Tying: A Battle Worth Fighting

How many of us have horses that will not tie? Unfortunately, they are all too common, and yet we cater to them by letting their habit of pulling back continue. The best way to fix a puller is to nip the habit in the bud. But, even if your horse has been a dedicated puller for years, there is hope!

Recently I have been working with a horse, nine years old, who had a slight issue tying. I say had because her issue has been resolved now, and she ties quietly. When I first noticed that she was anxious in the tie stall I started looking for ways to reassure her. I did not wait until she actually pulled back (which she did very soon after exhibiting anxiety). When I took her into the arena to do some groundwork, I found that she did not lead. She followed.

There is a very important difference here. A horse that leads follows pressure on the halter (i.e., will go forward when forward pressure is placed on his head, such as in a tying situation). A horse that follows simply goes wherever its handler goes. This is undesirable on many counts; firstly, the horse will refuse to stand still on command. Secondly, the horse will not tie. If a horse that follows is presented with pressure on the lead rope, he does not know what to do with it. He throws his head up and does not understand.

The key to fixing most tying problems is going back to the basics and teaching the horse how to lead again. Once the horse will lead past the walking handler at a jog and will go where he is sent with hardly any pressure at all, without the handler moving his feet, then the horse may be returned to the tie stall.

Some horses, I will admit, will not be so easy to train (and this method is not necessarily easy. It will take a few months). Their habits have either been ingrained for a very long time, or else they have been so scared in some way by being tied that they will ever after refuse. But do not give up hope! If you have a situation like this, contact us with your situation and we will do our best to help you and your companion along.

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