Who didn’t learn it that way? One of the very first lesson we all absorb as tiny horse-crazy tots is to approach and handle the horse from the left side. I once went on a dude ride (no really, it’s true) and the four things that were explained to all the tourists in tennis shoes before they got on were whoa, go, “don’t let him eat on the trail,” and “lead him from the left.”
In her new book TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY, legendary horsewoman Linda Tellington-Jones counters this traditional lesson in basic equestrianism, arguing for ambidexterity on the part of both horse and handler.
Why All Left Isn’t Right
Why is it considered “correct” to lead a horse from the left? Anyone who has gone through Pony Club or 4-H knows that leading a horse from the “far” or right side is considered incorrect.
Horses are to be handled primarily from the “near” or left side. Unfortunately, this leftover military tradition is not particularly useful for your horse’s overall straightness, flexibility, and balance. Leading horses from the left originated from the righthand dominant military tradition of having the sword scabbard on the left side of the body. Leading and mounting horses from the left side meant that the sword was not in the way.
The result is that many horses are very one-sided and have a difficult time stopping without a left bend, or they might not be able to be led from the right at all. This tendency can be seen in unhandled foals, as they mimic their dam’s posture, and is reinforced as they are primarily handled from the left side. Horses that rush on the lead will generally be turned in a circle as a way to slow them down, which increases imbalance to the left and often results in a tendency to drop the left shoulder and fall toward the handler.
Practicing leading and handling from both sides will go a long way to improve overall balance in posture and mentally accustom your horse to having a person on either side. It is also an excellent non-habitual exercise for handlers who, more often than not, are much less comfortable leading from the right.
World-renowned equine expert Linda Tellington-Jones’ healing equine bodywork and innovative training methods have revolutionized the horse training landscape over the last 50 years. Her unique blend of hands-on TTouch (a collection of circles, lifts, and slides done with the hands over various parts of the horse’s body), combined with humane groundwork and under-saddle exercises, has helped solve training and behavioral problems for horses of every breed, every discipline, every age, and all levels. In TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY she presents a thoughtful recipe for starting the young horse without stress, helping to establish the very best beginning, in hand and under saddle. Unfortunately, not all horses have the benefit of the right foundation, which can lead to misunderstanding, mistreatment, and unhappiness for both human and horse. With this in mind, Tellington-Jones also curates her own experience working with older horses ready for a second chance at life, providing the necessary tools for filling in training “holes” and reconfirming lessons that may have been poorly taught or forgotten. The result is book with all the right ingredients and its heart in the right place: Whether starting right or starting over, Tellington-Jones’s field-tested, compassionate answers are an excellent way to find connection while ensuring the horse a lifetime of success in the company of humans.
TRAINING AND RETRAINING HORSES THE TELLINGTON WAY is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
CLICK HERE for more information or to order.
Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and videos, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.