Help With My Horse

Leading the Horse: Establishing Respect and Authority

Without a balance of a balance of trust, respect, and authority, a horse’s behavior can become unpredictable, dangerous, and training can become a challenge. Leadership is the key to maintaining this balance with your horse.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of establishing yourself as the horse’s leader, the effects of a lack of respect on the horse’s behavior, and tactics for gaining the horse’s trust and obedience.

The Importance of Leadership

A horse that does not recognize its handler as the leader may exhibit behaviors such as:

1. Ignoring the handler’s commands

The horse may look at everything but the handler, ignoring commands and refusing to follow directions.

2. Invading the handler’s personal space

A horse that steps into the handler’s space without permission is showing a lack of respect. This puts the handler in a position that can become very dangerous.
In the video, This is a pushy horse on the ground and disrespectful horse behavior, I am working a very big and pushy paint horse that is in my space and wouldn’t mind hurting me.

3. Defiance of the handler’s authority

The horse may tell the handler “no” by refusing to move or change directions, even when prompted firmly.
These behaviors are not just frustrating; they can be dangerous. A horse that does not respect its handler’s authority can become unpredictable and may even pose a risk to the handler’s safety.

Starting from the Beginning

If a horse is showing signs of disrespect, it may be necessary to start from the beginning, treating the horse as if it’s a brand new, unbroke colt. Here’s how:

1. Establishing personal space and leadership with your horse

Set Boundaries: Make it clear where your space begins and the horse’s space ends.
Demand Respect: If the horse disrespects you, make it clear that this behavior is unacceptable.
Use Body Language: Your body language can communicate your expectations. Be firm but fair in your demands.

2. Building trust, your horse should know he can trust your leadership

Reward Good Behavior: Praise the horse when it follows your commands. Reward with positive reinforcement.
Work on Attention: If the horse’s attention is not on you, do something to get it back. Use tools like a whip, not to harm, but to guide and demand attention.
Desensitize to Fears: If the horse is acting spooky with certain objects, work on desensitizing it. Being a leader to a horse with fears is a great way to build a strong relationship.

3. Physical Training

Lunge and Change Directions: Work on lunging the horse around you, changing directions, and demanding effort.
Use Tools Wisely: Tools like a lunge whip can be used to guide, not to punish. Be consistent in your approach.
Saddle and Bit Training: Introduce the saddle and bit gently, ensuring the horse is comfortable and understands what’s expected.
In the video, Ground work for respect, I go into detail about the techniques I use for lunging and why I do things a certain way.

4. Teach positive decision-making skills

Teach Good Decision-Making: Reward good decisions and make bad decisions unpleasant. Teach the horse to make better choices.
Invite into Your Space: Once respect is established, invite the horse into your space on your terms.
In the blogs, Horse Training Journeys, You can ready several stories about horses that made huge transformations when leadership and positive decision-making skills were established.



Establishing yourself as the horse’s leader is not about domination or fear. It’s about building a relationship based on trust, respect, and understanding. By starting from the beginning and taking the time to build this relationship, you can transform a horse’s behavior and create a partnership that is rewarding for both you and the horse.

Another great resource is the blog post, The Benefits of Ponying for Young Horses. In that blog, you will read about how I get a lot of respect built by ponying from another horse.

All of the valuable information I have learned through 25+ years of horse training and showing, I share with you to help you to improve your equestrian knowledge. Thank You.


1 thought on “Leading the Horse: Establishing Respect and Authority”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top