Horse doesn't like being tied up? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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Question Horse doesn't like being tied up?

Hello! I have a slight issue with my horse and I was hoping someone could give me any advice/tips which could help us sort it out. I'll try keep it short but no promises! So, around 10 months ago, my mum and I bought a lovely Zangersheide mare. At the dealers yard she was very calm and allowed herself to be tied on both side of the halter where she stood to be tacked up and washed down. So we bought her and she has been extremely lovely, a bit nappy but every horse comes with their issues and I'm able to handle it.

The main issue I'm having with her, currently, is that she doesn't like being tied up with her head facing the wall, if that makes sense. So this makes hoof picking, the farrier, standing by the trailer, grooming outside ect. extremely difficult. Whenever we tie her up and try to do something, she completely flips and rears in an attempt to get out - this always results in the strap holding her breaking which seems to cause more issues. We have tried a few times but have eventually given up and have simply decided to hold her in hand instead, which she is fine with.

We're a bit stuck on what to do because we don't want to cause her any unnecessary stress or put anyone (horse and people) in risk of injury because she doesn't like to be tied up. My stable doesn't offer the choice of having two clips on either side of the halter, so that's out of the question. I was wondering if anyone had tips on how to keep her calm and realise nothing bad will happen to her when she's tied up? I would like to stress that I don't feel as this is done out of any hate or anger, she is fairly skittish (We suspect an abusive owner in the past with how she acts) so we worry that she had a bad experience with it in the past and is now terrified.

Thank you in advance x
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post #2 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 03:50 PM
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You state that this mare “doesn’t like being tied up with her head facing the wall” but stood calmly when tied on both sides of the halter at the dealer’s yard. To understand why the horse reacts differently, try to envision things from the horse’s perspective.

Was the horse able to look around at familiar surroundings when tied at the dealer’s yard? Were the ropes on either side taut or slack?

When you tie her, is she tied up short or is there slack in the rope so she can look around?

You might also look into using a tying method that provides some “give” such as the Blocker Tie Ring or the B-SAFE Horse Tie.

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post #3 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 03:58 PM
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You may want to start by working on teaching her how to give to poll pressure. To most horses, that's enough to keep them from pulling so hard they break something, since they move forward again once they feel the pressure of the halter on their poll.

HOWEVER... If your horse is truly that skittish, I can understand how this position does, and might always, make her nervous. In her mind, anything can come up from behind her, and she has no way to turn around to face what's "attacking" her. On top of that, if she's already broken out of ties a few times before, she's learned that the pressure goes away if she fights it enough.

So instead, I would think it might be best to teach her how to ground tie. That way, there's nothing to be scared of since she doesn't have to face a wall, and nothing to fight her and make her even more scared if she decides to be nervous about something. In the meantime while she's learning to ground tie but hasn't mastered it, you'll always be a few steps away to grab the lead rope if she decides to wander off - at least that's assuming you're not leaving her alone while she's ground tied. And her wandering off at a gentle walk is much safer than her bolting in sheer fright after breaking through a tie.
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post #4 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 04:43 PM
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How is she if someone holds her with her head facing a wall? Some horses do not like facing something solid like a wall or trailer because they are anxious when they can't see around them.

I would work with this mare on really understanding how to be tied and how to give to pressure. Google the "Blocker Tie Ring" and there is likely something similar in the UK, or one can be made from a snaffle bit cut in half. The idea of this ring is that the horse is 'tied' to the ring with a long, smooth rope. If she pulls back, the rope applies some pressure but not a lot and runs through the ring, but never really releases her. She'll stop pulling, stand, think it through, and then you pull the rope up snug again. She never really gets enough pressure to set back hard, and each time she does set back, it will generally be less than the time before. When she does stand ok, work on moving her feet from side to side so she realizes she can move sideways, but not backward. Also work with her leading to make sure she really understands how to give to poll pressure.

If you don't want to use a blocker ring, outfit her with a long rope and a competent handler who can 'read a horse' and is wearing gloves. Run the rope through a ring and have the handler stand at her head holding the end of the rope. If the mare pulls back, the handler lets the rope run through the ring until the mare stops, then leads her back forward again. The concept is the same. Gradually the handler can stand farther and farther back as the mare becomes more comfortable. I've used this method quite a few times with horses who pull back when tied to a trailer, and it works well. At first I'll have the horse standing about 8' away from the trailer, and as they get more comfortable, stepping them up one step at a time until they're up next to it.

