Trailering: Tied vs. Loose - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 02-20-2013, 04:59 PM Thread Starter
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Trailering: Tied vs. Loose

Is it safer/better to tie a horse in a trailer or leave them loose?

I'd like to let people share their opinions on this matter. But please keep it civil and positive, lol (I've seen a lot of discussions like this get very heated very fast, especially relating to horse safety ).

When you are trailering a horse, what do you consider safest, tying the horse, or leaving them loose (without a halter)?

Does it make a difference if the horse trailer is larger or smaller? Is it better to have them tied in a larger trailer to keep them from walking around?

And would you consider it dangerous to leave one or more horses untied in a trailer? Do dividers make a difference?
Does it help to have at least one horse tied, or does that make it worse?


What sparked this idea of mine is when my neighbors moved away last fall (BTW I did not approve of many of their training techniques) they put a roughly 16hh QH in a three-horse trailer with an approx. 12hh yearling. The QH was tied and the yearling (who they had to chase into the trailer) was not.
I don't mean for this to be a rant, but I just wanted to know what others though of trailering like this and what the safest way really was?
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post #2 of 24 Old 02-20-2013, 10:39 PM
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Tied. I can't see any safe reason for leaving a horse loose.

Trailering with one horse tied and one loose is probably the stupidest thing a person can do. What happened if the yearling got over the rope? Or tangled in it? Or got stuck under the tied horse?

The best thing would have been for them to have properly trained their yearling to be halter broke, tie broke, and had him good to load.
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post #3 of 24 Old 02-20-2013, 10:50 PM
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I have done both, depends on the horses, trailer and situation.

In the situation the OP described I would of most likely left them both loose, or tied the older gelding and used the cut gate to separate the yearling to leave him loose if he was not halter broke/broke to tie.

EDIT: should say that I haul in a stock trailer with at least one cut gate. Not a horse trailer with dividers.
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post #4 of 24 Old 02-20-2013, 10:52 PM
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Up until my colt was 7 months old I hauled him loose without a divider in my 2 horse trailer. When he had his accident and could barely walk straight, there was no way I was tying or putting the divider in and hauled him loose. On the way home from the vet after his accident, he was pacing circles in the trailer while we were going 60 miles an hour down the highway. The excitement/anxiety irritated his brain injury and made him circle to the left, which is now his bad side.

Ever since then I've hauled him tied with a divider in like a big boy. He handles it well and stands calmly to munch his hay. Although I do need to leave the windows open. He likes to watch the traffic go by. :)

I would say that if you were hauling a single horse in a 2 horse, make sure that your horse can easily turn around. If he's too large, do NOT let them loose because many horses will try to turn around if they prefer facing that way. They could get wedged and get hurt very easily if they're too big. It really varies from horse to horse. Does your horse stand still the whole time? Or does he pace circles like my colt? he size of your trailer would be a factor, as well.

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post #5 of 24 Old 02-20-2013, 11:01 PM
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That is not a training method you described with your neighbors' horses, it is a method to move horses from point A to point B as best as you can cope without training. I assuming they kept one tied in there so it would not jump out until the other one was herded in. I have hauled a loose mare & her foal in a open stock trailer more than a few times but I would never tie one & leave the other loose for the reasons WS mentioned. Train your horse's properly, haul them in comfortable, roomy trailers in a configuration that suits them, and train them PROPERLY and whether you tie or keep them loose is a personal preference. For the record, my horses are tied with gates closed in a slant load, loading & tying is a non-issue for me, they go & do what they are directed to do.
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post #6 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 07:39 AM
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My new (to me) trailer is a stock trailer with the cut gate, but the front section has a removable divider. Would the safest way be to use the divider and put two horses side by side in the front half, or put one in front and the other in back with the cut gate closed to better distribute weight? I would tie both horses. Never have thought of hauling horses untied.
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post #7 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 07:46 AM
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Tied and untied..depends on the horse and where we're going.

They learn to trailer tied, but after they know how to stand tied during a trailer ride we usually take the lead off and leave them untied in the slant load for less than an hour hauls. I plan to do the same with mine.

