Obviously generally your code of communication needs to be sorted before you tackle leading effectively, or nothing will work, but when this is done there are some good tricks and tips for the variable leading issues people commonly encounter.
These you can keep up your sleeve...but remember if the foundational Code Of Communication is not in place and correct you need to go back and address this first. Or this won't work.
In general horses, like children, will look for little ways to get out of or avoid things they don't want to do.
They can develop a few tricks of their own if we're not careful.
You should walk ideally anywhere from the horses shoulder to their head, never behind or further back than the shoulder and preferably right up near the head. In the show ring however the correct position is at the shoulder and walking in step with the horse.
The horse should be light on the lead, soft, compliant and pliable.
SOME COMMON TRICKS HORSES CAN DEVELOP:
Bending their neck and head away from the handler, effectively blocking you with the middle of their bent neck so they can turn away.
COUNTER ACTION: Touch the horse in the middle of the neck and bend the horses head back to you. While leading the horses head and neck should be ever so slightly and softly bent towards you rather than away. Nip this in the bud, don't let the horse get to the point they bend away, catch them before they do it and make sure the horse remains slightly bent towards you at all times.
Stopping & planting their feet refusing to walk.
Use your scale, ask nicely to walk on, horse ignores, ask harder, horse ignores, then pull the horse dramatically sideways and forward on a 45 degree angle so it unbalances them and they are forced to re-balance by moving 1 foot slightly sideways and slightly forward, this gives you a mental win and say good horse! and then, do the same the other way, to the opposite side, effectively zig zagging the horse slowly and forcefully forward.
The key is to do this without hesitation, nip this in the bud, there should be no time with you standing there staring at the horse with the horse just refusing to walk and standing there, if you allow this they've already won.
Once you have established the zig zagging walk the horse normally will concede and walk on, keep the momentum up and don't worry about being at the horses shoulder until you have your horse walking so freely when asked that it doesn't matter, get out in front and MAKE that horse walk.
RUSHING, PULLING & LEANING OR WALKING IN YOUR SPACE.
This needs attention. You need to take your horse out somewhere it is uncomfortable and just make it stand still. It is nerves and insecurity. Just pick a spot out somewhere and make the horse stand there. Not held tightly but just standing on a nice lead. When it tries to move, paw, shuffle etc, you calmly put the horse back where you had it on the same angle you put it, but don't let it push past you or circle, then it's won, make the horse stand still until it gives in and just stands there. But it won't concede and give in till all other options are shut down, ie walking forward, walking back, shuffling sideways, pawing the ground etc, it will try everything and you just make it stay there. Then you've won, they may throw massive wobblies but just ignore them and make them stand in that same spot till the tanties stop. If the horse gets pushy and in your space push it out and back away from you and make it keep a nice respectful space.
Then ask them to walk over exaggeratedly slowly next to you a few steps and to move with you when you turn etc a few steps. If they get pushy just make them stand again and repeat until the horse gives in. This may take some time so pick a day to tackle this when you have time, the worst thing you could do is start, let the horse win then finish.
Gradually increase walking strides until the horse is soft and respectful all the time. if it gets rushy or pushy make it stand again until it concedes again. A good way to achieve this quickly is to crawl overly slowly when you walk, so its very clear to the horse you want reeeeaaaaaally slow. If the horse gets in your space push it out.
Remember the key here is to close off all other options. If the horse is allowed to back up instead of stand and gets away with it you will never get it to stand still. If you allow it to circle then go back to the spot, it will never stand still. Hold to your guns and you'll win.
This process is also key for loading horses on floats also which we'll write about later.