Friday, November 07, 2008

Reader Question - Teaching A Horse To Tie

Recently I had a reader question about tying a horse, and I think it's a great question so here it is complete with my answer.

Hello, Deanna:
My daughter and I are in the position of selling our horse we've spent a lot of love on. But, I am finding that we have allowed an important part of her training to go unattended. Our mare doesn't tie. She was abused nearly to death (as a filly) by attempting teaching her to tie with a stud chain under her chin and one over her poll at the same time. In large part because of her history we have not forced her to tie. We have been at boarding facilities that discourage tying and offer cross ties instead which just allowed us to overlook this issue. We have just never required that she tie solid, she cross ties quite comfortably, but sets back in a panic when tied. She is very well trained with precise showmanship skills and is VERY easy to handle and show and quite respectful with soft responsiveness in every other area of her training.
I really hate the thought of allowing her to hurt herself through thrashing and pulling back with that much force. But I am feeling the pressure to tackle this now. We have lost at least 1 sale because the prospective buyer wouldn't have a horse that couldn't tie. If you have any tips that might help us overcome her very real fear of being tied we are open to suggestions.
Thank you for your help.

Hello Jeanette,

Thanks for the question!  What a shame your mare was abused so badly when she was learning to tie.  I would never ever tie a horse with a stud chain, how awful for her.  I completely understand your concern for her injuring herself that is really dangerous behavior for herself, which you already are aware of.

Even if a horse never experienced anything negative they still can have a problem when tying.  The reason for this, is even though our horses are domesticated the wild instinct is still there.  If a horse was trapped (which is basically what they are when tied) they would become easy prey for a predator.  So when a normally docile well trained horse feels that their life is in danger they can absolutely lose their mind and fear for their life.  Your mare is also experiencing fear but for other reasons.

For me a horse that won't tie will not make or break the sale because I know the horse can learn to accept it.  But not everyone feels the same way, so here's what you should try:

  • Work in an enclosed arena.
  • Invest in a blocker tie ring.  The tie ring is $24.99 but well worth it.
  • Use a smooth and long lead rope and tie the mare to the ring.  The reason it should be smooth, is so that the horse can pull through the ring and not feel trapped.  A long lead rope will help with that too.  The horse will pull the lead out long, but not completely become untied.
  • Practice sacking your horse out while tied.  The horse will soon see that she can move her feet and that there is nothing to fear.  
This will need to be done over and over again until she has confidence that nothing bad is going to happen to her.  Your mare will begin to relax and realize there is nothing to fear and she is not going to have pain inflicted on her while trapped.

In my barn I use the blocker ties but in the spots where I don't have them I use bailing twine.  I tie bailing twine to my eye hooks that are attached to the post and then I tie the horse's lead rope to the bailing twine.  This way, if the horse freaks out he or she can break free without getting injured.  There is a never ending supply of bailing twine so I just tie a new piece when an old one gets broken.  I just continue to replace the twine as needed.  If the horse just keeps breaking the twine right away and does not stop the pulling back, it's time to take the horse to the tie ring.  But that doesn't usually happen.  It may break the twine every now and again, but the times become very far and few between.

I hope this helps, and you are able to find a buyer for your mare.  Let me know how it works out!



Jeanette said...

Thank You, Deanna! I just got a Blocker Tie Ring! I happened across the website and watched the instructional videos...It looks like just what we need. I can't wait to get started! If we find a buyer, they may get the Blocker Tie ring as my special gift to them, with instructions to USE IT (ALWAYS)!!!
At the time I was so discouraged when I thought that we lost a sale, their excuse "we have to be able to tie her". In hind sight, this really isn't the best home for our horse. Great care was taken with her training to make sure she has a solid foundation. It was our intention to pass her on to my grand-daughter who is now nearing two. It's amazing the great pains you take when you plan on your precious loved one learning to ride with the horse.
The prospective owners admitted that she was the most well trained and responsive horse they were looking at, but this one little issue was their excuse. She really deserves to have compassion and respect, I think she deserves better. And we are still looking for the right match.
Thank you for your help and encouragement!

Deanna said...

What a great idea to give the tie ring as a gift!

I think things happen for a reason sometimes, and hopefully she will soon find her match :)


PalyReiner said...

As a trainer and a riding instructor, I recommened to Blocker Tie Ring to all of my clients. I am so glad that other people are recommending them for horses with tying issues too! The blocker tie ring is easy enough for a child to use, and in my opinion, it is the best way to teach horses how to tie without scaring them. In my experience, horses that have learned to stand tied with the blocker tie ring usually do not have a problem transitioning to being tied solid.
I recommend that my clients buy the blocker tie ring too, what a great idea to give it as a gift to the buyer!