In the stock trailer (no cut divider) we tie because we usually have more than one horse.
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post #8 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 04:10 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by waresbear View Post
That is not a training method you described with your neighbors' horses, it is a method to move horses from point A to point B as best as you can cope without training. I assuming they kept one tied in there so it would not jump out until the other one was herded in.
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Sorry, when I said "training methods" I probably should have said "Training and Handling methods" though they did quite a few things to their horses that could have been done much more humanely, not very much that I could reasonably call authorities on, but they certainly angered me.

But they also had 6+ months (and over 2 months that they knew they were moving) to train that yearling to trailer and simply didn't bother. Catching her consisted of chasing her into a corner, throwing a rope around her neck and jerking her to the ground, then clipping the lead rope onto the halter they kept on 24/7.

After the horses were trailered, they left the halter on the big horse and you could her them all the way from my back porch (about 75 yards) kicking up a storm.

I understand that some horses simply don't like being trailered, or can't be tied, but there had to be better way to do this, right?
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post #9 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 04:26 PM
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Clementine is usually loose when we haul her. She loads great, but (until we start moving - once we do, she stands still) throws a fit in the trailer - pacing and turning circles. I don't want to tie her up in there to have her panic and hurt herself somehow. And then I always think what if something happened and she fell? Her face would be tied up and the rest of her would go down.

We have a stock that we just bought that I don't think is wide enough for her to turn around in - and if it is, I don't want her to try. So I think I'd tie her loosely in there - enough so she can move or laydown if she wants, but not enough that she can pace and turn circles.
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post #10 of 24 Old 02-21-2013, 04:47 PM
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Untied -

I haul long distances and I have personal experience with horses who have developed respiratory issues due to not being able to get their head down below their knees from time to time. Of course one would argue to just tie them longer but if the rope is tied long enough so that they can get their heads down, then the rope gets under a front leg and then they are caught and depending on the horse you have - well then it depends on the accident that happens afterward - hence - I don't tie.

I haul in halters with the rope attached thrown over their back loose - been doing it for over 20 years - in stock trailers and slants with dividers. Worst thing that happens is the rope slides off and gets peed on - no big deal. My horses can back out AND turn around and walk out forward - been in an incident where the trailer was stuck and the back end was high in the air - too high to back out so I turned them around and they were able to leap out forward. Much safer.

Took a technical large animal rescue course this year - one of the things the firefighters/rescue workers/sheriffs/ etc complained about most was horses who have been tied in trailers took too long to get out - often the animals were upside down and twisted, caught by the rope holding them in - they said that so much time was wasted trying to reach in to a mangled trailer and cut the rope (usually with a knife on a long pole b/c getting in there with the animal was NOT safe) and most horses go into shock way before they could even get the rope cut. Horses who were loose tied were immediately assessed and often easier to handle and move b/c they weren't stuck on a twisted rope - and because they were untied, could often right themselves or at least sit up.

The emergency rescue folks have seen many instances where a trailer gets in a wreck and they see snapped/twisted necks, pulled/ripped/torn muscles - in most cases the animal who was tied ended up being the animal that was mangled the most because the body (as gruesome as it sounds) was not allowed to roll with the trailers momentum. Animals who aren't tied had a better chance coming out with only scrapes and bruises while tied horses often ended up going to the vet a week later after the incident with serious issues liked cracked C1 or C2, and on a regular basis, ended up dying a few days later. Emergency folks I have personally talked to at this course (who actually spoke at the course) and those here where I live vote for untied as well when it comes to horses.

The horse has a better chance of survival if it can move with the trailer - even if that means doing complete cartwheels over and over. Locking any one part of their body down and then rolling them over and over is a death sentence.

I had already been trailering without tying for over two decades before I took that course - it only confirmed it for me. If a technical large animal rescue class comes to town, I would recommend you take it - even if you aren't working as a type of rescue personnel - it is an eye opener for the average horse owner on so many subjects - tying in trailers was just one of many.

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