The most effective riders and horse handlers are those that are in charge. They are the leaders in this horse-human relationship. It’s important to earn your horse’s respect. You want to feel safe, but so does he! The best leaders are assertive, neither aggressive nor passive. Sometimes, a handler that is too passive can become bullied by their horse. Don’t let your horse be the leader of you.
Watch out for these signs that your horse is actually in charge:
1. Comes into your space or bumps into you: That’s a sign of disrespect! He should know his boundaries, which means not crowding you or coming into your zone without an invitation.
2. Threats of a bite or kick: Your horse should never threaten you with any sort of dominance. Nips, bites, kicks, and pinned ears can all be signs that he is dominating you.
3. Pulls on the lead rope: As you’re walking your horse, he should follow your pace. He shouldn’t be pulling on the lead rope to get ahead or grab a bite of grass. The leader of a herd decides when to move and eat.
4. Not focused on you: If your horse has all his attention on his environment and not you, he’s letting you know that he believes that he’s the leader of the group. In the wild, the lead horse scans the surroundings for the safety of the herd.
5. Walks away from you: When you go to catch your horse, he shouldn’t run or bolt to get away from you. He should never turn his butt toward you in the stall or field.
You can have a great relationship with your horse by setting some boundaries. You must have his respect to maintain safety. When your horse becomes the leader, it’s time to regain that position by taking charge.