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Equine Health Resource

Drags in Hand, Won't Lead Up

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

Code Yellow - Contact Your Vet at Your Convenience for an Appointment

    A horse’s refusal to move forward when led in hand is an undesirable behavior. Horses are taught this behavior in the same way they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive the behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

    Horses that will not lead up have not been taught to yield forward to pressure at the poll. The handler may also not be giving the right cues. All horses should attain the speed of the handler and should trot easily in hand without pulling or dragging. On the other hand, they should not crowd or bypass the handler.

    This behavior can also be a response to pain. A variety of physical problems may cause a horse to drag on the lead rope, including low-grade lameness, especially foot soreness.


    Carefully assess the feet especially, feeling for digital pulse. Look for any evidence of lameness by turning the horse in sharp circles at the walk, on firm footing.


    Your vet can help you determine whether this behavior is a result of physical pain by performing a physical and lameness exam.

    If a physical cause is ruled out, look to yourself, and others who have handled your horse as both the cause of the problem and the solution. What is required is good timing and technique, as well as a method of handling your horse that rewards even the tiniest attempts at yielding to pressure on the poll with the halter. Your vet may or may not have an interest in helping you teach the horse to overcome this behavior. A qualified trainer should also be consulted.

    Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


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