A horse with bad ground manners often is unpleasant and sometimes downright dangerous to handle. Bad ground manners can range from minor behaviors, like walking ahead of you while you are leading and trying to stop and graze while being handled, to severe problem, such as rearing, biting or kicking. Improving your horse's ground manners requires retraining him to behave appropriately.
Identify Negative Behaviors
Before you can improve your horse's ground manners, you are going to have to be able to identify the problem behaviors. A wide assortment of behaviors are considered to be undesirable for a horse that is being worked with on the ground. Any intentional, recurring behavior that is counterproductive to the task you are trying to accomplish can be considered a bad habit. Dangerous behaviors are anything that can cause a person or horse to be injured.
Determine How to Correct the Behavior
You will have to spend time working with your horse to correct his bad manners. Many behaviors can be corrected by a combination of applying pressure to the lead and a verbal correction. For example, a horse that gets pushy or tries to drag you when you are leading him must be stopped physically every time he demonstrates this behavior and not allowed to move forward again until he is standing quietly for you. Even the pushiest horses typically catch on after a couple dozen stop and waits. If you do not have the time, skill or patience to work with your horse, then you need to contact a professional horse trainer and have them take over the process. Dangerous behaviors always should be dealt with by a professional.
Limit Who Handles the Horse
Bad ground manners often develop because the horse was allowed to get away with the behavior on a regular basis. Beginning riders and children may not understand what behaviors are and aren't acceptable or not realize that a horse should be corrected for doing things, like pushing them with his head, dragging the person leading them or stopping to graze every three steps. If your horse's ground manners need work, you must make sure that everyone who is handling him is going to have the skill and patience to correct the bad behaviors as well as to make your horse listen and behave appropriately. Do not allow inexperienced people to handle your horse. Horses are herd animals and almost always respond better for people who they view as leaders and respect. Consistent, confident handling will teach your horse to respect you.
Consistent proper handling is the most effective way to prevent a horse from getting into bad habits on the ground. Learn to recognize bad habits and do not allow your horse to get away with them, ever. A quick verbal correction combined with pressure being applied to the halter or lead normally is adequate correction, especially if you redirect your horse's attention onto the task at hand (walking, being led, etc.). If your horse's behaviors are the result of a lack of patience, then you will need to teach him that he will not be rewarded with attention or activity until he waits quietly for you and behaves himself.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.