Teaching your Horse to Tie

Horsemanship Network

Read through Anna’s latest article shared on the Horsemanship Network!

Being tied doesn’t come naturally to horses, but it’s an essential skill for them to learn.

teaching-your-horse-to-tie

There are many situations in which it’s important for your horse to tie well. It could be for the vet or farrier, at a show or event, or perhaps while you are grooming and tacking up. While it may seem simple enough, your horse may have quite a different perspective.

As prey animals, horses have a strong inborn desire to flee in the face of perceived danger. When a horse is tied, he can’t respond in this way. For the uninitiated or fearful horse, this can set off alarm bells and send him into a state of frantic panic, particularly if there is no breaking point or release in sight.

It is also important to recognize that horses are innately “into pressure” beings and – by their very nature – they lean into the point of pressure. This leads a horse to lean into you when you press on his flank, rump or other part of his body; or to raise his head high when asked to follow the feel of the lead rope.

Without any support, or formal trust-based training, it is unlikely a horse will automatically take to being tied. While some horses may learn fairly easily to accept being tied, others may have had experiences where they’ve broken their halters, hitching posts or worse, and have subsequently developed a phobia to tying. The good news is that no matter what his age, any horse can be taught what is expected of him if you use a kind and patient manner.

Set your horse up for success

There are number of things you can teach and practice with your horse to help prepare him for being able to tie well. By taking the time to do this work and approaching the task in an open, empathetic and supportive manner, you can create powerful and lasting results while avoiding mistakes or gaps in training that will require fixing later.

Pressure and release

One key to training your horse to tie well is teaching him to yield to pressure in situations that are stress-free, before introducing him to stressful scenarios. The first rule is to never attempt to tie without first exploring your horse’s knowledge of pressure and release.

  • Neck stretches and yields following the feel of the line
  • Light touch head drops
  • Forward and back rocking horse steps
  • Altering gait and speed while leading

As the exercises build on one another, make sure to create times for your horse to feel somewhat restricted while being given a chance to find a way out using collaborative communication.</p

Desensitization exercises

Once your horse fully understands how to get himself out of trouble by coming forward towards the pressure, it is time to introduce him to some surprises. It’s easy to teach him to tie when everything is calm, but you would be remiss if you didn’t prepare him for the unexpected, and provide him with appropriate coping skills for those stressful or startling moments.

  • Desensitize to scary objects and items
  • Desensitize to startling and unusual sounds
  • Graduate to an in-hand obstacle course of higher learning

Building confidence

Another key to successfully training your horse to tie is to address the emotional and mental factors that create a “non-tying horse” to begin with. Training is essential to building the horse’s confidence in both himself and you, and will allow you to create a trust-based partnership.

This can be done over time as your horse learns to come into himself more, leave the herd behind, explore and venture off campus, and experience a multitude of environments and situations. Once he has a good foundation of confidence, you can gradually introduce him to new locations and scenarios, and increase the stimuli that will trigger fears, such as a fear of isolation. Soon, fear will be replaced with the understanding that he is safe, even when you are asking him to be restricted or isolated for a time.

Training your horse to tie

The simplest way to begin is to loop the line over a hitching post to create some resistance, and hold it in your hand while grooming! This way, the horse does not hit a rigid line and panic, which could put both of you at risk for bodily harm. Instead, your horse will be able to feel the give while at the same time making a pleasant association with tying through mindful grooming.

This same looping method applies while teaching the horse to tie at a trailer, wash rack or other location, keeping in mind the necessity for excellent footing and surrounding safety. Naturally, the horse finds himself in a pressure/release situation and you may decide to include food as a reward to enhance the situation while expediting the lesson.

You may also want to introduce the quick release knot, popular around the world. It gives a similar sense of resistance but still gives you a chance to release the horse should he panic.

Some equestrians swear by the tradition of tying to a piece of string or bailing twine on a tie-ring to ensure breakaway. Although some believe that horses can learn their own strength by snapping these strings, and that you should never allow them to break away, I have seen it save lives. While this tradition remains prevalent, its popularity is being overridden by the blocker tie ring, which provides soft resistance and safe tying without using knots.

If all else fails and your horse is truly phobic, you may decide to ground-tie him by simply teaching him to stand still when the attached lead rope is placed on the ground close by. It’s a pretty easy “trick” to start with and moves effortlessly into all you do when you ask your horse to stand!

Work with, not against, your horse

From decades of experience worldwide, I have witnessed many approaches and seen some horrendous tying styles, ranging from snubbing posts through solitary standing stalls. Although it is customary for trainers to state that their methods work, these harmful and sometimes even cruel training styles simply aren’t necessary, and reflect a fear-based, dominance style of training.

Remember that teaching your horse to tie goes beyond simply seeking a place for him to stand and wait — it is an introduction to the concepts of patience, respect, focus and a time to process.

