We have had nonstop, torrential rain for over a week. Last night, we had an enormous thunderstorm. I woke up to thunder at 11 pm and shot out of bed to bring horses in to stalls, since we lack sheds in several pastures.
In the pouring rain, in the dark, in the knee high mud, with horses upset and spicy, I felt completely confident that I knew where my horses were and what their thoughts were, through the feel in the lead line. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel them and direct them.
Making the commitment to accurate leading means being present, taking responsibility for the horse’s feet and your own body and hands all the time. It means there is never a time you’re on autopilot, tuning your horse out. It means you are clear with the meaning of the language of the lead rope, and hold yourself and your horse accountable.
Often, when someone says their horse leads well, they mean they can wear a halter and follow you. What I think a properly halter broke horse needs to know is how to SPECIFICALLY place each foot in space in relation to the lead rope. It means they don’t take the slack out, it means they don’t pull or push, it means they are engaging with you step for step in a conversation held between you- every step is dynamic. This means YOU need to be there mentally, and get out of reacting mode, and get into directing mode.
When’s the last time you lead your horse safely in a thunderstorm in the dark? You never know when you need to. Don’t wait til you need good leading skills to practice. Practice now, and make the commitment to accuracy on the lead rope- every day, every interaction.