When your horse refuses to lead do you switch to driving him forward?

does your horse truly lead?

If your horse is willing to say ‘NO’ somewhere it should be a red flag.

You can’t out pull a horse. This seems like an obvious statement but there is a good chance, if you stop and think about it, you have probably tried to at some point during your interaction with horses.

Ponies are practically famous for having moments when they say ‘no’ and refuse to go forward. Is this a coincidence or is this because their ‘trainers’ tend to be small children who don’t fully understand the ideas of pressure and release?

Can you picture a time where you have seen a human trying to out pull a horse? Maybe the person was trying to lead the horse from one surface to another, for example from gravel to black top. Or maybe they were trying to lead the horse from outdoors into a building. When I was a kid I had a mare that refused to walk into a big old barn with a wooden floor that housed cattle beneath it. Or maybe you have seen someone trying to out pull a horse when loading into a trailer.

One popular answer to this issue is to stop trying to lead the horse forward and ‘drive’ the horse forward instead. It is a popular choice for good reason. It is a great training tool and should be used by everyone. But does this mean we must give up on leading also?

Leading is closely related to tying. If you find your horse having moments where he says ‘No’ during leading and you must switch to driving you should be a little concerned that this refusal will eventually pop up in the area of tying.


  1. Nikki Hale on April 13, 2015 at 10:35 pm

    this method worked well with my 17 year old Arabian that hates trailers. I have tried before with little luck, but last summer I really worked at it with him and got to where I could load him by myself, efficiently every time I tried. ( I think it did help that his favorite pasture mate always went in before him though.)

  2. horsegentler on March 24, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    I have seen this so often! I recently began training a horse and was told she had no issues tying. The first time I tied her she was nervous, and the second time she pulled. I dug a little more and was eventually told, well, yes, she does sometimes pull. I took her to the arena and found that she had no idea what to do if I put pressure on her halter without moving forward myself. She had gotten by with simply following, which is NOT leading! I retrained her to lead forward willingly at whatever pace I choose, the while avoiding tying until she had a better understanding. Currently I have begun tying her once more, with far better results. No longer does she look at me like I am torturing her, and since her lessons, she has not pulled or pawed.

  3. Paulina on March 22, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve taught mine to go forward to a tap on the shoulder so I don’t have to drive from behind. It’s also instant so if he refuses to go forward to a light pull on the halter you can reinforce the original signal straightaway.

  4. Joyce Pickering on March 22, 2015 at 7:58 am

    If my horse won’t lead I turn them to the right or the left instead of trying to lead them straight ahead. Once they start moving their feet you can turn them the way you want to go. If they still won’t move I drive them.

  5. firnhyde on March 22, 2015 at 3:56 am

    If I find myself trying to out pull a horse, I often make a big loop with a lunging line and pop it around his butt, like a bum rope used to teach a foal to lead. It allows me to place pressure on him from behind without having to change my body position or remove the pressure on the lead.

  6. lauren on March 21, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    I have been challenged with this recently, the 6 yr old percheron mare I ride has been deciding she doesn’t want to leave the barn after being saddled. She is smart and attempting to drive her only works if I get fully around her, otherwise she knows how big she is and is facing me before I get behind her….usually it takes the help of another person driving while I lead. I love her but man she can be a snot

    • Sarah on May 11, 2017 at 3:13 pm

      I just got a 5 year mare and she is in Love with her barn mate, She has gotten the better of me by pulling back faster than I can move… Ugh so annoying- and I feel like I am giving in to her by leading her out the other end of the barn. I don’t want to get in a full on stand off, however I feel like that may be the only way to get control back? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  7. Kye on March 21, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I do this all the time! 🙂 Driving horses is GREAT way to get them where you want them to go, when they are not willing to follow you, or if they are “crowdy” and want to be in your lap.

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