The Purpose of a Lead Line


So I guess I’ll start with a bit of a story that inspired the topic of this post.


I just arrived at the stable for my lesson. I had organised my tack and brushes at the grooming area and headed over to the stalls to get my horse. I grabbed his halter and noticed that his lead rope was missing. I looked around and couldn’t find it. Because I knew my horse well and trusted him, I didn’t think anything of leading him by the halter back to the grooming area that wasn’t too far away. I didn’t think twice about doing this. I never thought that I had to leave his stall without him and find another lead rope before taking him out. So I held on to his halter and lead him out. Before I could even get 3 steps out of his stall, I was stopped by a stable hand who said that what I was doing was extremely dangerous. She handed me another lead rope by a nearby stall, gave me a look and let me continue on my way.

Now for some people, they might agree with that stable hand and might think that I was crazy for even thinking of doing this.

All I could think of, however, was why. Why was this so dangerous? How does a lead rope make leading a horse that much more safer than leading him without one?

I’ve never been the type of person who does or believes anything just because I was told to. I always try to reason and find the logic behind the method. Which is why I started to think about lead ropes and why I decided to write this post.

When I think of the purpose of a lead rope, I think of it behind designed to be an extension of your arm. That way. you can stand further away from their feet and avoid being stepped on. If the horse pulls against you or rears, you can still hold onto him.

Does that make it a useful tool? Absolutely. Does that mean you can’t lead a horse without it? I don’t think so.


Now let me be clear, as riders we need to be smart when working around horses. If a horse is dangerous to lead, then maybe leading him without a rope is not the best idea. However, if your horse is well behaved and you trust him, then I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think a big problem in the horse world is not trusting our horses. We seem to look for more control instead of more partnership.

Leading a horse without a rope means that you trust your horse. You trust that he won’t step on your feet. You trust that he won’t yank your arm and try to run away. You trust that he will willingly follow you wherever you go. That’s a much stronger relationship. And if your relationship is strong enough, you don’t even need to hold onto him at all. He’ll just follow you wherever you go.

Let’s also not ignore the ways a lead rope can hurt a horse. Some of which include:

1- Wrapping a chain around his nose for more control. Forcing him to submit to avoid feeling pain.
2-Stepping or tripping on the trailing rope as he walks or runs away.
3-Getting trapped by the rope. Preventing him from getting free.

These are all situations where it can be dangerous to use a lead rope. Now these situations don’t necessarily occur if a horse is being disobedient. It could be a split second where the rider wasn’t paying attention or dropped the rope. It could also be during an emergency, like a fire, and the horse is just simply trying to get away.

Sometimes I think people still follow certain rules that they were told when they first started riding. Those rules like never walking behind a horse and always mounting up on the left side. These safety rules that they might believe are set in stone and never meant to be broken. If you’re inexperienced with horses, if you’re working with dangerous horses or you don’t trust the horse and/or the environment, then yes it is a good idea to practice certain rules. But that doesn’t mean that these rules apply 100% of the time.

We need to be smart. We need to be aware. We need to know what we’re doing. Working with horses is dangerous. There are risks. So only do what you’re comfortable doing and stay educated with how you’re doing things. Don’t put you or your horse in danger. But also don’t be afraid of trusting your horse enough to let go a little bit and allow your partnership to grow.

In my opinion, the only three rules that cannot be broken are these:

1- Never do anything to the horse with will intentionally cause him pain or discomfort. Whether that is physically, mentally or emotionally.

2- Never force a horse to do anything. Riding, regardless of the discipline, is a partnership. Both parties need to work together in harmony to complete a common goal.

3- Horses don’t understand our language and they don’t need to. We, as riders, need to understand their language and see everything through their eyes.

I’d love to know what you think about this post. What are your thoughts on lead lines? What are your thoughts on rules and horsemanship? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time, happy riding!

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