A common sight around any horse property, ranch or show barn is that of horses standing tied while the rider grooms, saddles, bridles and generally preps the horse for a ride or work. The horses are usually quiet, bored and almost sleepy. Head hung low, hind foot cocked and a quiet tail are all indicators that the horse has accepted this pre-ride ritual.
Another common sight that I have witnessed all too often is that of the nervous, fidgeting horse. The one with head high, eyes wide and feet that won’t stop moving. Even worse is the horse that is rearing, whinnying loudly and dangerously disregarding the human trying to prep them for a session. The latter can often lead to a horse flipping over, especially in cross ties.
How is it some horses are tied quietly, yet others don’t seem able to handle this simplest of procedure? Are some horses naturally more calm? Yes. Are some hoA rses more prone to hyperactivity? Yes. You can however have an impact on your horse’s behavior. The bottom line is that we have a responsibility to keep them safe.
Recognizing your horse’s discomfort with being tied is the first order of business. Head high, being verbal and feet that won’t stop are the big indicators. When I see this behavior from a horse in cross ties, I get them out of the cross ties and deal with the issue. Leaving them there unsupported will only worsen the anxiety. Knowing that a horse is a flight prey animal, allowing them the opportunity to move their feet will help mitigate at least some of the anxiety. I let them move their feet. I control the direction and make suggestions about the speed, but I do not insist that they stop. Insisting they stay tied, slapping them on the shoulder and yelling at them to “stand still” does not work, yet this is a common go to method.
One thing I do have to mention is that this issue is best dealt with early on. At the show is not the time to address problems, get them taken care of at home in your daily training routine. I typically won’t tie a horse hard and fast until they learn to ground tie and cross ties come in later after they are comfortable with the whole process. Don’t be afraid to take a step back in the training if your horse exhibits any anxiety. If you allow it to continue, it builds and festers and will eventually erupt.
With a bit of effort, specificity and patience, you can make a difference for your horse and get a change. You can be the horse person with the quiet, easy going horse.
If you would like more information or training help for you and your horse, contact me.
Thanks for reading.