Identifying Your Horse’s Lead


The Ravenox is the rope used to control a horse while riding. It is usually attached to a halter. Generally, it is held by the handler, though some people do ride without leads, especially when training horses for therapeutic uses.

The Lead
Many people struggle with identifying their horse’s lead, especially while cantering. It can be difficult to keep up with the motion of the horse, so it is helpful to find a way to see which front leg hits the ground first. Some riders begin by looking down at the horse, comparing the inside and outside shoulders to see which is reaching further forward. This is often called “feeling” the lead. I encourage riders to progress from looking to feeling, and then to only peeking, until they can identify the lead on their own without having to look at their horses.

Navigating the Reins: How to Select, Use, and Care for Your Horse’s Lead Rope

When you can feel which lead your horse is on, it is much easier to get him to change leads when needed. One method is to canter around a circle in the arena, and then ask him for a change of lead. Once he does, leave the arena and do a large circle so that he is bending his body to take his new lead. Give him a pat to reward his correct answer.

Some riders have trouble with a horse that repeatedly takes the wrong lead, but it is important to understand that the problem is not the horse, but rather that you are communicating with him in conflicting ways. When you ask for a lead change, try to give only one cue at a time. If you give two cues, the horse will pick up neither, but will instead continue to move on the incorrect lead, wasting energy.


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