Ground Tying demonstrates a high level of obedience and self control on the part of the horse. It is a skill that can be extremely useful for a working horseman, trail riding or simply as a mental exercise for a horse!
Before teaching your horse to Ground Tie, he should be able to stand quietly when tied. Horses that stand quietly are usually welcome anywhere and will make your life a lot easier.
Most horses that have difficulty with standing while tied have not been trained to do so. Because a horse is halter trained does not necessarily mean that he is trained to tie. Some horses are claustrophobic or fearful when tied which is usually the result of a bad experience. If you think your horse may have had a bad experience when tied, seek professional advice.
Always tie a horse higher than his withers. If tied lower than wither height and he pulls back, the angle will put him at risk for spinal damage or even a broken neck. Don’t give a horse a lot of rope when tied, we like to give a tied horse only about 2 1/2 feet of rope. If possible, tie to an overhead tree branch that will give slightly if the horse pulls. If tying to a post or other non-flexible station, tie to a ring on a stretchy tire inner tube or use one of the “easy” tie pieces of hardware available (like the Blocker Tie) that make the process of tying easy and safe. We do not use the elastic ties with snaps on the ends because they sometimes break if a horse pulls back and propel the snap through the air at high speed.
Increase tie time slowly especially if a horse is fearful. It is safest to use a nylon web or leather halter rather than a rope halter to tie with and a padded top strap is also ideal. Be sure that a tied horse is close enough that he could be easily reached if he needed to have the rope cut in an emergency.
Don’t tie a foal or young horse in a hard and fast manner as it could result in permanent damage to his spine or even death. A foal’s bones and spinal structure are not solid for several years and if one pulls back when tied hard, he may pull the spinal column apart or tear the ligaments.
Most horses will stand quietly once they learn that any amount of wiggling or pulling will not result in freedom.
If a tied horse pulls back do not panic, even if he causes a ruckus. Yelling at him will only scare him and rushing in to try to help him may result in your own injury. Stay calm and assess the situation before you act.
Teach the Ground Tie
We use several methods to teach the Ground Tie and vary the methods to suit the learning style and ability of each individual horse. Ground Tying is a skill that takes time and patience to teach.
Method 1: Pedestal and Target Method
All of our horses are pedestal trained which makes ground tying an easy transition. We lunge the horse on a working length line, guide him toward the pedestal and ask him to Step Up with his front feet. When he is on the pedestal, drop the lead line and give him the verbal cue of either “Stay” or “Stand”. At first, stand close to him so he doesn’t get the idea to step down before you give him a release cue (we use “Step Back”). When he has stood for a few seconds, praise him and cue him to step back and down from the pedestal. The time he is asked to stand should be increased just a second or two with each repetition. If he steps down before you give the release cue, just send him to work in the pen for a few minutes and then ask him again to Step Up. This makes it easy for most horses to understand the instructions and intention that he Stand. The time that he remains ground tied can be increased as his reliability increases. We step just a few feet farther away from him with repetition of the exercise. We don’t talk to the horse while he is to ground tie as we don’t want him to interpret chatter as an invitation to move.
As the horse becomes conditioned and obedient to the “Stay” and/or ”Stand” request while on the pedestal, we often exchange it for a rubber mat or piece of carpet to use as a target or mark. This makes it super easy for the horse to understand the transition from the pedestal to the ground. Over time the mark can be removed and the horse can be asked to stay where he is cued within the pen or corral.
Horses learn quickly when they are “routined” which means that he is (initially) asked for the desired behavior in exactly the same location each and every time. Make absolutely no variations in your teaching procedure and pay attention to the details.
When the horse is dependable at the Ground Tie in the corral or round pen, we move to the arena where there is not green grass to tempt him. We don’t make immediate changes in his routine and we test and re-test his obedience in as many different situations as possible before the time comes when we may need him to Ground Tie.
Method 2: Without a Target
The Ground Tie can also be taught without a pedestal or mark by simply dropping his lead line, giving him a verbal cue (“Stand” or “Stay”), and stand next to him. Take a step or two back and repeat the verbal command. If he makes a movement to walk away or come toward you, tell him “No” and put him back where he was. Most horses will easily understand this exercise with a few repetitions. If he persists in walking after he has been cued to stand, give him a slight bump on the nose with the lead as you tell him “No” and put him back into position. Increase incrementally the distance that you step away from him and also (gradually) the amount of time that he is asked to stay. If the horse continues to wiggle, walk or off, put him to work at a brisk pace in the round pen for a few laps and repeat the standing still process. This is to be done with no negative emotion from the handler and is not to be in any way construed as punishment! It is simply a way to help him “desire” to stay where you ask rather than work. He will come to see staying still as a reward, especially if he is praised in a way that he understands such as stroking or even a horse treat.
When he will stand quietly at regular intervals with the lead rope dropped, walk in to him and praise him with strokes on the neck so he understands that he is pleasing you by standing still.
Gradually increase the distance that you can leave between yourself and the horse when he is ground tied.
Method 3: The Rope Method
This method can be used by itself or to perfect or reinforce the Ground Tie. This can be done with either a saddle or surcingle that has rings in the belly band or cinch. If you use a saddle, be sure that the horse is in an enclosed area so that he doesn’t venture away with it.
Use a very small diameter line about 50 feet long. A dark color such as black, dark blue or dark grey seems to work best as they are not as obvious to the horse. For demonstration purposes we used a red rope. A small snap at one end or a simple slip knot will attach the line to the halter…do not attach it to a bit as it could result in injury to the horse’s mouth. Either a knotted nose halter or a wide nose band halter will work, depending on the sensitivity of the individual horse.
Attach the small diameter line to the halter ring and run it through the ring on the cinch or belly band. Do NOT put it under the cinch! Have a regular lead line attached to the halter ring as well.
Place the horse where you want him to ground tie. Drop the lead line and ask the horse to “Stay” or “Stand” on his regular training spot. Hold the rope coils of the small diameter rope in your hand and quietly drop the line as you begin to walk or back away from him. Do not draw attention to the small tie rope. We keep the rope to the side of the horse or at a 90 degree angle. If he is obedient and stays that’s great! If he moves, give him a little tug with the line. He may seem surprised to feel the tug if you are some distance away from him! As in the previous ground tie training, increase the time that the horse is asked to “Stay”, incrementally and help him to be successful.
As in the training of any move or trick, there must be something in it for the horse. It can be praise, a horse treat, a few minutes of grazing or even to get off work early for the day.
Be reasonable! This skill takes patience to teach. Once you leave the environs of the round pen and begin practicing the Ground Tie in the open, you will need to carefully consider the location you choose in the beginning. For example, do not expect a horse to remain ground tied with grass nearby or other horses running around him.
A skill complimentary to the Ground Tie is to come when called or whistled for. For more information on teaching a horse to come when called, visit:
Manna Pro offers an extensive line of treats for horses that are the perfect size for training! Learn more about training your horse using treats responsibily in our FREE Train With Trust Video Series featuring the signature methods of Suzanne De Laurentis at:
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