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Article Index

Approach & Retreat
Buying a Horse

Common Sense on the Trail
Curb Strap Tying Info.

Focus & Time
Ground Driving
Ground Manners
Ground Tying
In the Saddle
Introducing a New Horse

Lateral Movement
Mecate Reins
One Rein Stop

The Process
Progress Strings
Punishment & Correction



Round/Square Pen

Rope Skills
Slobber Straps
Training Home
Training Stick
Trailer Loading
Trailer Unloading
Tying from Above
Tying a rope halter



lead rope picture"The right tool for the job" you've probably heard this expression -- as far as we are concerned, there is no way to properly train a horse without one of  these tools.

We use lead ropes made from the finest quality soft, marine grade double braided nylon rope you can buy. There is an inner core of braided rope covered by an outer core of braided rope. This gives the rope a "live" feel which you can use to send energy, direction, and feel to your horse.  There is a huge difference between double braid rope and an ordinary rope. This difference also comes into play when training, the heavier feel allows you to send subtle "messages" to your horse which are not possible with lighter rope. Purchase lead ropes from our catalog.

lead rope as rein pictureYour lead rope also doubles as a 12' longe line and a set of side pull reins. We trail ride with our rope halter and lead ropes all of the time. This is a good way for the horse to become accustomed to what's coming up next with the bridle and headstall. In addition, it's a good way for inexperienced or "bad hands" to get used to the feel of a bend at the poll without the bit to complicate matters with a young horse.

When we take an inexperienced rider out on one of our "good" horses, we set them up with a rope halter/rein headstall. This keeps them out of the horses mouth and makes for a good experience for all.

Training A Horse to Lead

There are plenty of ways to lead your horse. If I handed you a lead rope and said "show me five ways to lead this horse" you should be able to do it. If I then asked, why you would want to lead the horse all of these different ways you'll get hundreds of different answers. The context of why you want to start a horse by leading in front with a loose rein is what is important. I'm not talking about showing a horse in hand or casual hanging out with the horse. I'm talking about training/starting a horse and how to set up the concepts of personal space, respect, reward, release and posture.

Horses understand herd behavior - nose to tail is what they already know. When you first "train" a horse to lead, it makes sense to use what they already know to your advantage. I believe in setting myself and the horse up for success from the start. I also believe that a horse MUST respect your space enough to believe that going through or over you is not an option. You'll get a lot of debate on this, because you can never say that any horse will never go through you to get out of a situation. But, that shouldn't be the horse's first option!

The loose rein is incredibly important to training. Many people believe they have no control of their horse without contact, that's something that is hard for them to deal with and that's part of their training world not mine. If you need the stud chain or "death grip" on the lead then that's something you need to deal with. A horse that understands the reward, release, your relationship and more importantly, a person that has good feel can get a horse to respond in some pretty amazing ways.

There's always someone who'll say that they don't want to have their horse lead behind them because they are afraid their horse will jump onto them or step on them. This is an issue of respect of your space which carries over into leading. If your horse will jump over you it's even more likely that he would step on you from the side while leading at the shoulder too.

Here's something to think about concerning where you and your horse are at with respect to your space -- if you were leading your horse at the shoulder while walking next to a busy highway and a big truck came by, would your horse jump through (over) you to get out of the way, hold his position and keep walking or stop and look to you for what to do? If you horse would go through you to get out of perceived danger then you have a bigger problem to deal with than just how to lead your horse. Getting through the flight instinct, respect of your space, and the ability move where directed are all important aspects of leading. This just tells you what you need to work on.

Many people don't buy into this because of their own life experience. That's OK. This is what makes horse training great - there's many ways to approach just about everything. If you don't feel comfortable doing something, don't do it.

My experience working with people is that the ones who need to hold the lead rope 6 inches to a foot below the horses chin for control are also the ones who believe in stud chains, tie downs, and a lot of other "old school" training methods too. Although, I do believe that you should be able to lead your horse from both the left and right side and from right in front of his nose too -- it's just not the only way.

How To...

Leading a horse is one of the basic things that you need to do when you move a horse into a stall or to a different pasture.  Most people can put a halter on a horse and lead them somewhere, but many of these same people don't pay attention to what's happening on the ground with the horse's attitude.  Proper leading of your horse requires that your horse respects your space, does not run past you, and does not run over you or step on your feet.  Your horse needs to be able to follow on a loose lead.  And, your horse needs to be able to move off with a feel when you ask.

leading a horse pictureStart by having your rope halter and 12' lead rope on your horse.  With the lead rope in your hand, ask the horse to move off the pressure of the rope and follow.   You are asking the horse to follow a feel. Remember to ask with as little pressure as you want to end up with and use whatever it takes to get them to move their feet and follow.  Your horse may not want to move it's feet. This is common.  When the horse moves off of the pressure of the lead rope, release immediately and reward the horse.  It won't take long before the horse figures out that your body is moving off and they should follow. 

Your horse should be about 4-5 feet behind you on a loose line.  You don't want them too close or they may walk over you if alarmed.  The loose line gives you the ability to correct behavior. If it were tight, the only thing you could do is pull on the horse's head.  You want to teach the horse that the loose line is a good thing.   This concept also carries over to riding on a loose rein, if you set this up right from the start, you're better off.

Don't let the horse anticipate you moving off.  If the horse walks off before you ask, use the lead rope for a correction -- send some energy down the lead rope.  Use this technique if the horse walks past you or into your space.  Let the horse know right up front that this is not acceptable -- they need to respect your space.

While walking behind you, your horse should be paying attention to you and not looking around at other horses, birds, cars, etc.  If this happens, simply bring their head back to center with the lead rope.  Don't make a big deal about it, just use a small correction.

stopping when leading a horse pictureWhen stopping you should expect that your horse is paying attention to your body and posture too.  The moment you stop, your horse should stop.  This is very simple to teach.  When you come to a stop, make yourself "big" by hopping up and lifting your shoulders.  This is an extreme example, but it is going to get your horses attention.  Do this a couple of times until you're sure you have their full attention and then try stopping with very little energy.  Your horse should stop just like it did when you got big.  If he takes a step, send some energy down the lead rope.  If he continues to walk on, give a correction and make the horse yield backward by sending energy down the lead rope.

Here's something to try.  Instead of going on a trail ride, take your horse on a trail walk.  Use your rope halter and lead rope.  Work on the same exercises that are discussed above.  Ask the horse to move off with a feel and to follow you.   Check your spacing and make sure she's not too close.  Ask your horse to stop.   Ask the horse to back up.  Remember to reward your horse for appropriate behavior.

Next Concept: Bending

Ordering Information

Lead ropes come in 1/2" diameter are 12' or 14' long. They are available in black or white/blue tracer with a leather popper at the end.

Our lead ropes are rot resistant, resist abrasion, won't twist, are supple, and washable, the eye splice is sewn to prevent "unraveling", and there is a leather popper on the end. 

The best way to attach the lead rope to the halter is to thread the lead rope through the fiador knot loop on the bottom of the halter. If you purchase both a halter and lead rope from us, we will attach the two together so that you can see how it works.

*Purchase Lead Ropes From Our Catalog


There is some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and don’t attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. This information is intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques, you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, don’t do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional horse trainer. Stay on the "high side of trouble".

Natural Horse Supply Training Information, (c) 1999 Natural Horse Supply. All rights reserved. Duplication of any material  prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached and you have written permission. E-mail to submit comments or request reproduction permission.


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Updated Sept. 2012