Teaching Your Horse to Tie, Method 1
Pain or anger on the part of the pupil can destroy any tie-training lesson quicker than rain can spoil a picnic. Therefore, before you head out and run a stout rope from the ring on your horse's halter to the nearest tree, consider the amount of force he can exert once he has begun to fight the line. By simply hitching a horse's head to an immovable object and allowing him to struggle until injury, fatigue or frustration sap his resistance, you'll never convince him to give up the urge to fight. What's more, in his attempt to flee, he'll put a great deal of pressure on the sensitive poll area, which if harmed, may result in permanent crippling.
If you prefer to tie-train your horse using the conventional, by-the-head method, devise a strategy to spread the pressure along a greater area of his neck. A strong and wide neck collar, with a ring attached for a lead shank, will do the job, but an old burlap sack can also be rigged to serve the same purpose. Fold the bag in thirds lengthwise, and make a hole about an inch down from each end. Thread your rope through one hole, lay the sack over the upper portion of your horse's neck so that the free ends are under the throatlatch and pass the rope through the other hole. Adjust the rope so that the burlap fits snugly around the horse's neck and secure with a bowline knot.
Now run the rope under the horse's head and through the bottom of the halter's noseband. With such a setup, any force the horse exerts will be distributed over the entire width of the halter's crownpiece.
You may also want to consider attaching an old inner tube to the snubbing post and tying your horse directly to the piece of rubber. The elasticity offered by this tether will provide proportional reward and punishment; if the horse doesn't pull at all, he feels nothing; if he pulls a little bit, he feels a little tension and if he fights with all his might, he experiences greater pressure. This method works especially well for those horses inclined to lean back and sulk at the end of the rope--the tire is always inviting them to move forward to the point of no tension.
Before actually tying your horse, lead him around so that he becomes accustomed and yields to the pressure on his neck. Once he is relaxed and seemingly unconcerned about the experience, tie him with a quick-release or bowline knot at chin height, leaving about four feet between his nose and the post. Now stand safely out of the way with your pocketknife ready, just in case.
Teaching Your Horse to Tie, Method 2
If your horse is a challenge to train, this method of teaching him to tie is effective when used properly.
The neck-collar method may work well for more sedate animals, but for difficult or unpredictable students, the brisket hitch may be just what the trainer ordered. Although it may appear dangerous, when used properly this method of tie training is actually safer and more effective than the by-the-halter approach.
As its name implies, the brisket hitch is an apparatus that acts by transferring pressure from the horse's poll to his chest whenever he pulls back on the tie rope. By providing negative reinforcement--the animal's self-inflected discomfort is relieved when he submits--the brisket hitch teaches the horse to stand and face a perceived threat rather than succumb to his instinct to flee. Since it accomplishes its mission without completely restraining the horse's head, the chances that he will panic, fight to break loose and injure himself are reduced.
To begin, snap a lead line to the horse's halter so you can grab hold if the need arises. Next, take an eight-foot nylon rope and loop it around the horse's barrel, tying the ends with a bowline knot so that the rope fits closely but comfortably. Make sure there is no way the knot can slip. If you prefer, you can connect the rope ends with a large panic snap, using a secure nonslip knot. This allows you to quickly remove the hitch and easily reattach it for future sessions.
For horses who tend to pull straight back, place the loop around the girth area; those who are more likely to rear and twist away benefit from having the loop positioned around the flank area. Now run a 20-foot-long nylon rope through the halter's chin ring, down between the horse's front legs and then knot or snap it to the body loop. Once the hitch is in place, tie the free end of the long rope to the snubbing post, leaving about four feet of slack.
Next Page: Pt. 4 - Teaching Your Horse to Tie - Measuring Progress
Excerpted from an article that first appeared in the December 1991 issue of EQUUS magazine.