Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Learning to tie down

If you've been following this blog for awhile you will know that Charlie has a bit of a problem when he feels he's being tied down:
We went through at least 3 holes in this crownpiece
Brand new halter? Not anymore
He really didn't like this one I guess
Last week he destroyed another one and Jan was there to see it. Charlie had actually stood calmly tied to the post at the end of the ring with another horse while I worked the training horses; Jan even remarked at how good he was being, a model horse. But when Charlie put down his last foot after I picked it out he stepped backward a bit, felt the pressure on his face and threw up his head. Snap went the old halter, in pieces, unsalvageable.

To try and solve this problem I've tried using a blocker tie ring (see an example here, really cool and worked well but I just don't have one of my own), bungee crossties, looping the leadrope loosely around the rail or tie ring, just tight enough to let Charlie know he was tied but able to loosen up under tension. Every time I'd think he was getting better we'd lose another halter. Grrr. Luckily Jan had some ideas and offered to try a new approach.

The way it works is by using a long line that is attached from the horse's halter, looped around the tie post, and then to you. You position the horse about 20 feet back from the tying post while you stand at about a 45 degree angle on the other end of the line and then you gently apply pressure on the line while clucking to encourage the horse to take a step toward the post.

Once he takes one step, you release the pressure and praise him.

Keep repeating this, stepwise, until he reaches the post. It can take awhile but lots and lots of praise is key! If he reacts and throws his head back, let him back up but don't release pressure on the line entirely. Wait a minute, then try to ask him to go forward again.

Feeling the pressure
I think I'll back out of it
Ok, maybe I can take a step
ANOTHER step?!
No no no!
Ok, maybe this isn't so bad
Huh. I didn't die.
Good boy!
Massage time :)
It worked really well with Charlie. It will take several more sessions but after one stepwise journey up to the hitching post, he willingly walked the all the way up on his own then next time and stood there with his head down and soft eyes, thinking. He got a 10 minute face massage as a reward, the good boy.


  1. What a good boy Charlie! I had a thoroughbred filly that had a terrible time learning to tie. Patience makes perfect!

  2. Fiction is the same way - he flips out when he feels pressure. I usually keep his halter unclipped while he is in the crossties so he just pulls out of it if he freaks out. He can't go anywhere anyways. I'm glad you shared this exercise though - I will be sure to try it!

  3. This is why learning to tie is a very important lesson in young horses - before they get so strong that they can break everything! Mex learned to tie when she was about a year old. Just tied her in a stall with a nylon halter and let her figure it out. She pulled back a few times but since she didn't achieve anything, she quickly learned that there was no point in struggling.

    She has broken a halter once when she spooked hard in cross ties, but 9.9/10 times she will move forward to pressure.

    Glad Charlie is "getting it"! There are few things more frustrating than a horse that doesn't tie.

  4. My horse went through a phase this summer and snapped a few of her halters too. It's quite a pain! Sounds like Charlie is figuring the whole thing out now! Best of luck with your next few sessions!

  5. A great approach to a common, but frustrating problem. Love it!