rope in your left hand, apply even pressure with the lead rope to get your horse to turn his head turns towards you.
    • Teaching your horse to yield his hindquarters is important because he may have the tendency to do a partial halt when being led: stopping his front legs while moving his hindquarters in a quarter circle.[25]
    • A full halt is when your horse can yield both his front and hindquarters.
  2. 2
    Tap your horse’s left ankle with the dressage whip. Hold the dressage whip in your right hand. Use gentle taps on your horse’s left ankle (inside hind leg) to coax your horse to move that leg in, forward and in front the outside hind leg.[26]
    • Continue tapping until he move his inside hind leg correctly.[27]
    • Your horse may not care for the tap of the dressage whip, but it will not hurt him.
    • Space your taps about one second apart.[28]
    • When your horse can yield his hindquarters when you are on his left side, switch to his right side.[29]
  3. 3
    Practice consistently. Initially, your horse may kick the leg you are tapping. In addition, he may move his outside hind leg.[30] If he moves his outside hind leg, follow his movements, but continue to tap on his inside leg. Eventually, he will stop moving the outside hind leg and move only the inside hind leg.
    • Keep your practice sessions relatively short—about 10 to 15 minutes.[31]

Part 3
Training Your Horse to Move Forward and Halt

  1. 1
    Give your horse a verbal cue to move forward. Position yourself as when you taught him to yield his hindquarters: facing his left side with the lead rope in your left hand and the dressage whip in your right hand. As you take your first step forward, give your horse a verbal cue (e.g., a soft clucking or kissing noise).[32]
    • Although you will be moving forward, you will need to face him to closely watch his forward movements.[33]
    • Pick a spot about 10 feet (3 m) in front of you before starting your forward movement.[34]
  2. 2
    Tap your horse’s hips. Start tapping your horse’s hip with the whip after you give the verbal cue, but before your foot hits the ground. The timing of when you start tapping is important so that your horse learns to associate the verbal cue with forward movement.[35]
    • Space the taps about one second apart.[36]
    • Continue tapping until your horse moves forward. If he moves in any direction other than forward, follow his movements and continue tapping. Make sure not to apply any additional pressure to his halter or lead rope if he moves in the wrong direction.[37]
    • Stop the tapping immediately when he begins to step forward.[38]
  3. 3
    Say ‘whoa.’ This verbal cue indicates to your horse that he has walked forward to the correct location. He may not understand this cue initially, and may even continue walking past the desired location. If he does this, say ‘whoa’ again and apply backward pressure to his lead rope to encourage him to walk backward to the right spot.[39]
    • It is important for you to stop tapping when he reaches the correct spot.[40] In time, he should be able to stop according to your verbal ‘whoa,’ rather than when you stop tapping.

Part 4
Leading Your Horse Through Various Openings

  1. 1
    Lead your horse through a narrow opening. Narrow openings, such as a stall door, can be dangerous to move through with your horse. He may be reluctant to move forward because the inside of the area looks different from the outside. This reluctance may lead to bolting or extreme resistance, both of which could injure you.[41]
    • To safely lead your horse through a narrow opening, it is advisable for you to walk through the opening first, then let your horse walk through when he is calm.[42]
    • Make sure to quickly move to the side of the opening after you move through and before you cue your horse to move forward.[43] This will prevent your horse from crowding you as he walks through the opening.[44]
  2. 2
    Lead your horse through a swing gate. A swing gate is wider than a stall door. However, you will still need to control your horse as he moves through it. While leading your horse from his left side, approach the gate with as much room as possible to open the gate. Unlatch the gate with one hand while keeping a firm hold on your horse’s lead rope with your other hand.[45]
    • Open the gate widely enough for you and your horse to walk through easily. Your horse should not have to back up and reposition to get through the gate.[46]
    • Make sure to swing the gate closed when you and your horse have gone through it to prevent other animals from entering through the gate.[47]
    • Do not walk in front of the horse when walking through the gate. Horses tend to move quickly through openings, and he may injure you if he moves quickly when you are in front of him.[48]
  3. 3
    Remove the halter and lead rope. Once you and your horse have safely moved through the opening, you can release him by removing his halter and lead rope. You should remove his lead rope before removing his halter. This will prevent your horse from rearing back and developing a bad habit of pulling on his halter.[49]
    • Before removing the halter and lead rope, turn your horse so that he is facing you and the opening.[50]
    • Although this may be easier said than done, do not let your horse bolt after being released.[51] You may want to consult with your veterinarian or equine behaviorist for tips on how to keep your horse from bolting.


  • The purpose of the lead rope is to communicate the speed and direction in which you want your horse to move.[52]
  • Use positive reinforcement (e.g., treats, verbal praise) to reward your horse throughout the training process. Keep in mind that the release of pressure and ceasing of tapping are also rewards.[53]
  • Be patient with your horse.[54] It will take time for your horse to understand how to respond correctly to pressure and your verbal cues.
  • Pull backward on the lead rope if your horse starts to rear when you are leading him.[55]
  • Always remain aware of your surroundings and your horse’s body language. You want to be able to move quickly to safety if your horse starts to demonstrate aggressive behavior.[56]


  • Wearing jewelry while leading your horse poses a danger.[57] It can easily get tangled in the lead rope, which could prevent you from releasing the lead rope if your horse decides to bolt.
  • Never wrap the excess lead rope around your hand.[58]
  • Your horse is much stronger than you, so you should not try to out-pull him.[59]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (56)

Article Info

Categories: Horse Care