Ask an Expert

Pulling Back When Tied

February 20, 2012

How do you break a horse from pulling back from tied? Find out how from AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association Instructor Tara Reimer.

Question:

Do you have any suggestions on how to break a horse from yanking back when tied? My mare is a calm horse, but when I put her in a halter and tie her to a trailer, phone pole, etc., she just starts yanking until either the ring, halter or lead rope breaks. She hasn’t tried it once in the trailer when she’s tied. I am guessing that it is a fear thing, but I would like to hear the best way of getting rid of this dangerous behavior, as I don’t want her or anyone else to get hurt.

Answer:

Thank you for your question. I have experienced the same behavior from a few different horses that we bought as mature horses. From my experience, this pulling back can be fear or it can be an “I can so I will” reaction.

You need to evaluate the horse’s body language and eyes to determine why your horse is reacting this way. If your horse becomes nervous, exhibited by prancing, looking for a way out, white and look of fear in the eyes, then this is likely a fear issue. With this type of horse, we have found some coping mechanisms that both the horse and handler are comfortable with. We always use a rope halter with lead rope attached with a knot or braid so the pressure points discourage pulling. As well, there are no weak spots to break.

We will tie the fearful horse on a longer lead. Tie at wither or higher height and just long enough for the horse’s nose to touch the ground. Never tie to an object that can break away or that has sharp or pointed areas to injure a lunging horse. When tying to a trailer, always ensure that it is properly hooked to a vehicle. Tie the horse in areas where he does not feel claustrophobic. A trailer is closed in, but it also offers security because it is closed in on all sides. A standing stall closes the horse in, yet allows a back way out. This is a hard place to tie a fearful horse. If you must, as we do at shows, be sure to place a bum rope or chain with rubber securely behind the horse. We also use a bungie tie strap with a panic snap as a second tie from the halter to the ring. When doing this, allow the bungie to create pressure before the lead rope (bungie shorter than lead). If possible, rather keep the horse in a box stall.

Practical and inexpensive, rope halters are a time-honored tradition for many horsemen and a wonderful training tool. Learn How to Make a Rope Halter in this FREE report!

Try to work with your horse where he feels less fearful, i.e. outside at hitching rail vs. cross tied in barn. If what you are tying to is secure enough, and you use a rope halter with attached lead and your horse pulls back, let him. It is unlikely that he will get loose.

One of our horses is claustrophobic. When he is tied securely as above at our outdoor hitching rail, something will set him off and he will pull. In the two years of owning him, he has improved. I believe that because we have kept him out of harm, he does try to reason the impulsive fear away. He looks fearful, but he chooses to not pull sometimes. When introducing potentially fearful objects or situations to a fearful horse, don’t tie the horse, but rather hold the lead. Establish trust with the horse.

Another option is the Blocker Tie Ring II or The Clip. Use either one between your lead rope and the halter. We have used these at times.

Use common sense when working around horses. Put yourself in your horse’s place and try to avoid instances that create fear for a horse such as yours. Treat him kindly and reassure him often. This only works if you consistently treat the horse kindly so he respects you and looks to you for comfort in all situations. I am the type that you can walk up behind and easily scare, so I am very empathetic to fearful horses!

– AQHA Professional Horsewoman Tara Reimer
Certified Horsemanship Association Clinic Instructor and Regional Director