There is more to leading than meets the eye – the horse must understand a lot of different cues from the headcollar and handler:
To come forward when they feel pressure behind their ears
To stop when they feel pressure on their nose
To go backwards from pressure their nose
To turn left when they feel pressure on the right hand side of their face and vice versa
Not to mention being led from both sides, sometimes behind the handler (eg TREC competition rules or being led down a very narrow track), sometimes beside the handler (eg conventional leading or lateral and in-hand work), sometimes in front of the handler (eg long-reining, even riding falls into this category a bit too). Then you have all the different cues for moving hindquarters, shoulders, head, whole body sideways, up ramps, down hills, walk calmly past a field of galloping horses and so on and so on…
Quite a lot when you think about it like that! Leading a horse is something which has to be taught as much as picking their feet up or understanding ridden aids.
This video shows how I introduced leading to a 3yo mare who had had very little handling, but had to be led 3 miles to her new home. I had 3 days to do it in and used clicker training to help Red understand exactly what I wanted from her.
Don’t take leading for granted. If you have leading problems with your horse, take a moment to ensure they fully understand what you’re asking for and, if not, go through a training process to make sure they do. That way, you can eliminate leading problems and never have to fight your horse again – it’s even fun training it this way!