Leading is a basic groundwork exercise. Horsefulness Training distinguishes 3 types of basic lead exercises. First, you have leading from the lead position (1st position). Second, you have leading from the partner position (2nd position). And third, you have leading from the drive position (3rd position).
Leading from the lead position
With this position you walk ahead of the horse, in the lead position. The horse follows. The horse stays outside of your intimate space and if asked, outside of your personal space as well. It is therefore necessary that you are able to demarcate your space in a friendly yet assertive way.
The purpose of this exercise is to show the horse that you take your space in a calm but confident way. The horse learns to yield when you ask him to. You also take the lead because you indicate direction; you decide where you both will go.
Leading from the partner position
In this position you walk shoulder to shoulder and you ask the horse to turn to the left/right, slow down, accelerate, stop, follow, etc., without putting pressure on his head. Every horse reacts to body language, so pressure on the head is usually not necessary.
In this position, the human can urge the horse forward in an active way. This can be necessary, for example, with a more stoic horse that doesn’t follow closely at a trot when you are in the lead position.
It is called the partner position because this position provides for a better connection; you are more in contact with each other, you walk side by side, and the human can touch his horse just as the horse can touch and nose at his human.
This exercise gives horses extra “support,” which can be especially helpful for those prone to incertitude or fear. It is also a preparatory exercise for in-hand gymnastic work.
Advanced trainers may decide in some instances to give the lead to the horse in this position.
Leading from the drive position
In this position, the human walks behind the drive line of the horse. The horse walks in front of his human, and the trainer walks diagonally behind the horse.
The trainer can certainly be the leader in this “herd of two”. However, the advanced trainer can also give the lead to the horse. It is important that the human can take back the lead at any time.
The liberty connection exercise “easy herding” is the ideal preparation for this lead position, but also the previous 2 lead exercises can help prepare you for leading from the drive position. In the drive positions (as with the others), we try to work mainly with body language, asking the horse to turn and to stop without much pressure on the head (from the lead rope).
This exercise makes the horse more atuned to your body language. The trainer learns to use his body language more subtly and also to better read the body langue of the horse. This exercise asks from the trainer a great awareness of his energy and body language. Practicing this exercises will contribute much to your development as a trainer.
Leading becomes a harmonic game
From each lead position, you can lead your horse from point A to point B, through an obstacle course, in traffic, etc. You choose your lead position depending on the horse and the situation. You can also alternate these positions to fit the situation at hand. First, you practice each lead position separately, then you learn to deal with them dynamically so you can change from one lead position to another fluidly.
Leading becomes a harmonic game of leading, accompany, following, driving, steering… all while forming a bond.