Equipment Needed: Stiff rope halter with nose-knots, 14′ – 15′ lead rope, Aussie or Blocker Tie.
Training Needed: All pre-requisite training that has taught your horse to soften to pressure. Specifically Disengaging the Rear, Disengaging the Front, and Backing Up. All of those exercises teach a horse to move away from pressure, which is necessary to keep him safe during this procedure.
Of course, you will occasionally need tie your horse up. On the trail or around the ranch. It is also useful after a training session so that he has time to “digest” the lesson instead of going straight back to freedom or food, which are both counterproductive.
Giving in to pressure (yielding) is a very important exercise. Horses (who are large and strong) naturally believe that they can push and shove their way to success. They believe that they can bully their environment, pushing through brush, bumping each other: In essence, using their size to move things out of their way.
A horse’s natural reaction to physical pressure is to resist it by moving into it instead of away from it. Yielding to the pressure is very important for all types of activities Without respect for the halter and its restriction, horses can injure themselves or others.
Talking to the Post teaches him to yield to the pressure of the halter. He will lead better, he will tie better.
“Talking to the Post” involves tying your horse to a post (head-high on the post but not so that his head cannot be held naturally) in a safe area until he is totally relaxed about tying. You also need patience because this sometimes takes up to an hour per session.
The first step is to acquaint the horse to tying in general.
The Blocker Tie:
The Blocker tie is a device that keeps a horse tethered without keeping him tied firmly enough to hurt himself if he throws his body backward in a frantic effort to get loose. It allows just enough slip in the tie rope to give him the comfort of moving his feet, which stops his panic. It is also portable. I am sometimes more comfortable with the Post exercise inside the round pen. I had one highly reactive horse who actually pulled the rope through the tie and got loose. This is rare, but can happen.
Inexperienced horses can feel very claustrophobic if tied firmly to a post with no give or take. They can actually damage their neck and/or spine by frantically fighting a tightly tied rope. The Blocker tie allows the rope to slip a little so that the horse can learn to quit fighting but doesn’t get totally skitzed before he stops pulling. (In the old days, cowboys sometimes used an inner tube looped over and tied to the post and their horse tied to the tube)
The horse should be wearing a snuggly-tied stiff rope halter that puts pressure on his poll if he pushes back up into the halter. It is a mistake to use a web halter! It will not give, but it also will not be uncomfortable enough at the poll to make an impression. It allows dangerous fighting and flailing that can damage his neck or break equipment. It is equally bad to use a breakaway halter on a horse during this exercise. A really good fight will break the halter and teach the horse that fighting is rewarded with freedom.
Learning to Give:
At first, your horse should experience being tied up for small periods of time. Let him pull back on the rope to his “I feel safe” distance. When he reaches that distance, (usually about 6-7 feet from the post) he will stop. He may still be leaning against the rope but his feet have stopped moving. When he is quiet, walk over to him and pull his toward the tie again, asking him to give to the poll pressure and move forward a few steps. (If he is braced, pull him to the left or right to get him to move forward), The act of walking forward will reward his “give” by releasing the poll pressure. Each time he backs away he realizes he is not hog-tied. Each time he moves forward he learns how to release the poll pressure. After a few experiences with the rope halter and Blocker tie on easy slip, most horses have objected enough that their antics are not dangerous to themselves. Now you can tie for longer periods of time.
Although the tying experience begins to mean business, the horse has not been freaked out by unforgiving pressure. She may throw herself all over the place before she relents. But if she is in a nice sandy round pen or arena, tied to a post that has no dangerous obstacles around it, and wearing a good, poll-pressure halter she will not get hurt.
Patience comes from tying for longer duration.
The Caspian Horse in these picture is having a first session of patience practice. I have included these pictures so that you can see that your horse may try just about anything. In this case, he tried pawing, rearing, rubbing, biting the lead and buckle, and even biting the tree.
Real Patience practice is for longer-term tying: learning to stand calmly and use the reasoning side of his brain.
Don’t stay in too close during the early stages of patience practice, as horses can become very frustrated and agitated. However, don’t leave your horse unattended either. If there is the slightest opportunity for him to get himself into trouble, he will. You need to be on hand if he gets tangled, or works his way loose.
The lead rope must be anchored at head height and kept short. If he rears, he can come down with one foot over the slack and get hung up there if the lead is too long. You must be there to see that the slack can be manipulated if a dangerous situation arises.
There are innumerable ways that this exercise is beneficial. He will circle and be confused about how to come back around. On his own, he will learn to back up if the constriction is too tight – learning to “give to pressure”. If he calms down and relents, you can untie him and do some grooming or other calm activity that he enjoys as a reward for good behavior.
Take your equine student to another location with a sturdy post and use the same procedure again the next day. Then take her to the wash area and repeat, repeat, repeat. As it gets to be safe and routine, start handling more and more during the tie session. Groom, pick up feet, and generally manipulate the whole horse while tied. (The first couple of times, expect a sudden escape attempt again – a last futile effort to throw back or rear up. Be safe. Don’t be caught off guard.)
It’s a matter of hours of practice in different places.
My personal preference is to use a nose-knotted rope halter. Just be sure it is well-tied so she can’t work the halter loose and escape it. You can be sure that she will work harder to escape it than she would have if she had experienced freedom from a breakaway. But horses are basically lazy and don’t want to work up a sweat most of the time, so she will give to the pressure eventually. Be sure to reward the relaxed state of mind each time the horse calms down and stands still long enough to relax.
This whole lesson should be repeated frequently until the horse is totally relaxed when tied. It is a great exercise to do after a training session so that he can have time to think about his training session and begin to digest its lessons. Under no circumstances should you try talking to the post if you are not committed to it. Your horse must “give”. You cannot “rescue her” or your whole session will teach her more bad habits. Remember that a horse learns 24/7. Every time you interact with her, she learns something. Make sure it is good.
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