The bottom line is to recognize that tying is not something that comes “naturally” to a horse. Choosing a style of training that supports and works with your horse’s mind, and encourages trust, not dominance, will help him find success with being tied, and will create fewer issues down the road.

A ROTH Herd Progress Report for Thelma: 3 GOLD Stars for our Belgian Beauty!

What might a personalized plan for a session with a ROTH Certified Trainer actually look like?  Join one of our most recent additions to the ROTH fold, Lani, as she works with Thelma, a Belgian Draft mare who is staying here at Reach Out Ranch.  Thelma joined us a few months ago from a feedlot and was terrified of all things human.  Her progress has been notable!  Read on and discover why Thelma deserves three gold stars for her week with Lani Salisbury!

image1

11/6/17 ( 4:00 – 4:45 pm) Haltered, Groom, Leading practice, Head drops, Neck yields, backing.

A short session with Thelma reviewing what she had been practicing. Working toward more fluidity in walk, changing of speeds, and walking more next to us instead of slightly behind. As we practiced leading we incorporated stops, backing, and neck yields which she has improved on greatly and gets about half way on both sides. We also practiced head drops which still need focus. She would give slightly. Her backing is much improved and she is going off minimal pressure. We ended with grooming which she enjoyed. We planned for her next session to be pushed forward.

11/8/17 (3:15 – 4:20 pm) Haltered, Leading practice, Neck yields, Backing, Stopping, Turning, Change in speed, Leading next to us, Desensitizing

In this session we began with haltering. I brought the halter in with me right away which I personally haven’t done. I asked her to stand while I put the horseman’s rope over neck and moved to the haltering. I practiced being more casual with her haltering. She stood solid. We then moved into desensitizing after I brushed her mane. We desensitized with a survival blanket (silver, crinkly blanket). We started small. She was a little concerned with it at first but after we started and I let her see it and rewarded each try she became absolutely perfect with it. We expanded it getting bigger and falling all over her, making it noisy, flapping it, throwing it over her, and walking with it on her back. We spread it out as big as it could get and walked around her pen. We then practiced leading in and out of her pen, around the larger pen again practicing getting more fluid movement. Also working with her beside me. We changed speeds, stopped, backed, disengaged, neck yields. We then went back into her pen and I practiced with my hands around her front legs and hooves. Investigating what turned out to just be a rub of her hair. She was fantastic with the desensitizing and leading. We plan next session to bring more tools to desensitize, continue with picking up her feet, and bring in a few obstacles to practice leading.

11/10/17 (4:25 – 5:10)  Haltered, Leading, Desensitizing, Small Parachute on ground, Backing, Picking up front feet, Oils

In this session knowing it was getting dark soon we started with desensitizing to the small parachute. We started with it small and Thelma was only slightly concerned. She didn’t mind at all after a few rubs with it. We expanded quickly on both sides and walked with it at various parts of her body at different sizes. We also threw it all over her body, making it noisy, fast, and slow. We then played it on the ground to see how she felt with putting her feet on it. She was a little worried about it at first but very little. She started by putting one foot on then two. She was a little sticky at first on it but after a few minuets she was walking over it and stopping with all 4 feet on and backing over it. She enjoyed this! I then picked up her front feet twice. She needs more practice but did pick them up quick, needs work holding up. Once it was dark we continued by showing her some Oils. She LOVED it! She chose Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Grounding, Peace & Calming, Believe, and Magnify your purpose. She liked a lot of them very much and would interact with her mouth, wiggling her lip and grabbing at the once she liked. She really enjoyed the and felt a little more personality come out. Her all time favorite oil was Magnify your purpose.

Our next sessions plan: Set up an obstacle course and bring her over obstacles (tarps, Parachutes, Poles, corridor), more desensitizing to more objects, prepare for heath checking, picking up feet/farrier prep, head drops.

And Thelma’s work the following session reflected all the hard work Lani has put into working with her!

Thelma Obstacle Course:

Tarp, Corridor, Poles, Noodles

Thelma rocked the Obstacle Course!  She did every obstacle on the first try.  We improved on our leading and more fluid and speed.  We stopped on each obstacle and backed off the tarp.  Her back is still a tad sticky, but she is willing.  We did obstacles from each direction and she enjoyed it.

With her feet:  We worked on picking up all four feet.  I could mostly pick up her front and hold them for a second.  Her hind feet we used the arm to pick up and hold up.  She was able this time to hold her hind feet up longer without pulling away.

Head drops still need some work.

We also used the arm to desensitize her around her hind and tail area.

These things will help prepare her for her travels and new beginning!

Lani and her mom, Jill, have both been doing a phenomenal job facilitating Anna’s work with our herd of three.  We are proud to call them ROTH Certified Trainers!  They embody important pieces of the ROTH mission: meeting the horse where they are, going at a pace that is unique to each individual, clearly communicating, and above all else, loving their work!  Great work, ladies!!!