Tying a horse safely is a basic horsemanship skill, but there’s more to it than fastening your rope around the handiest object.
Here are some important tips on what to do, and what to avoid.
Do’s for Tying Horses
- Use a long enough rope (10 to 12 feet is standard) in good condition. A good quality halter that is the right size for the horse is essential.
- Choose an appropriate place to tie with solid footing that is comfortable for the horse – in view of other horses, in the shade if it’s hot, and where you can keep an eye on them.
- Ensure you have a breakaway on your halter and use a device that allows a slow-release such as an Idolo Tether Tie, a Safe Clip, or the Blocker Tie RingAU and Blocker Tie RingUSA
- It is always preferable to tie your rope to a release device, and not directly to a pole or post. If you don’t have a device on you when tying your horse, something like baling twine is a good temporary release solution, so that if your horse becomes frightened and pulls back, they will break the twine and not injure themselves or break the post they are tied to.
- Ensure your rope is correctly tied in an easy to release knot, in case you need to quickly release your horse from being tied.
- Tie high – A good gauge to remember is “Eye high and arm’s length.”
- Tie away from hazardous objects and away from other horses so they can’t come into contact.
- If your horse is being tied but not unsaddled, for example on a break during a ride, or between rides, be sure to loosen the girth straps, run up the stirrups, and ensure the reins are secured and won’t become entangled.
- If they are being tied for any length of time give them something to eat at nose height to keep them occupied and happy. It helps to reward short periods of good tying behavior with a release (especially when they are learning to tie) or with a hay bag to give them comfort.
It’s better to use a hay bag as they may catch their halter or clip on a hay net and cause a pullback situation.
- Also consider if they will need to drink before or during being tied, especially on a hot day. If they are being tied for a longer period, provide a secured bucket of water so it won’t tip over.
Dont’s for Tying Horses
- Don’t tie to anything your horse can move (such as a gate, jump pole, or small vehicle) or dislodge if they were to become frightened and pull back. Choose a well-set fence post over a fence rail which could pull loose or break.
- Don’t tie so short your horse feels claustrophobic, or so long that the rope hangs down where they could entangle a leg.
- Don’t ever use the bridle reins to tie your horse (or even loop them over something), or a lead that’s snapped to the bridle’s bit. If your horse were to pull back, they could do serious damage to their mouth.
- Don’t tie your horse to a ‘patience post’ without gradual training over a long period. You can cause your horse distress or go into a state of ‘learned helplessness’ if you expect them to be tied ‘until they give in’.
- Don’t tie to a post or tree where your horse could wind themselves up short.
If you’d like to learn how to teach your horse to tie calmly and safely I can recommend the Confident Horsemanship website. Ann Gage has a couple of good articles and also offers a mini-course. Her approach is sensible and calm – she says:
“Teaching your horse to stand calmly, give to pressure and think rather than react instinctively takes time, patience, and persistence. But the results are a trusting, confident, and calm partnership that keeps you both safe.”