Teaching a Horse to Tie
What is one of the most important fundamentals in your horses’ training?
Undoubtedly, it should be teaching your horse to tie. A horse learning to tie is as essential as a child learning to read and write. A horse that learns to be tied up develops patience, aids in barn sourness, and helps to control their emotions. It is vital for the care and maintenance of your horse, traveling, and the everyday brushing and saddling. Ideally, teaching a young horse to tie from the start of halter breaking is easiest, but an older horse may also benefit from starting at the basics of learning to tie. Learning to tie successfully will play a huge roll in a horse’s life and impact how they handle a wide variety of situations.
Laying the Foundation
Wondering how to begin teaching your horse to tie?
Start with some basics, whether it’s from the beginning with halter breaking or working with an older horse to correct bad habits with tying. You’ll want to practice with halter pressure and having your horse respond without panic. With halter breaking, you work on leading by applying pressure at an angle to the right or left from the horse’s head (not facing straight on and pulling) and releasing when you get a step or even a gesture in your direction, then build on that. Working through your groundwork steps also practices applying pressure and teaching your horse how to respond correctly.
Another good exercise to prepare your horse to tie is the head down cue. This is done by taking hold of the lead under the horse’s chin while putting your other hand up on the poll and applying steady pressure on the horse evenly with both hands until the horse gives to that pressure to which you release. At first, you are only asking for the slightest response to the pressure you apply before you immediately release. Then you will build on that until your horse starts dropping their head lower and lower in response to prolonged pressure from you. (Key note: This is not a tug of war, rather a pressure and patience approach.) This helps your horse understand that pressure is not something to be afraid of and that they are capable of responding calmly and not in fear. Starting out with the basics of halter breaking, whether you are working with your colt or an older horse, will ultimately set you and your horse up for successful tying.
Proceeding with Safety
Now that you have laid the foundation for successful tying, how should you proceed safely?
Tying with a quick release knot is highly encouraged when tying horses for general use. You will always want to make sure you are tying to something solid with safe surroundings for your horse. A handy little rule we follow when tying our horses is — eye level and elbow length. Meaning where you tie your knot should roughly be at your eye level to keep your horse from stepping on their lead rope. And, from where your lead clips under the horses chin to your knot should be roughly the length of your forearm. This keeps your horse tied at a safe length to avoid unnecessary pacing or pawing at the lead rope with the concern of getting a leg hung up.
When to Tie Your Horse
When are appropriate times to tie your horse?
Whether it’s for the practice and training or part of your routine, there are some times that we find beneficial for tying. Consistency is key when working through a problem. Start with a few minutes a day and build up that time each time they are tied. Also, keep in mind when working on a problem case, the environment in which you work on tying them. If they are already stressed and panicked about being tied, don’t work on tying in a stressful situation. Set your horse up for success by tying in a controlled area to build their confidence before adding in distractions.
Tying a horse up after a workout and letting them sit for a while is a key component in our training program. They are going to be more willing to contently stand tied after a workout as compared to fresh out of the stall. This teaches them patience and can prevent barn sourness, as you are not allowing a complete release right away after returning to the barn from a workout. Having a horse that safely ties is also important for every day brushing and saddling, vet and farrier care, and traveling with your horse.
Putting it all Together
Teaching your horse to tie is a vital piece to the foundation of their training. Having the ability to tie your horse confidently wherever life takes you is not only handy but also something that adds a level of safety to their handling. Remember the goal is to build their confidence to being tied in any situation through pressure and release. You want to avoid tying your horse with the mindset of, “Well I hope this goes well.” Set yourself up for success by putting a plan together and executing.