Ground tying is a valuable skill for any horse to have, and teaching it also teaches your horse to be respectful of you when you are handling him or her on the ground. A horse who knows how to ground tie knows how to follow your directions by standing still and staying in one place when instructed to do so. In this article, we provide step-by-step instructions and tips to help you succeed in teaching your horse to ground tie. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- 1 Why Is Ground Tying An Important Skill?
- 2 How Do You Start Ground Tying Training?
- 3 Can You Ground Tie With A Bridle?
- 4 Ground Tying Q&A
- 4.1 1. Should you always walk away from the horse’s head?
- 4.2 2. When is the best time to work on ground tying training?
- 4.3 3. Where is the best place to do ground tying training?
- 4.4 4. What’s the best way to position a horse for ground tie training?
- 4.5 5. Will my horse be nervous about ground tying?
- 4.6 6. How long does it take to teach a horse to ground tie?
- 4.7 7. Where did the idea of ground tying come from?
- 4.8 8. Can you use ground tying with English tack?
- 5 Teach Your Horse To Ground Tie
Why Is Ground Tying An Important Skill?
Good ground manners and ground respect are essential in your relationship with your horse. You will never be able to overpower your horse. You must build trust and respect in order to stay safe and in control when you are in the saddle.
When you have taught your horse to ground tie consistently, you can rest assured he or she respects you and will turn to you for direction.
Aside from the positive behavioral benefits of ground tying, it’s convenient and useful. If your horse ground ties, it means you can trust him or her to stay put while you deal with necessary tasks such as adjusting tack, opening and closing a gate, assisting another rider or just snapping a picture.
How Do You Start Ground Tying Training?
- You’ll need a long (12’-15’) soft rope training lead and your horse’s usual halter. Attach the lead to the halter and lead your horse to an even, level area. The center of a round pen is ideal.
- Have your horse stand square (all 4 hooves firmly on the ground) as he will be less likely to move one way or another.
- Hold the lead lightly, careful not to apply any pressure, stand in front of and a bit to your horse’s left side with your toes pointing toward the horse’s shoulder. If your horse knows how to lead properly, he should know that when you are facing him, he is not supposed to move.
- Say “whoa” and signal your horse to stay by holding up the palm of your free hand toward him. Stand and watch your horse. If he makes a move toward you or picks up a hoof, correct him immediately by flicking your wrist upwards so that the lead shakes toward the horse and sends a signal or correction. You may also say “whoa” and signal your horse with your free hand.
TIP: The lead rope correction is delivered when the connecting point of lead to halter bumps the horse’s chin. For this reason, it’s usually better to use a rope halter and lead combination in which this connecting point consists of the knot in the rope. A metal snap knocking against the horse’s chin could be a bit too harsh and could derail your training.
- Work on this practice for about fifteen minutes a day. When your horse is able to stand still patiently for 10 or 15 minutes, stand a bit farther away. Increase this distance gradually until you have made your way to the end of the lead.
- Once your horse will stand still patiently with you at the end of a 15 foot lead, start moving about a bit so that he can learn to stay in place even if you are moving. If your horse moves, quickly correct him by shaking the lead toward him, saying “whoa“ and signaling with your free hand.
- Move to different locations to practice. Try it when there are distractions. When your horse will reliably stand still in any setting with you at the end of the lead, it’s time to lay the lead down.
- Allow the lead to hang freely, straight down from your horse’s halter. Let it unfurl onto the ground as you walk away with the end of the lead in your hand. If your horse tries to follow you, issue a firm correction.
Be careful not to pull on the lead because this will cue your horse to move toward you. Always shake the lead toward your horse and say “whoa” to instruct him to stay put.
- Again, once you get to the end of the lead, move around a bit and correct your horse if he tries to follow you. When he is reliably staying in place with the lead unfurled on the ground before him, you can move on to simply dropping the lead and walking away.
Don’t go too far. Just take a few steps away and stop. If he tries to follow you, hold up the palm of your hand toward him and say “whoa”. If he has actually moved a few steps, pick the lead up, give it a shake toward him and walk him back to his appointed position.
- Once he seems to have gotten the idea, you can try walking from your horse’s left shoulder to his rear and then walking away a to a distance of 15-20 feet and then making a casual circle around your horse.
Don’t make eye contact, but just watch him with your peripheral vision. If he moves, hold up the palm of your hand and say “whoa”. After making a full circle, turn back to your horse and approach him from the front.
If you approach from either side, it might have the effect of triggering him to move toward or away from you. You want him to stay in place until you release him from his hold.
- Keep practicing and gradually increasing the distance, moving the location and working against distracting challenges until you can trust your horse to stay in place no matter what.
- Start using ground tying when you do tasks such as grooming and tacking up. Practice frequently throughout your normal work with your horse.
Can You Ground Tie With A Bridle?
When your horse is completely trustworthy standing ground tied with a halter and lead rope, you can help him transfer that skill to standing ground tied with the left rein of his bridle dropped.
Only do this if you ride with split reins. If you use looped reins there’s too much danger your horse might get his hoof caught up in them and injure himself and/or wreck your bridle.
In this case, once your horse is thoroughly trained for ground tying, you can snap a lead rope onto the left side of the bit (or if you are using a trail bridle with halter included, onto the lead rope ring) and drop it to ground tie your horse.
Always keep looped reins secured so that they cannot fall to the ground.
Ground Tying Q&A
1. Should you always walk away from the horse’s head?
Some horses are very intent on following the leader. In this case, it may be best to walk past your horse’s left side and then walk away from the rear instead of the front.
Only trial and error will tell you which method will work best for you. Ultimately, you want your horse to stay in one place no matter which direction you go.
2. When is the best time to work on ground tying training?
At first, it’s best to work on this skill when you return from a long ride or when your horse is tired for some other reason. A horse who is eager to go will have trouble focusing on and cooperating with these lessons.
3. Where is the best place to do ground tying training?
It’s best to start out in a familiar, comfortable, quiet setting and gradually build up to areas that offer distractions and unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents.
4. What’s the best way to position a horse for ground tie training?
When working in an arena or corral, face your horse away from the gate when you first start working on ground tying training. If he’s faced toward the gate, he’ll be likely to want to go to it.
Once your horse has thoroughly mastered ground tying, he should be able to focus and ground tie successfully in any setting.
5. Will my horse be nervous about ground tying?
Interestingly, horses are often nervous or anxious about ground tying because, if you’ve been doing things right, your horse will be bonded to you and will want to follow you.
It takes patience and careful, quiet movements, signals and instructions to convey the notion that staying put is the right thing to do.
6. How long does it take to teach a horse to ground tie?
It can take quite a while. It’s important to be patient, work in increments and work on this skill a little bit every day until it is mastered. Don’t set yourself a strict timeline to teach ground tying. Just go with the flow.
7. Where did the idea of ground tying come from?
Ground tying is a skill that is very important for horses that work cattle. Very often, a cowboy will need to get off his horse to tend to cattle in an area where there is no way to tie the horse. In this case, the horse must know that it needs to stay put and wait until the rider is ready to go.
8. Can you use ground tying with English tack?
It’s not traditional, but ground tying is just as useful to English riders as Western riders. Just remember that English bridles have looped reins, so if you’re going to ground tie, you’ll need to have a lead rope to drop.