Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Ground Tying Your Horse

I was talking to a client on the phone about tips using the Functional Tie Ring when he asked me about also teaching a horse to ground tie. Ground tying is simply looping the reins over the saddle horn or neck of the horse, or dropping the lead line on the ground (or both if you using a mecate) and walking away with the horse standing still and not following you or wandering off. Some will loop the mecate over the saddle horn as well when ground tying. This works and would likely be the preferred method if you were using horse hair reins or if the ground was muddy.

Ground tying obviously has many concerns - your horse running off and getting the reins caught on something and jerking the bit through his mouth, often cutting his tounge; the reins slipping so the horse gets a front foot through them with the same results - okay you get the idea. So there are some things my horses need to do well before I start ground tying.

Your horse has absolutely has to be broke to lead and this is where the beginning of ground tying are anyway. Your horse should lead up where you want him at a slow or fast walk; stop when you stop; back off a feel on the lead and move to you on the feel of a lead rope when you ask. What I mean by feel of the lead rope is a change in what the horse feels. If my horse is standing 10 feet away from me on a loose rein, I want to be able to slightly pickup the lead rope, changing the weight slightly on what he feels through the halter. I'll click or whistle as a verbal signal as well, and coil the lead rope up, keeping it slack, as he approaches me. In the beginning the lead line may be taunt, not pulling - just taunt, the horse will eventually step forward releasing the pressure on his poll and this is beginning of himself learning to get the release of pressure on his poll. In some cases, if the horse does not step forward to get a release from the taunt lead line, it helps to have someone stand behind the horse (out of kicking distance) and when you ask him to come forward your helper will put a little pressure on the horse - often it is enough just to step towards the horse. See Figure 1 through 4 below. You can see the difference in the still slack lead rope as the horse moves forward.

I need him to back off a feel as well, and I do that by shaking the lead rope in a back and forth, side to side motion, feeding the rope out as he backs. I use the verbal cue, "back", as well. This is something they learn quick. I'll start up close to the horse and shake the lead rope and when the horse changes his balance as if he preparing to back, I'll stop and give him a few seconds before asking again and building on that asking for one step, then two. The verbal cue comes in real handy when you want to back a horse off the feed bin when you are throwing feed or really anything where you hands are occupied. See Figure 5 through 8 below.

The client from the beginning of this conversation asked what does standing still have to do with moving forward or moving back? Its the feel of the lead rope when asking him to move forward or move back, and the inbetween or the absence of that feel associated with not moving or standing  ground tied. Kind of like not being able to teach a horse to stop, until you have him moving forward.

If my horse leads well then I need him to stand tied well before moving on to ground tying. This is where I use the Functional Tie Ring and stimulating the horse to pull back and getting a release from the pressure of the halter on his poll when his feet are moving in temporary suspension. Once my horses are good with that, I leave them alone tied, using the tie ring, for increasing longer period of time. One minute the first time is not too short. If I'm moving off out of sight, I often put a daisy chain or a simple slip knot in the lead rope so the lead won't pull through.

I think a person will know when the horse is ready for ground tying. It's basics in ground work, so the horse's will be learning it in the round pen or the arena at first. Same deal as being tied,......let him stand ground tied for a short period in the beginning and increasing that time. One time I had a client working on my obstacle course and he called to me for help getting his horse to cross a bridge. I dropped the lead line and left a horse in the round pen and went to help. Thirty minutes later I returned to the round pen and the horse was standing in the same spot. And why not? Nobody was asking anything of him, so he just took a break. So what do you do when the horse starts to walk off when ground tied? I use a voice command to disrupt his thought and focus on me. I won't wait too long before I approach him, rub on him and ask him to stand still again and walk off.

Being broke to ground tie also comes in handy when I have to dismount for a short period of time and be out of range of the lead rope of my mecate even if it's just in the arena so I can change up some poles, cones or barrels. And even though my horses do well ground tying, it just doesn't make sense to me to ground tie them in an uncontained area, at least not walking away from them where is no fence or barrier to contain them if they do run off. That's what using hobbles are good for. This is a story I'm not proud of - I was up in the mountains riding to a historic site, two buildings and cemetery, to check out sign of vandalism. I let a guest ride my good Sorrel horse Junior. When we got to the first old structure, we dismounted and tied the reins to the saddle horns and let the horse graze while I walked around cutting sign for trespassers. We spooked a small groups of Mule Deer in the brush and they in turn spooked the horses who ran down the trail. After a three mile jog, I got to the horses to discover the reins has slipped off Junior and he had stepped on the bit cutting his tongue badly. That happened about 10-11 years ago, and ever since I haven't ridden him in anything but a hackamore - by the way, Martin Black makes great hackamores, most of mine I bought from him.

Getting a horse to ground tie, even for short periods of time, while you walk off and right back, is just a good thing to get a horse to do.     

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