Many horses have never been taught to yield to halter pressure. This is the root cause of pulling or setting back. But there is an effective exercise you can do to stop this from happening.
And even if your horse doesn’t typically pull back, it’s a good idea to work on this to prevent future problems. I do it with every horse.
There will likely come a time when your horse is tied, and something unexpected happens. You never know when there may be a loud noise or nearby commotion that puts some mental pressure on your horse. He needs to know how to handle that before it happens.
What Is Halter Broke
Just because a horse will lead around on a halter, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is ‘halter broke’. I would not consider a horse ‘halter broke’ until he consistently and lightly responds to any pressure on the halter. This would include jumping forward, backing up, and lateral movements, depending on how the halter pressure is applied.
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Why A Horse Pulls Or Sets Back
When a horse pulls back, he locks down (mentally and physically) and hunts for a way out of the situation. He feels pressure on his poll from the lead rope getting tight and resorts to flight-or-fight. Since he is tied and can’t flee, he fights against the pressure by pulling back. This can turn into a big wreck that results in trauma and possibly injury to the horse and/or human.
Or maybe your horse pulls back when you are leading him. He successfully jerks the lead rope out of your hand and finds the relief he is looking for. A bad habit is born.
Listen to my podcast here: My Horse Hates Being Tied
Stop Pulling Back
So the ‘fix’ for either scenario would be to teach him to do the exact opposite. When the halter tightens, he frees up instead of locking down. Instead of getting tense and pulling back, he loosens up and comes forward.
Begin by walking your horse on a loose lead. Have a lunge whip in your outside hand. On the count of 3, pull forward and firmly tightening the lead. You want the pressure he feels to be on his poll. If the horse doesn’t jump forward, reach back with the lunge whip and tap him on the hip.
The goal is for the horse to go straight forward. If he jumps sideways or backs up, keep the halter pressure constant until he moves up. Then release.
It is vital that you tighten the lead rope BEFORE you come in with the lunge whip. Ask him to move forward first. If he doesn’t lightly jump forward, then use the lunge whip on his hip to show him what you mean. When he does move forward, all pressure stops.
Repeat until the horse easily moves forward when he feels pressure on his poll. I like to get a horse so good at this that he will jump forward into a trot when the lead tightens to apply pressure on his poll.
This will come in very handy when you need to send him into a trailer or through a gate. And it will stop him from pulling back because he has something better to do. He has learned he can move forward instead.
Your horse should be able to maintain distance and stay 10 feet behind you when leading. He should also be able to lead at your shoulder without going past you. And he should lightly move forward and go past you when you ask him to do that. It all depends on what you are asking him to do at the time.
Once a horse learns that halter pressure on his poll means to free up instead of freeze up, he won’t feel the need to pull back. You can tie him up with the knowledge that if the halter does tighten, or something unexpected happens, he has been taught to simply move forward.
Watch my Knots For Tying Horses Video
Disclaimer: Always tie your horse to a stable structure that won’t move if he does, and use a quick release knot.
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