Working With Your Horse To Tie Safely-There's More To It Than Meets The Eye.

Horses frequently cause serious damage to themselves, by pulling back when tied. This includes permanent neck injuries. Pulling back also injures people and damages equipment such as halters. This is because of a phenomenon scientifically known as "Positive Thigmotaxis," often called, "The opposition reflex." This causes an animal to push back against pressure. So, when the horse pulls back and there is no yielding, a panic reaction results, causing even more violent pulling back.

Teaching a horse to tie
Horses often need to tie for safety

When training horses to stand tied, there are several ways to prevent this. For example, many horseman like to tie to an inner tube, which will stretch. There are also elastic tie ropes on the market. More recently, a device called the, "Blocker Tie Ring," works very effectively if used as directed. Other versions of this tie ring are also now available. In any case, it is important to always tie horses short and high, so they can't get a leg over the tie rope. This will also minimize the chances for neck injury if they do pull back.

These concepts are explained in Dr. Miller's video, "Understanding Horses," ( by Video Velocity).

You may be surprised by the number of daily interactions you are faced with requiring that your horse be safely and securely tied. Whether it’s for an everyday task such as grooming or tacking up, an infrequent routine procedure such as a hoof trim, teeth check or vaccination, or even a more complex and unusual veterinary treatment such as emergency care, being able to tie up your horse efficiently and effectively is an invaluable horse owner’s skill.

So what happens if you’ve got the skill perfected but your horse is having none of it? Well don’t worry - there is no need for concern, because with the right handling and training, you can work with your horse to teach him to stand still and tie up calmly.

Remember that standing still and tied is unnatural to a horse. As a flight animal, being restrained is against his nature and for this reason it is vitally important to teach your horse to stand still and tie correctly from a young age. Of course, there are many situations in which you may find yourself caring for a horse that has already completed many years of training but not been correctly taught to stand. Fortunately, you can go back to basics to build his patience and teach him to accept and understand this important activity.

Teaching a horse to tie

Regardless of the task, teaching a horse to gain confidence requires time and patience. There won’t be any overnight results but with slow, gentle actions you can soon make a difference.

  • Your relationship is the key to building your horse’s trust. Reassuring him he is safe and that he will come to no harm will encourage confidence.
  • Start small, using a static post, so if the horse panics he will not hurt himself or anyone around him.
  • On the first occasion tie your horse for a short period and stand with him – reward him with a treat (LINK TO TREAT FEEDING ARTICLE WHEN POSTED) when he stands quietly and still.
  • Accustom your horse to being tied up while he is carrying out activities that he will enjoy, such as eating his hay or feed. Provided he remains well behaved, he can enjoy his reward and this will reinforce the positive experience of being tied up.
  • Grooming your horse releases endorphins and reinforces your relationship with him, so doing this while he is tied will help him to feel secure and calm in the situation.
  • Extend the duration he is tied on each occasion and remain by his side until he is happy and relaxed.
  • When faced with changing situations, such as seeing the farrier or vet, use the same calm voice and reassure your horse that he is safe and secure.

Tips for safe tying

Even the safest of horses can panic at some time - a horse that is normally accustomed to standing tied up can be startled by a strange sight or noise and become frightened and attempt to break free. Following our tips on safety when tying up your horse can prevent accidents around the barn:

  • Never tie your horse to a moveable object – if your horse panics and tries to flee he could damage himself and the people and property around.
  • Similarly, never tie your horse to a trailer door or fence that can be uprooted or broken off.
  • If your horse panics and pulls back, do not try and stop him: pulling on the rope against the force could cause you a serious injury. Wait until he calms down and approach him to re-tie him.
  • Tie your horse’s rope to some twine, instead of directly to a tie ring: a tie ring cannot break in an emergency whereas twine can and it is easily replaced.
  • Never tie up in a breakaway halter or restraining halter – these are designed to tighten with pressure and can result in an injury and cause the horse to develop a negative opinion of being tied.
  • Always remain calm around your horse – use a controlled, quiet voice and keep body language non-threatening.
  • Be careful not to reward any negative behavior – even by shouting at a horse fleeing from a tie you are giving him attention which can be interpreted by the horse as reinforcement of his behavior.

Ensuring your horse can be tied up and stand still accordingly is an important part of ownership. Practicing and reassuring your horse will help him develop the trust needed to be tied up in many situations – whether at home or an event.

For more tips on safety check out this fantastic video on safety around horses from Dr. Robert Miller and visit us again soon.