Horse Training

Using Restraint

September 1, 2009

Restraints are beneficial when used properly on your horse.

Using a restraint on your horse has its advantages and disadvantages.

Using a restraint on your horse has its advantages and disadvantages.

From AQHA Educational Partner Certified Horsemanship Association

Restraints serve a beneficial purpose when used correctly and safely, which brings us to the main purpose of restraints — safety for the handler, the vet, the farrier and the horse.

To be treated by a vet or worked on by a farrier, a horse must stand quietly. You – the handler – need to learn how to best restrain your horse.

Training is always first, but sometimes the flight or fight response overcomes training.

Although halters are sometimes not thought of as a restraining device, it can be argued that technically, they are. Learn how to make your own halter with our FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report.

The following is a list of common restraints and the pros and cons of each:

  1. Nose twitch: involves twisting the nose by hand (short period of time) or applying a long handle with a loop of rope or chain in some cases.

    Pros:
    This method is usually effective, particularly if a twitch with handle is used. It provides good control of the head.

    Cons:
    The handle can become a weapon if the handler loses his grip on it. Some horses fight this restraint.
  2. Gum chain: involves running the chain of a lead shank over the upper gum of the horse and applying pressure.

    Pros:
    It is usually effective and easy to apply.

    Cons:
    It may actually cut the gums.
  3. Chain over the nose: involves applying a lead shank over the nose to stop a horse from running over you or to get his attention.

    Pros:
    It is easy to apply.

    Cons:
    It is not always effective and can cut the nose. This is a learned restraint; you have to spend a lot of time training the horse for the needed response.
  4. Chain under the chin: involves applying a lead shank in the chin groove area. Teaches the horse to go forward or up.

    Pros:
    It is a good attention-grabber.

    Cons:
    Sometimes the horse will go up or strike out and then move forward.
  5. Tranquilizers: Medications administered to calm the horse.

    Pros:
    A horse that is effectively tranquilized stands well or is easier to handle.

    Cons:
    Some horses can fight these drugs, blow up or kick through them. Time is an issue, since tranquilizers eventually wear off.
  6. Hobbles: pieces of leather wrapped around fetlocks and tied to other hobbles to stop kicking or forward motion.

    Pros:
    This method is effective.

    Cons:
    Must train the horse in advance to the use of this restraint.
  7. Chute or stocks: device you put the horse in that keeps him contained.

    Pros:
    Enables vet to work on the horse more safely because the horse can’t leave and the vet can stay in safe places.

    Cons:
    Horses must be trained to this device.

Learn to tie a rope halter with our FREE How to Tie a Rope Halter report.

There are two other commonly used restraints that we often don’t think of as restraints: Tying the horse up or using crossties. Both involve training the horse to accept them.

Before you use any of the restraints listed, learn to use them safely by understanding the danger of each one. They are restraints to keep a horse still, not torture devices as they can sometimes mistakenly be. In the wrong hands, they can be dangerous to both horse and handler, so be aware and learn from a professional before you try any of them on your own.