Jac Review Week: Teaching a horse to give to pressure on a halter for leading and tying

A comment came through on my blog this week in reference to Episode 3.

“While I‘m far behind in the series (trying to catch up as I can!) I’m actually re-watching these beginning episodes. I recently got a new horse and while he’s 9 years old and has TONS of trail riding time, I’ve noticed that if something startles him, he whips backward and pulls — regardless of being tied/being held, etc. Not very respectful of pressure. Interestingly enough, you say at ~4:39 on the video that “that’s why I can’t tie him, because when he feels pressure on the halter he pulls back.” I’m wondering just how many horses ACTUALLY learn to give to the pressure on a halter?     Also, how often do people like me buy an older horse that’s “been there done that” but have to go back to baby-beginner-basics and teach things like giving to pressure?-Sarah B.”

It is my opinion that everyone should go back…but few do.The basics are where most problems stem from.

Have you ever tried to lead a puppy on a leash for the first time? Have you noticed that the first reaction to pressure on the leash is rarely to give to the pressure? Sometimes the puppy may coincidentally follow you but for the most part he must be taught how to respond correctly. Some dogs are thoroughly trained and others have spotty training and the same is true for horses.

Horses must be taught to give to pressure. This is usually done when they are young but just like dogs, they will likely need refresher courses throughout their lifetime. Much like a dog, the stronger the training has been at one point, the better the training will stick with the horse.

If the horse has a strong foundation, if he really knows the correct answers…then the refresher goes fast. If you find a weakness, then you are improving the horse. I go back over the basics every winter…even with my top horses.

This question came after Episode 10.

“Hi Stacy, the last pull when Jac response to your pull (6:50), do you redo this again or do you just do it one time before you tie him up? -Melanie C.”

I repeat the lesson over and over again before tying him for the first time. In episode 10 the pull and release shown at 6:50 was the end of that lesson for that day. I like to give horses time to absorb the lesson before I repeat it. Although it was the end of the lesson for that day, I did not tie Jac after it.

If you watch Episode 13 at 13:35 I am repeating the leading lesson again. I explain during this time that the distraction of the bit has caused Jac to regress in this lesson. You can see here that Jac still has not mastered this leading lesson.

It is also important to notice the theory here; that repeating previous concepts while introducing new concepts can make the training stronger. The example here is that the previous concept of leading was repeated as the horse was learning a new lesson, wearing the bit. Can you think of other examples in training where repeating a previous concept while introducing a new one can be beneficial?


  1. Cleanto Novaes on June 12, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Muio bom! Good horse! Good arena! Good pictures! Good girl! Congratulations!

  2. Kathy Zuker on June 12, 2014 at 8:03 am

    I taught my mare to lead at about 3 weeks old. We just walked circles around her mother while she grazed. She learned so early & never pulled back when tied. I am a firm believer in the earlier the better.

  3. Jim Hutchins on June 12, 2014 at 7:39 am

    Such great advice. You need to be represented at the American Horsewoman’s Challenge as all that is good in horsewomanship. Check it out and get involved: http://horsewomanschallenge.com

    • Stacy on June 12, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Jim-It looks like this is held during the Quarter Horse Congress:( -right during the reining part too!

  4. Stefanie on June 11, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I have seen a lead rope get caught in a blocker tie ring and the Arabian gelding tied that way did several flips at the end of the 14′ rope – it was not pretty. But that has only happened once out of dozens of times of using that ring with several horses with tieing issues. Last year I got a 12yo QH mare, broke to ride but pulled back hard for no apparent reason – I was unaware of that and the first day here she pulled a metal tie rail out of the ground, concrete footers and all. Thankfully noone was hurt, and we then went back to lots of ground work, desensitizing and tieing only to a rubber tire which I chained overhead to a sturdy tree. She fought and fought in the beginning but always settled down eventually. A year later I can now tie her – but still only overhead and to things that will not unexpectedly break…just in case.

  5. Sarah Bernier on June 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you so much for answering my question — I’d meant to clarify, how many horses (NOT trained in the manner in which you train) actually learn to give to pressure 🙂

    While I hadn’t gone back to re-watch Episodes 10 & 13 (since I’m watching from the beginning again to learn how to deal with New Horse), I’m glad you included them here. I’m at once gladdened and disheartened at the work ahead of me…since my new horse is older (9 years) AND big (15.2 and stocky), I’m wondering if I’m even strong enough to do your exercise to teach him to give to pressure.

