Teaching a horse to lead traditionally required a lot of pulling, yanking and force. The traditional process to teach a young horse or colt to lead also usually results in frustration and stress for both the horse and the trainer. It’s very much a trial and error process for the horse, until he learns that when you put pressure on the lead, he’s suppose to move forward with you. Many articles will recommend that the handler wears gloves to prevent rope burn if the foal or horse is stubborn, pushy or hard to handle.
Clicker training is a fast, safe and effective way to train a horse to lead. I plan to write more about the process later, but basically, what I do is put tiny bits of pressure on the rope, teaching the horse to move backwards, forwards and to each side. When he gives the slightest try, I click and give him a treat, rewarding his good efforts. When the trainer is calm, patient and provides sufficient motivation, most horses are eager and fast learners.
Here’s a video of Doolittle, a young paint yearling, working on learning how to lead and learning how to follow pressure. This short video clip is from our 5th training session for leading. We’re already comfortable enough that we’ve moved out of the pasture and in to the yard. Each of the previous leading sessions was about 5-10 minutes long. He’s already leading better than many older horses and does a great job of respecting my space. Best of all, there was no yanking, jerking or pulling involved!