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Issues From The Ground: Leading Through Gates

Question Category: Issues from the Ground

Question: Julie,

I’m waiting until May 20th when I expect to find out if a job transfer is talking place before I commit to the young horse training on June 18th and 19th. I’d really like to come. My name is Jennifer Thompson and I met you at the Equine Fair at the Pomona Fair Plex. I told you about buying my three-year-old Tennessee Walker and I’ve developed a problem with him in the last couple of weeks that’s hard to break. When I’m closing the pasture gate and using my left hand to cinch the gate lock and holding him in the right, he’s not waiting patiently for me, but in the last couple of weeks has started to pull away and run back to his corral. I’m wearing gloves and this is a habit I’m struggling to break. The worst part is I’m sort of sensing it’s going to happen and I’m bracing myself just a little. I don’t know if he’s sensing my tension but it’s a real struggle. I’m feeling defeated and want to overcome this to win respect. I feel like he’s winning. I hope I can make it to your seminar and if you have any suggestions, I’d appreciate them. I did receive the videos and they’re great.


Answer: Jennifer,

Your problem is a small one and one that should not be too hard to fix. First, I would make sure you have a rope halter and training lead. It is much easier for a horse to get away from you with a nylon halter. Secondly, you just need to do more groundwork. This horse definitely needs some manners. There is a lengthy article on my website called “Lead Line Leadership.” Read that and work on the ground manners that are listed in the article. Specifically, your horse needs to know to stand still on command and you need to learn to control his nose.

When you walk a horse through a gate, he should turn around and face the gate and wait for you to either turn him out or shut the gate and move on. Do not let your horse face away from the gate. This is important for safety and for manners. When you turn a horse out, if you walk him through the gate and let him go, he may take off bucking and kicking and since his rear would be toward you it would be very easy to get hurt. Also, he will begin to anticipate getting turned loose and will start ripping the halter off and running off before you let him loose; a very rude and disobedient behavior.

When you walk through the gate coming back to the barn (or where ever), lead the horse through the turn him around to face you and the gate. If you do this every time, in short order your horse will automatically turn around when you walk through a gate. Make sure you watch him and discipline him about standing still with his nose facing you and the gate. Take your time; this is a good opportunity for training. The horse should patiently wait for you, no matter how long it takes. Do not let him dictate your actions because he is in a hurry to get where he is going.

When a horse is trying to run off from you, make sure you keep his neck slightly bent with his nose slightly bent toward you. It is only when he has his neck straight in front of him that he can have his way with you and run off. Whether you are riding or working on the ground, you will always have more control when the horse’s neck is slightly bent.

Hopefully we’ll be able to work on all sorts of issues like this at the horse-training clinic in Grand Lake CO. Hope to see you there!

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer

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