Hacking alone and leading problems

30 June 2020
Hi all! I’m having a few problems with my very stubborn cob hacking out and leading. I’ll start with leading. When I fetch him in from the field he plants his feet every few steps and refuses to move for a good few minutes until he takes a few steps and does it again. I’ve tried all of the techniques my trainer has given me including swinging the rope behind me to tap him on the shoulder, carrying a crop, encouraging him to move forward with treats, getting him to move sideways to get his feet moving and then asking him to go forwards etc. All of these did work for a short amount of time before he figured it out and went back to planting his feet and refusing to move. His second issue with leading is that once we are out of the enclosed pathway next to the field and out on to the lane that leads down to the yard, he tries everything he can to drag me back to the field or over to snack on the grass, which I do not let him get away with and in most cases he doesn’t succeed except for the odd occasion where he manages to snatch the rope from me by leaping sideways and cantering away towards the field, he ignores all pressure I put on the rope whether that be asking him to slow down or move forwards. He is absolutely foot perfect on the way back to the field. Now on to hacking out. Hacking out with other horses he is good as gold so long as he’s not at the front of the ride and can see the other horses, other than being a little strong, but I have no issues with this and can handle it just fine. However if he’s in front of out on his own he either spins around to run back to the yard, tries everything to head down a different path than the one I’m asking him to go on or as with leading, stands and won’t move. I believe it may be a confidence thing about him not liking being alone and needs the reassurance of being able to see another horse up ahead of him. However I can’t always hack out with other people since I’m on a fairly quiet yard with not many people and we all of course have our own lives and jobs we have to fit our yard schedule around. When I ask him to turn back in the direction I want him to move in, he either throws his head up in the air and ignores my aids with the rein and my leg no matter how strong or persistent I am, backs up as far as he can instead of moving forwards or turning (depending on what I’m asking of him) or he just repeatedly rears. There is one trail that leads in a loop straight back round to the yard and I can get him to hack alone on that with no issues whatsoever, but on any other trail he won’t have it. I’m honestly a bit lost about what to do now and it’s all a bit disheartening so any help would be appreciated!!


Well-Known Member
1 November 2005
I'm not an expert by any stretch but re: the leading issue, do you use a rope halter or ordinary one?
Might be worth using a rope one for more control, or a bridle (a lot of people use a headpiece and cheekpieces/bit with a coupling to the bit so you have more control)
I would also suggest using a longer rope than an ordinary lead rope as IMO then you can keep hold of the rope if they pull away and don't let got (obviously don't get dragged)
I assume you wear gloves and proper footwear to bring him in for safety's sake.
With the hacking, I can only tell you what worked for me and my baby, newly broken cob; I rode him out of the gate, turned right, rode up the road a few hundred yards. Then - before I had any issues I turned around and back to the gate.
Next day.....same route only further, and turned around then back past the gate a hundreds yards, turned around and back
Repeat, over and over extending the distance every day. Always deciding myself before any issues, when to return. And which way to turn.
Then after a few weeks just straight out of the gate onto the route I wanted to go without the turning right and back to the gate and past. But when I came home I again went past the gate so he didn't learn to dive into the yard gate.
2 years later we're hacking all over, no issues apart from the usual spooks at goats/sheep/pigeons etc, he's a horse!


Well-Known Member
16 February 2009
Slopping along on a loose rein somewhere in Devon
Mmmm..... may I be frank and say that I think you are aiming for too much too soon.

You don't say how long you have had your horse?? Are you a new combination? Or has this been a problem for some time.

Your horse obviously does NOT see you as his Herd Leader who should be respected at all times; he actually is seeing you as a pushover and someone who can be pushed around. You need to change that.

I personally wouldn't feed treats to make him move forward! He's behaving like a spoilt brat and you're rewarding him for it!! No way!

This horse needs to be taught boundaries. For your safety if nothing else because if he doesn't/won't respect you on the ground, then he won't respect you in the saddle.

I would go right back to basics. Get a knotted halter and use that, plus a long-line, and every time he stops then jerk at it. It will be uncomfortable. If he then steps forward just a bit, then reward him. Make him go backwards by "flapping" the rope and making yourself "tall". Again, reward him if he does it. Then make him go sideways - use your rope swung in a circle, again rewarding if he yields. You may have to do this for a while. Do it in a school - and make sure please that you are wearing a hat, gloves, suitable footwear and a body protector.

I think it is far too soon to even think about hacking; this horse has got to respect you on the ground first. I think you may be putting yourself in danger if you try riding solo with him until you've sorted out your groundwork issues first and got him to respect you.

Also....... may I respectfully suggest that you try another trainer; I would suggest someone of the Kelly Marks/Intelligent Horsemanship affiliation - who would be able to show you practically what you need to do with this horse and would support you both. If you are in the South West, I can recommend someone to help you.

But please, whatever else you do, keep yourself safe.