This diagram from a rural newspaper shows the basic concept of getting a cow to move forward. Exactly the same principle applies to horses. Instead of cow, insert horse in the diagram.
If you want to move a horse or cow forward, you must apply pressure on his rear end in the green ‘flight zone’. Pressure in front of the ‘point of balance’ will move a horse or cow backwards.
This is a very simple concept. However, most horse people try to teach a horse to lead by standing in front of him and applying pressure on his head by pulling on the headstall. Many trainers advocate the use of ‘special’ headstalls and contraptions to apply extra pressure on the horse’s head, nose and poll. They also advocate the use of a short stick – far too short to reach the green ‘flight zone’. Therefore, the horse still doesn’t understand to move forward.
There’s a huge amount of pressure and pain around a horse’s head, nose and ears when he pulls back. Whenever you see a horse pulling back, think about the diagram. All the pressure is in front of the ‘point of balance’ and therefore, the horse’s natural reaction is to move backwards and fight.
To teach a horse to lead confidently and tie up confidently, pressure must be applied at his rear end, in the green ‘flight zone’ as you ask him to step forward with the lead. The best way to do this is to use a stick at least six feet long. Then, you can stand in front of the horse and tap his rear end with the long stick. The horse’s natural reaction to being tapped on the rump, in the ‘flight zone’, is to move forward.
Here’s a video teaching a foal to move forward for the first time.
Every horse needs at least one month of lessons before I even think about tying him up. Please remember, no matter how strong you are, you can’t physically pull a horse forward. You must teach him every step of the way.
Neil Davies began training horses full-time in 1977. Over the next 15 years, he started more than a thousand horses under saddle and trained thousands of so-called ‘problem’ horses. [read more]
He is the author of Fear-free Horse Training – every step of the way.
Visit Neil’s website at www.fearfreehorsetraining.com.