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.

Bill Dorrance and Horsemanship Through Feel

Another great book is being added to the Manes and Tales Booklist! It is True Horsemanship Through Feel, by Bill Dorrance.


 Feel is the only thing our horses have to go on. If we have bad feel, he can still try, but he won’t understand. If we have good feel, our horse can understand and he will want to be with us.


Feel is very hard to explain, but Bill does a fairly good job of it. After he goes through some very important information about how feel works, he gives seven exercises to work on with your horse. Working through even the first two of these exercises with Jamileh, a nine year old Arabian mare I am working with right now, has made a huge difference in her otherwise crabby attitude, and she is willing to do what I ask of her.

Bill’s feel is much like Centered Riding on the ground. Feel employs many of the same principles, and is a great resource to work hand in hand with that method of riding.

Look forward to the first exercise in the next post!

The Horsegentler

Help for the Halter Puller

Unfortunately horses that sit back against their halter and rope when tied are all too common. There is hope – you will not have to have someone hold your horse for you forever!

The first step is to find out why your horse pulls, and how severe the problem is.

Why: Some horses pull because they are scared of being confined. This is the result of improper training or handling. It can be fixed, in time, if the severity of the fear is not too bad. Others will pull simply because they have learned that if they pull they can get free. Whatever the reason, you must understand why the horse pulls before you can begin to treat the issue.

Severity: I will give you a scale so you can see what I mean. Your horse is a one if he occasionally jumps backwards, then jumps forwards again, looking rather surprised that he couldn’t leave. Your horse is a ten if whenever you place any pressure backwards or forwards on his halter, he resists so strongly that he actually flips over backwards.

I am very sorry to say that there is just about nothing I can do for the horse that is a 10. If he can be taught to stand still, it is possible that when you are least expecting it, he will pull back and fall on top of you. He is very dangerous in all respects! So I hope that none of you reading this ever own a horse that is a 10.

The fix: The first step in retraining is what I always say it is. Start at the beginning. Your horse must respond immediately to any pressure you or anything else exerts on his halter. Do this simple exercise to see where you are with this.

Standing facing your horse’s neck on his left side, extend your left arm, and place a small amount of pressure on his halter. Does he stretch his neck out, or does he step forward softly at your command? Release pressure and then pull harder suddenly. This will be very telling. If he sets his feet, you need to teach him to lead properly to any small amount of pressure. Then, when you do this test again, you will find that with the same sudden hard pull, he will jump forward. This is exactly what you want. Now when the horse goes to set back against his halter, he will feel the pressure and jump forward instead.

Now, tying to a solid post without any give is still going to be dangerous for the horse, even with his new found knowledge. Get a tractor or car tire inner tube, cut off the metal valve, and squeeze it through your tie ring. Loop it through itself once, and tie the horse onto this loop, safely, with no excess loop of rope. If you have a command to tell your horse that he is expected to stand still, tell him so. Leave him be now, not alone, but be a fair distance away. If he pulls back now, he should step forward, but if he does set back, the inner tube will have some give and he will not injure himself.

Good luck with this! If you are still having troubles, Contact Us and we’ll do our best to help you in your own particular situation.

The Horsegentler

Teaching your Horse to Stand Still, Part 3

This is the last standing still lesson!

I suggest, to wrap this up, that you do not leave your horse with a bridle on and walk away until you are absolutely positive he will not walk away and step through his reins. Again, use your own judgement for this! Just be aware that this could hurt him badly and may wreck your bridle. Even the horse that is the most reliably trained will spook or jump occasionally – they are herd animals, and prey animals, too, and this is simply built into their nature. There is nothing you can do about it!

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Teaching your Horse to Stand Still, Part 2

Great! You’ve got your horse off to a good start. By now you should be able to walk away from him at least two meters without him moving his feet at all. If he isn’t quite at this point yet, keep working on him patiently – he’ll get it eventually.

The next step here is to increase his comfort zone. Most horses prefer to be with other horses, and if there are no other horses around, they will stick close to their handler. For especially timid or spooky horses like Vienna, this could be hard. Leave your horse about half way down the arena or pen you are working in. Say your command (whoa or stand) and deliberately walk away, still keeping one eye on him so that you can correct him if necessary. Walk just outside two meters, which is his previous comfort zone. Then return, walking slowly and smiling if he does not move. If he does, correct him, and walk away again. As soon as he lets you walk farther away, return, praise him, and then stretch that zone again and see if you can get all the way to the other side of the pen.

This will take a while. Be ready to calmly correct your horse billions of times! If you are not very patient, perhaps you should consider hiring us to train for you. Please send us an email if you are having troubles.

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