Standing patiently when tied up is a fundamental part of any horse’s training. Here Jason Webb explains how to do it safelyPatience is an important thing to teach a horse. It is obviously very helpful if you are planning to take them out and about a lot but it is also important for day to day activities such as grooming, standing for the farrier etc. I tie my horses for long periods of time during their foundation training. I use a suitable tying device, halter and rope, and make sure their environment is safe. Then I leave them.
Initially they scream, shout and paw the ground, pace about and try to escape but I just ignore all that and carry on my day at the yard. The more activity the better. I lead horse’s past, I ride, I bring horses in and out of the fields etc. I only let the horse down when it is standing quietly. I repeat the process every day until when I tie them up they know there is no point in creating a fuss as it won’t change anything.
Too many times I see owners rush to attend to a tied horse that is showing signs of impatience, even if it is to chastise them. The attention becomes a game and encourages more fussing. In reality patience should be one of the easiest things to teach your horse. So long as you can block out the noise and explain to any other people at your yard what you are trying to achieve, your horse will be standing quietly before you know it. When your horse can stand patiently at home try it in a strange but safe environment and then at a show.
You will be the envy of the show ground if your horse stands quietly at the trailer while others are trying to escape, pawing, calling and causing a merry hell!
When starting to teach your horse to tie up I use a resistance tie. This works by allowing the horse to pull back but creates enough resistance that they feel pressure on their head collar. This is the safest and easiest way to teach your horse to tie up. It makes the act of pulling back for a horse uncomfortable but when they stop and take a step forward there is an instant release. A horse quickly learns the best place to be. Tying using a resistance device is preferable to any other method. Tying to a solid object can injure your horse as he struggles to get away, and tying to breakable string will only teach a horse pulling hard enough will result in release.
Apart from the resistance tie you will also need a karabiner (or double ended clip) and a 20 foot rope. The rope needs to be this long to allow the horse to try the option of pulling back for as far as it wants. If you follow this process then the rope will not need to be any longer. Once your horse learns, you can return to a normal length rope. Make sure the surface is soft and not slippery.
It is very important to teach your horse to lead before you tie them up. Once they know how to step forward from pressure on their head collar, tie them up and stand at a safe distance (two to five metres should be enough) holding the end of the rope and do something that may cause flight such as waving your arm or flapping something. If your horse starts to pull back, keep doing what you are doing until the moment they come off the pressure and take a step forward. Then walk away, pulling the rope back in to shorten it, and repeat. If they stop and don’t step off the pressure but continue to ‘lean’ back, just walk around behind them until they take a step forward. While you are doing this you can shorten the rope.
You can continue this work by introducing different objects to test their ability to yield to the pressure of the head collar and tie up safely in all scenarios. Getting them used to contact by different people and different objects is also important. I like to start with a bag on a stick. You can wrap the bag tightly to start with and as the horse gets more used to it, unwrap it so it flaps more. Allow them to sniff the object first then retreat. Next allow them to sniff and then rub the object up over their eye and down their neck. Use different objects and allow time between each for them to settle and reflect, this could be five minutes or two hours.
Make sure you work down both sides until you can’t make your horse pull any rope out. Next tie them somewhere else and repeat the lesson. Before your horse will be reliable tied up they need to follow this process and stand patiently in three different places.
The tying device used by Jason is available for £10.95 from www.australianhorsetraining.co.uk/shop