    The reason why I’m wondering that is because I tried it the other day — and he did exactly as you say older horses do (Episode 10) where they “rear and pull back.” So, yeah, I hit the end of that rope, and then he pulled back and reared up and I shot back like a yo-yo. And I have the rope burn on my side to prove it! I only tried it about 3 times, and each time it was the same. Should I wear a Kevlar vest and keep at it, like you do, to wait him out until he “gets” it, or is there a better method to the madness with an older horse?

    Thanks so much!!!

    • Stacy on June 12, 2014 at 11:19 am

      Sarah- If the horse is reacting like that you can do several things. Improve the inside turns while on a lunge line, giving to pressure. Also, do small bumps instead of big ones=smaller bump, smaller reaction. No more rope burn! Your allowed one time and then you have to out think your critter…but your Kevlar vest made me laugh out loud while sitting in Starbuck. Now the folks her think I’m mad:)

      • Sarah Bernier on June 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

        Haha, I’m glad I could give you a chuckle — albeit a somewhat embarrassing one in public 🙂 Duh…smaller bump = smaller reaction. How come I didn’t think of that?? Also, because I didn’t see this response until just now (busy busy busy!) I DID try a couple of other things: 1) I did start to apply pressure while he was on the longe line & then he’d release, etc. 2) When he’s standing still I pull downward on the lead rope/longe line, apply pressure and hold it while he pulls, then as soon as he even starts to lower his head I release. Within my first session I went from working my little spaghetti arms and wondering if I could out-hold him before he’d finally give, to using 2 fingers’ worth of pressure and he’d release. We’re getting there!

        Thanks ever so much for your help!!!

        • Stacy on June 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

          Sarah-EXCITING! You figured out how to add smaller steps before I got to answer you! I love it when people figure out the theories behind this stuff because the possibilities become ENDLESS!

  6. Nikki Schleppe on June 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Some horse can be trained very well and “know” the training, but that training can be spoiled with people. For example I don’t let my horses eat while they have a bit in their mouth, while I’m riding or while I’m leading. The horses that have been with me the longest know this and won’t even try. My young gelding tries all the time, my old gelding that I’ve only had for 2 years tries sometimes- to see if he can get away with it, he needs reminders still. I “refreshed”an older mare for a friend and she was amazing when she was sold to a family with three kids, they promptly let her eat whenever she wanted riding or not. I’m assuming she’s not as amazing on the trail anymore because she is encouraged to do annoying habits like lunge for a blade of grass mid stride which can also be dangerous. Training isn’t the end point, it’s the start where you teach your horse your language so you can continue to communicate throughout your relationship. You don’t stop or change that communication without training or there is confusion. It’s the people who handle these ‘broke’ horses who aren’t trained.

  7. Stephanie Schmermund on June 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Stacy, Steph here in Maine! And what a perfect Maine summer it is! You remember the ones! Anyways, l just wanted to comment on Sarah B’s question. I bought my gelding at 6 years old and started him as if he were a yearling. When we got to tying we took small steps and he was doing well. On day he decided to test things out and sat down in front of the tree. I had his rope halter on with the 15′ lead. So l went out, feeling horrible that he had the rope halter on, and put on his leather halter thankful he didn’t break his neck! So l examined his head and neck, then the other halter. They looked ok so l immediatly tied him again. And back he went! When his hit the end of the line, it took less then a split second for him to figure it out, he stepped forward and stood there looking at me! I was so proud and excited for him! I am certainly not saying that he never gets startled and try to pull at times, but it is much more controlled and not panic strickened. To watch those wheels turning is so very cool! White light and horses! Stephanie

  8. Angela Morlan on June 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I have a horse that will pull back and can hurt herself… she is very respectful though if you go with her. what I have found.. if I use a tie blocker ring or just LOOP a long lead rope around ANYTHING, she will test it, pull back slightly, find she is not hard tied and then stop. she will stand all day as long as I do things this way. even if she is startled, she will do this but never has freaked out to where she is free. I am conscious though, and never leave her unattended where I cannot check on her often if I do have to tie her. it works for us anyways

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