If all else fails, teach her to hobble or ground tie. I'd also have this mare's vision checked, and get some physio/chiropractic done on her neck and poll. A horse that has pulled back hard often has something out of place, and then pulling back triggers even more pain the next time, which makes the horse anxious and more likely to pull back, and it becomes a vicious circle. A couple of horses I've been around who had issues tied next to a solid object like a wall had vision troubles of one sort or another.
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Last edited by SilverMaple; 06-13-2019 at 04:48 PM.
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post #5 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 04:51 PM
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Hi,

While she may well have had 'issues' previously, it is entirely possible she was fine before & 'napping', skittish, freaking when tied etc are all things she's acquired since coming to you.

Horses are naturally nervous in new situations, to different degrees. Ditto for being trapped & unable to escape, move their feet as needed to feel safe. So to have come to a new place, different horses, people who may or may not be experienced.... Then to be 'trapped' on top of that... So I don't tend to just treat any new horse as 'completely broke' but rather I approach stuff in a way that I can reassure & teach, if I find a 'hole' in behaviour or training.

Horses also tend to be/feel more confined in crossties - I hate them personally - and I doubt that your tying her to a single point has anything to do with her reactivity.

It's great that you realise she & others are in danger if you just tie her. It's also great you realise she's not doing it from 'hate or anger'. IME those emotional responses are extremely rare in horses(& not about pulling back/flipping when tied) and they are an outcome of how they're treated - even if a horse is nasty aggressive, it usually starts as a defensive behaviour.

I would try to work out & address why she is 'skittish' first. Though she could be just innately nervy, there are often other reasons. Extra magnesium in her diet & low potassium can both help. Too much 'high octane' feed could of course have her bouncing off walls. So pays to consider diet & nutrition as well as management.

Then I'd tackle tying as if she's never been tied. No 1 thing is DON'T tie her up until she's well & truly ready. As TX suggested above, using something like a 'blocker tie ring', or if you have smooth round rails, to just wrap once around with a long rope...
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Some info I've found helpful; [COLOR=Lime][B]www.horseforum.com/horse-health/hoof-lameness-info-horse-owners-89836/
For taking critique pics; [COLOR=Lime][B]https://www.horseforum.com/members/41...res-128437.jpg
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post #6 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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Hello @TXhorseman !

When we tie her up, we tend to leave the rope as slack as possible without making it dangerous so she can twist her body around and look behind her if she wishes to. We have a feeling that what she doesn't like is the resistance she get's when she pulls back - which is why she is completely fine when she's faced the same way but with someone holding her in hand instead of her being tied up because she has that ability to move around if she wishes to.

The stables comes equipped with the Blocker Tie Ring and our trailer uses the B-SAFE horse tie and, unfortunately, she has had an aversion to both of those when we have tried to tie her up.

However, the idea of allowing her to look around may just work because the wash bay (where we tend to do most activities) is blocked off from the rest of the barn and she does get a bit stressy when she's away from her herd.

Thank you x
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post #7 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 05:05 PM Thread Starter
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Hi @Aprilswissmiss !

I've never heard of Ground Tying before but, after watching a few videos on it, I'm definitely going to try it out with my mare.

Thank you very much x
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post #8 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 05:12 PM Thread Starter
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Hello @loosie !

We have altered her diet to try keep her nice and calm due to how panicky she got when she first arrived at my stables, and all of her food is low sugar (Stay Cool & Hi-Fi Light) and we have recently started her on E-Calm to try see if this would help with her stressy nature as she tends to worry about things that aren't there.

And because we already use a Blocker Tie Ring and we still get the same reaction, it was suggested to me by April that I try ground tying which I feel might be the best course of action so that she doesn't become stressed when she realises she is unable to move her head.

And it may well be that these issues developed since coming to our barn but I can't really see that being the cause. Simply because the horse we saw at the dealers yard (who was very starved and not well looked after) is a lot different to the horse we have now (who is well fed and very pampered). However, it may be that we introduced things wrong to her and now we have to take a step back and start from the beginning again - which will hopefully we worth it in the future!

Thank you x
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post #9 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 05:22 PM Thread Starter
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Hi @SilverMaple !

