Leading and Turning Out a Runner

Leading and Turning Out a Runner

Aeia looks around at the assembled Apprentices and smiles. "Welcome, Apprentices, to your first lesson on runner care. Today we learn about how to halter and lead a runner, and how to safely turn one out into the pasture."

She walks over to a hook on the wall, lifting a burgundy halter from it. "This is an essential first lesson and I want all of you to pay very close attention." She grabs a lead rope as well, and walks in long strides down the aisle to Perceval's stall. He nickers in recognition as the Apprentices group behind her. "We'll use Perce for our guinea pig, since he's a good boy, and will put up with us." She smiles as her students chuckle.

Lifting the latch, Aeia opens the door and lets herself into the stall. She turns to the students and holds up the halter. "All of our halters here fasten by a buckle on the left side, where the strap that goes behind the ears meets the side of the halter." She shows them all the buckle and the strap, which are currently unfastened. "Like a halter, most tack fastens on the left. It is a standard whose origins are lost in antiquity, but it is an important thing to remember. Because the fastenings are on the left, you do most of your work with a runner from its left. You halter, saddle, and bridle a runner from its left. When you lead it, you stand to its left. When you mount or dismount, you do so on the left side. As I said, the origins of this are lost, but for practical purposes, it lessens the number of times you need to walk back and forth around the animal. Because of this practice, the left side is referred to as the 'near' side. The right side is the 'off' side."

She moves over to Perce's left side and stands next to his neck, facing his head. "To halter a runner, stand beside him like this. Hold the sides of the halter and slip the noseband area over his nose." She raises her hands and slides the halter onto Perce's nose. "Now you flip the long strap that goes behind the head over his head with your right hand. It takes a bit of practice." She demonstrates, and the strap appears on the lefthand side. "Now you can thread the strap through the buckle and fasten it. Don't make it too tight. Tightness is not really necessary in a halter."

After buckling the halter, she fetches the rope. "Never lead an animal without a lead rope. It gives you room if something goes wrong. I've been pulled right off my feet by a normally calm runner rearing up, and when he came down I fell and he ran away. If I'd been leading him with a rope, I could have stayed on my feet when he went up and perhaps gotten control back when he came down."

Now Aeia holds up the clasp end of the rope. "There are several places to fasten a lead rope. Ones that are actual ropes like this one usually hook into the ring down here." She shows the class a ring hanging from the bottom of the noseband. "Chain ones are occasionally used in other ways to exert more control. You can thread the chain through this ring here-" and she indicates the ring on the side of the noseband, where the top half meets the bottom half and the side cheek piece comes in, "-and bring it up over the nose, hooking it into the ring on the other side. The chain over the nose is very effective for keeping some runners in control, but will make others get even more upset. Be certain you know how a runner will react before you try it."

She hooks the rope onto the bottom ring. "When you lead a runner, stand to his left. He will be on your right. Hold the lead rope with your right hand just below where you fastened it, and hold the rest of the lead with your left hand. Now you can walk forward."

The class moves out of the way as she and her colt emerge from the stall. They walk a few steps down the aisle and stop. "If a runner is not being cooperative with moving forward, a little pulling may be necessary. Don't try to drag a runner. They weigh more than you." She pauses for a few chuckles. "If a runner still won't move, click to him. Most runners understand a clicking noise in the back of your mouth to signal some sort of movement. Clicking combined with pressure will usually get him going. Talking to him also helps. 'Walk on…' If he's still being stubborn, getting stern is allowed. Reprimands and firm yanks are okay. Sometimes a little clap on the rump helps, but don't be too enthusiastic, or he may move a bit more than you bargained for.

"On the other hand, if he's moving too fast, pull down on his nose with the rope. Talk to him, saying 'Ho.' Use your body if you have to, bracing yourself against his shoulder as he pushes forward. He may be heavier, but you're not EXACTLY a feather. A sharp elbow in the shoulder occasionally serves to accentuate your intent to slow him down, if force becomes necessary.

"All in all, stay near his shoulder. Runners don't strike out with their front legs as well as they do with their back ones, and if you're not right in front of them, they really can't get to you easily. You're also hard to bite if you're right near their shoulder. Parallel to the shoulder is probably the safest place for you to be."

Aeia walks forward now, leading Perceval out of the barn. The Apprentices follow. She crosses the road outside and heads to the pasture gate. "When you open the fence, some of the other runners may see this as a signal to try and escape. So move efficiently. Unfasten it, and open it wide enough for both of you to go through. Walk through, and then turn the runner around so that he faces the fence. Close it. It is not necessary to fasten it again just yet; closing it will usually deter the others from escaping.

"Runners out in pasture usually keep their halters on; it makes it much easier to catch them later. So all you need to do is unclip the lead line. But be careful; a runner excited to be out may bolt away as soon as he knows he is free. If you can talk to a potential bolter while unclipping the lead so that he doesn't know it happened right away, that is good. In any case, always face them back towards the fence when you're going to release them. This way, they won't plow forwards and mow you down. Where they want to go is BEHIND them. Undo the lead and step back towards the gate, facing the runner. Back up to the gate and then let yourself out and fasten it."

Aeia does as she explains, finally unclipping the shank from Perceval's halter. He spins swiftly and trots off across the pasture, neighing loudly to the companions he sights near the stream. Aeia backs out and fastens the gate after her.

"And that, my students, is your first lesson. Please be careful when handling these animals. Now you know how to be." And she smiles.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License