Training a Horse to Stand in Cross Ties

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Introduction to Cross Ties

Dear Cherry,

When is a young horse ready to be introduced to cross ties?  How do you begin the introduction?
My weanling stands quietly tied for grooming.  Could I try her in cross ties?

Alice


Hi Alice:

    Since your weanling stands quietly for grooming while tied, it sounds like you and she might be a candidate to move on to cross ties.  Has she had enough tying lessons that you can leave her tied for 1/2 hour without pawing, screaming, or swerving around?

    It is hard for me to say from your brief description whether she is ready, so here are some things I look for before I cross tie any horse:

 

- Can I attach the lead rope snap to the near side cheek ring (rather than throat ring) and lead the horse (in a stall at first just to be safe) - in other words, does a pull to the side alarm the horse or does the horse accept it?  Sometimes a horse reacts to the visual difference, sometimes to the pressure difference.  You must be sure she is not afraid of this because if you all of a sudden put her in cross ties and she saw/felt this new sensation (rope attached to side cheek rings, pulling out to the sides), she could become frightened. Be sure to perform the same "test" on the off side cheek ring.  (Have you been leading the horse from the off side as well as the near side?  If not, you will need to do that first.)

 

- Is the horse relaxed in the cross tie area when held or led?  If it is a new grooming area for the foal, maybe there are things to the side or behind her that she might need to investigate first...any doors that are nearby that someone might open when she is first cross tied - things like that.  Make sure she is familiar with the area and relaxed.

- Be sure the cross ties have some sort of quick release mechanism on each of them.  I use quick release knots at the tie rings where the cross tie ropes attach.  Some people use quick release snaps.  Just be sure you have a way to quickly release her if she does fall or get turned around some how.  It's very important to never let your horse get turned around in the cross ties - any horse is likely to panic in this situation and the crossed roped could severely injure the horse's face.  Making the cross tie area only 11' wide or less will prevent most horses from getting turned around.

- The first time you cross tie her, have someone also hold her with a lead rope attached to her halter for added control.  Let her get used to you walking around behind her etc.  Anything you can do to familiarize her with the process, the better chance you have of avoiding problems.  If your weanling is insecure when you leave her to go into the tack room to get a brush or something, you might want someone to be there to "supervise" while you are gone.  Unattended, uninitiated horses can get crosswise, so do what you can to form good habits with your filly.


    I do cross tie all my weanlings without incidence but its like any other horse training lesson - if you prepare the horse for the new aspects of the lesson ahead of time, the horse will likely have no fears or problems.  If you cut corners, you will likely have set backs.

Cherry Hill

  1998 Cherry Hill 

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