Sophie (my mare) seems to be completely fine with being held when facing the wall. She still tends to pull back at random times but then settles when we don't yell at her and simply wait for her to calm down before resuming what we were doing without fuss. And the few times we have tried to tie her up, we have always left the rope slack enough that she can twist and move her body if she wants to. However, as soon as she realises there is a pressure holding her, she freaks out.

We do use the Blocker Tie Ring at my stable and it, sadly, doesn't help. We have tried to keep her tied so it gives it but doesn't break but that only serves to make her panic more until it's dangerous for everyone involved. We don't want to risk someone get hit or Sophie falling and hurting herself while she panics so, whilst I truly wish it worked, I'm sad to say that, that method doesn't work. We are definitely going to be working with her leading as she gets a bit...strong when we take her out and she tends to knock you with her shoulder if the other mares are out and she isn't. However, in our eyes, that's more to do with us being a bit lax with manners and that's something we have to fix separately.

If you don't want to use a blocker ring, outfit her with a long rope and a competent handler who can 'read a horse' and is wearing gloves. Run the rope through a ring and have the handler stand at her head holding the end of the rope. If the mare pulls back, the handler lets the rope run through the ring until the mare stops, then leads her back forward again. The concept is the same. Gradually the handler can stand farther and farther back as the mare becomes more comfortable. I've used this method quite a few times with horses who pull back when tied to a trailer, and it works well. At first I'll have the horse standing about 8' away from the trailer, and as they get more comfortable, stepping them up one step at a time until they're up next to it.

I certainly haven't heard of the method with the long rope and the ring, so it definitely might be worth trying when we are able to find someone who is able to see an event before it happens. When we had her vetting done, the vet did mention there is some part of her eye that's a bit damaged but they assured us that this wouldn't affect her in any way...might have to look into that a bit more to see if there's something they were missing out on.

I'm 100% going to be trying to Ground Tie method as that's probably the calmest way of sorting this issue out, so I can only hope it will help after a few weeks of working on it with her.

Thank you very much x
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post #10 of 37 Old 06-13-2019, 06:19 PM
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If she's unmannerly and pushing against you when being led, there's half your problem. She doesn't behave because she knows she doesn't have to. Horses who lead well, stand still when asked, behave well in stressful situations because they trust and respect their handler, and know how to give to pressure properly rarely have tying problems. A horse that bulls you around when being led, even when fresh, sees no point in listening to you. If she's stressed away from her herdmates, that anxiety could certainly be carrying over into her actions when being tied. She's worried about A, then B happens, then C, and then she just can't take it anymore and the slightest thing sets her off. Sometimes trying to avoid 'stressing' a horse gets you a horse who's a worrywart and anxious. Horses need to learn to deal with stress. Now, that doesn't mean throwing her into something she is not prepared to handle, but it does mean teaching her how to deal with stress and release her anxiety on her own.


The blocker tie rings work if the rope is long enough. I had one that would keep running backward so I had a 60 foot rope on him. The first three times, he went all the way to the end of the rope and bumped his butt up against the round pen. The fourth time he went about 25 feet. Then 15. By the end of the first session, he would only go a few steps. You could see the gears turning in his brain as this 'dangerous, confirmed puller' realized that A.) he wasn't getting untied and B.) nothing was fighting back at him and C.) I wasn't yelling at him. Within a week I tied him everywhere with a 10-foot lead rope. He tied very well after a few months being tied ONLY with a tie ring, and once he got to the point where he'd stand quietly for hours, and realized he could still move his feet to look around without setting back, he was fine. Once the horse realizes that he can still move and isn't trapped, but that he doesn't get away, it seems they figure it out. I'll usually use a 30-foot yacht line rope to start unless the horse is really bad. It's smooth, isn't prone to knots, runs through the tie ring well, and most horses will stop running back before they get to the end of it. Then walk them back forward and start again. It's important to leave enough slack when the horse is tied to it that he can shift around a bit and turn his head. Some horses don't tie well strictly because they've been tied so short they feel trapped. I like leaving enough slack that they can stand comfortably with the head in a relaxed position and move a step or two to each side and turn their heads without that rope coming tight. So long enough they can move a bit, but short enough then won't get a leg over the rope (although with the blocker, that's not a real big deal if it does happen, either). Once they get more comfortable, you can tie shorter if need be.
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Last edited by SilverMaple; 06-13-2019 at 06:26 PM.
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