Daily Practices to Avert Injuries: Leading
By Ruthann Smith
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© 2011, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Equine Journal
While common, this is NOT safe. Always lead from beside the horse's shoulder.
You see it all the time. But, did you know that casually leading a horse improperly can lead to death? I don’t mean to be sensational. It’ is true.
I know two people who have been killed by leading in the latest fashion: with end of the lead rope tossed over the person’s left shoulder and walking in front of the horse. In each case, the quiet horse spooked. The lead rope hooked and hurled the person, breaking their neck. That’s: dead in an instant- just for being unaware.
Another seasonal favorite is grazing with a lead shank folded back on itself. The horse grazes and stomps at flies. When the hoof sneaks into the chain loop, it is all over. The horse breaks a neck or leg.
Proper leading involves both your body position and organization of the lead rope. Here are some tips for keeping safe:
Your Body Position
- Always walk at the horses shoulder. You may need to get your horse accustomed to walking next to you. Initially, cluck and use the end of the lead to scoot him up from behind. Then, build good habits.
- Keep one eye on the horse. The reason you walk at the horse’s shoulder is to troubleshoot. There, you can be aware of his concerns and have better leverage to handle problems. If the horse is behind you, it is impossible to anticipate or respond to danger in a time. So, stay at the shoulder with one eye on the horse’s ear, which will tell you what he is focusing on. Sometimes averting accidents is as simple as diverting his attention back to you, perhaps by speaking and jiggling the lead.
- If you lead from behind the shoulder, you loose leverage. That is why heels are important: if he is getting away from you, dig your heels into the ground. Another way to regain control is with a handy muscle twitch. If you grab the muscle on the neck, just above the point of the shoulder, the horse will suck back. If he is getting away from you, grab the muscle. You can twist it for added impact if necessary. Without needing strength, this technique allows you to regain control, his attention and respect instantly. Try that twitch. It works as a great eject button when the horse is standing on your foot as well.
This configuration will help protect the eye from the halter sliding into it.
Managing The Lead
- Use two hands. Your right hand should hold the lead a foot below the halter. Your left hand should hold the extra length. If the horse spooks, that second hand is your backup.
- Never wrap. If you wrap the lead around your hand and he bolts, it can tear your fingers off. No Joke. Always fold your lead and hold around it- not with your fingers through the center.
- Don’t loop. If you don’t need a shank, use a lead rope. Or, hook to the bottom ring without creating a dangerous loop for him to put his foot through.
- Knot the end of the lead. If the horse bolts, the lead won’t slide through your hand.
- Shank for safety. Better safe than sorry. If your horse is hot, unpredictable, worried or inexperienced, a chain over the nose can help you comfortably keep his attention. However, typically people put the chain over the nose so halter shifts to hurt the eye. A better option is to twist the chain over the noseband, run it through the ring on the other side, and under the chin to clasp on the near side cheek ring. Then, the halter does not slide.
Keeping safe is a matter of consistently following simple rules. So, lead your horse properly to enjoy lots of safe and relaxing times together.
Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.
As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.
The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.
Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.
It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.
*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.