Leading and standing still are possibly the most essential of all skills in handling horses.

Your goal is to develop a horse who can both stand and lead calmly and willingly, on a soft, slack lead line - no need to hold onto the face. (The horse is much stronger than you. You really cannot physically hold a horse still, so you have to gentle and train the horse's mind to be able - and to want to- stand still)


The goal in teaching a horse to lead is to have the horse follow willingly, on a slack leadline, and at a safe distance. You want the horse never to push you out of the way, never to step on your feet, never to come up from behind, never to toss his head at you, or threaten to bite, or crowd you on the path. You want to be able to call upon the horse's ability to be led, in a soft, safe, relaxed, and comfortable manner, at any time, without even having to think about it.

How do you get these things? Practice, practice, practice, with attention and awareness - redirect undesirable behaviors as soon as you notice them - or better yet, learn to anticipate and prevent! If you know the horse is likely to balk when it goes by a certain spot, pick up the energy and grab the horse's attention BEFORE you get to that spot.

If the horse shoulders in on you, immediately redirect the shoulder in the opposite direction, by applying pressure to the shoulder with your rope or crop.

Teaching a Wild Horse To Lead:


A wild horse is very sensitive and will often follow the feel of a rope that is loose over its neck.

1. Ask for a forward step by increasing the pressure, or "pull" You have to be careful here, not to panic the horse into fight mode. Just exert enough "pull" for the horse to feel it, but not too much.

2.  Reward for the slightest forward movement. Maybe the horse will just lean, or maybe it will take one small step. Reward anything that looks like the horse may be thinking "forward."

3. Repeat. It may take many days before the horse begins to offer to lead without going through this process. But so long as you always offer a positive response, the day will come when the horse will lead easily.


Standing still, also, should be relaxed and available to you at all times. Paradoxically, you have to let the horse move before he can stand still!

If the horse does not want to stand still, ask for movement. The horse will soon decide that it's easier to stand still.

If you are always fair and kind in your handling - rewarding correct responses and being firm and clear about what you want, and sticking with it until you get it - they will be usually happy to work with you.

You can use the inherent "laziness" of a horse by giving him/her a choice: stand still for me, or you get to do lots of running."

An important point here is to allow the horse to stand freely. Don't hold his face tightly. When he is good, give him release!

RIGHT: Allow the horse to stand still with a slack line. Don't hold onto his face! If he comes too close, just send  a little back-up energy down the rope.

WRONG: Sparky is a good sport, but if I always held his head this tight, he would start to protest. Note the look on his face. He is more interested in getting away from the tight hold than he is in getting his picture taken.

Right: Loose enough for the horse to have freedom and release but not loose enough to abandon control or to trip over the rope.

Wrong: Too tight - horse gets no release, can't learn to do the right thing since there is no release, no reward

Horse Psychology 101
Pressure and Release

Just Spend Time
Bamboo Pole Method of Gentling
Desensitizing, Rope and Flag Work
Clicker Training & Related Operant Conditioning
       and Positive Reinforcement Training
Get Professional Help
Case Sudies
Video Examples
Adventures of a Volunteer Halter Trainer
Raising Orphan Foals
Basic Ground Work:
Leading and Standing Still
Respecting Your Space
Backing up
Forward Movement
Shoulder & Hindquarter Control
Trailer Loading
Working With Feet