My Favorite Way To Teach A Horse To Tie

Did you ever see a horse that was tied to something set back and fight against the rope? It’s not a pretty sight and can be very dangerous. I knew a gal who tied her horse to the stair rail while she ran inside for something. When she came back, there was no stair rail any more. It was attached to the end of the lead line and “chasing” her horse around the yard, banging his legs at every stride. It was an expensive vet bill, and expensive repair bill, and a lesson learned the hard way. Not only did she learn not to tie a horse solidly to an object that might give way, but she learned that her horse didn’t really tie well.

What’s the best way to teach a horse to tie? I’ve heard and even tried lots of ways. The way that we’ve learned doing natural horsemanship seems to be the easiest on the horse and it solves a lot of other problems at the same time. It involves teaching the horse to give to even the slightest pressure on the lead line.

Begin by having the horse wear a good rope halter, not the flat web or leather kind. The rope halters offer a better feel to the horse and are not as easy to lean against and ignore pressure. Then, stand by the horse’s shoulder and gently and steadily use the rope to ask the horse to bend its head towards you. At the slightest movement of the horse’s head, release all the pressure and rub the horse. Do it again and again and again from that side and then also from the other side of the horse until the horse becomes very tuned in to bending its head on the slightest of cues and until it can bend farther and farther around. The release of pressure when the horse gives even a little is very important.

Stand out in front of the horse and put some pressure on the rope asking the horse to come forward towards you. If there is resistance, just hold steady, not pulling, just steady, until the horse gives to the pressure. At that point, be sure to release the pressure quickly.

Once your horse really understands how to give to pressure, you will find that if it steps on the lead line while grazing, there is no jerking upward when it feels its head held down. Instead, the horse will drop its head back down and step off the rope. In fact, this is a good test to see if your horse really gives to pressure and is ready to tie.

What does this have to do with tying a horse? Well, the horse has to know how to give to pressure to be able to stand tied, and once you have a horse that will respond instead of pulling against the pressure, you have a horse that will tie and not pull back. The process of really getting it to give to pressure may take a few sessions, longer perhaps if the horse has already learned to set back, but it will make for a much safer and responsive animal and is well worth the time it takes to teach. Additional benefits include a horse that leads without having to be tugged along, and a horse that already knows about giving to pressure when it comes time to begin asking for collection under saddle.

Bonnie and her husband own Gemara Farm Fox Trotters in Barnesville, GA. They use natural horsemanship methods gleaned from many sources to train their horses. Bonnie coaches others in what she has learned and there are usually fox trotters available for sale with a natural horsemanship background. For other tips and pictures about natural horsemanship, visit http://www.gemara.homestead.com

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