In-Hand Work Leading your Horse

Leading a HorseWhen I talk about In-hand work it means tasks from the ground. In-hand work is very beneficial for the young or the older horse. You can teach so many things from the ground that will help out when riding and also for Horse Agility. Leading exercises are great for times when you can’t ride and it also helps to develop the bond between you and the horse.

I’m sure most of you are already leading your horse, but do you have a horse that is light and responsive? Do they stop when you do? Will they walk off when you do or are you dragging them around? Maybe they try to go faster than you do. I want to share with you a way you can get them to be light and responsive. A horse that is light and responsive is very important for Showmanship, Horse Agility competitions and for safety.

The goal is to get the horse to move forward with you on a loose lead and also stopping when you do. I use body language and voice commands when walking along with my horses and also for stopping during the In-hand work. I’ve had great success teaching this using clicker training.

Tools Needed

  • halter
  • lead that is at least 10′ long
  • clicker
  • treats

Starting Position

Your position is key when leading your horse as you will need to be between the horses throat latch and shoulder. If you get in front of the throat latch you will not be able to see what is happening or their expression. Getting behind the shoulder puts you in a position where the horse has more leverage on you and can drag you forward. It will also cause you to pull the horse into yourself and you will struggle to keep up.

When you start out you will want to exaggerate your movements then refine as your horse understands. You will be on the left side of your horse focus straight ahead, lift your right arm and extend your right leg at the same time with your body leaning a bit forward. You may find this weird but trust me this body language means something to your horse. If the horse takes a step click and treat if they stand there you may have to pull on the lead to encourage them to take a step forward when they do click and treat.

Practice this a few times and each time see if your horse will offer to take a step forward based on your body language without pulling on the lead. Soon you will notice that your horse will start taking steps forward because of your body language. At first you will click and treat for the first step then the second, third and so on. After they are doing several steps wait to click and treat until the end. Later on add a cue. The cue that I add is the words “walk up”. Make it fun by setting up a couple of cones and walk from point A to point B when you get to point B click and treat. Make sure you practice from both sides of the horse as it will help you and the horse and I think you will be surprised at the difference it makes.


Do you want your horse to have great ground manners that transfer to when your riding? Get signed up for my online courses or take a private lesson with me. 

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  1. Thanks for the tips. I especially like your explanation on where to stand while leading. I learnt this the hard way with my old horse who used to drag me everywhere!!

    1. So sorry I missed your comment Trixie. Thanks for letting me know this tip helped you out. If I can be of further assistance please let me know. I appreciate you stopping by to leave me a comment.

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