Use this two-part exercise to encourage your horse to stay in the “sweet-spot” while being led.
By Kalley Krickeberg
We’ve all seen it, and most of us deal with it from time to time—a horse that drags behind. I have a simple twist on a commonly used technique that tends to work quite well when employed with feel. The horse I am using for this article—a 2-year-old APHA gelding—would rather lug on the end of the line than put effort into keeping the rope slack and keeping up, but I was able to convince him otherwise during this training session.
Tools You’ll Need
• A good quality lead rope with no stretch—I used an 8’ lead made of yachting rope in this example.
• A stick and string—I am using a light-weight stick and string in this example, so I have the timeliness and accuracy needed. Longe whips tend to be too long when you’re working in close proximity to the horse and can make you ineffective; dressage whips tend to be too short for the technique I’m demonstrating, so it is easy for the horse to pull back slightly and stay out of your range of effectiveness.
Stage 1: “Strong on the rear end, light on the front”
1. Walk toward the hindquarters and drive them away by swinging your stick and string toward the horse’s rear (touching the hindquarters with your string and stick if necessary) to achieve a true hindquarter yield. This colt isn’t thrilled about having to move his feet initially, but because I give him a place to go, his attitude quickly changes to a positive outlook.
2. Drive the hindquarters away until you see the horse’s outer eye (that’s the opposite eye than the side you started on initially).
3. Release your pressure, and pet the outside neck or wherever you’d like the horse to be in relation to you while leading—the jaw or throatlatch are common places to pet, as well
4. Repeat this process until the horse starts anticipating your move: he’ll learn to proactively move his feet, adjust his body, and curl his head and neck under you to give you the outside neck (or jaw or throatlatch) to pet as a reward
These first four steps help you passively, but effectively, build a “sweet spot” for the horse to want to be in while under your control.
Next, you’ll put that sweet spot in motion and require him to “catch it.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.