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What is Ground Tying? Really?

Published: 8/19/2015
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Editor's Note: Amy Skinner is a regular guest columnist and a horse gal since age six. She runs Essence Horsemanship, rides and teaches English and Western. Skinner has studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Spain, with Buck Brannaman, and many others.

Read more about Amy here.

Read more Journals & Journeys here

By Amy Skinner

People new to the Vaquero style of horsemanship often ask how to get their horses to stand still for saddling and general handling without being tied, a technique commonly referred to as ground tying. What I've learned over the years is really to stop “teaching” horses to ground tie, but to let it happen naturally.

The most important thing in teaching a horse to tie safely or ground tie -- and believe me they are closely connected -- is teaching the horse to follow the lead rope while leaving a float in it. Many horses who can't ground tie are ones I don't consider safe to tie, because they are handled with the feeling of restraint and not of understanding.

A horse needs to understand how to keep slack in a rope in order to keep himself out of trouble while tied, or often to stay relaxed. Some people cross tie or tie their horses to make them stand still. But as many people with antsy horses know well, these methods do not automatically create stillness in a horse. Read more about the hazards of cross ties.

When I am working with a horse, I teach it to lead, to stop, to turn, and to back with lightness. It’s because of this training that they learn to ground tie.

If the rope is going forward, they should set their feet in that direction. But if the rope is set on the ground, with no feel being offered to go anywhere, then that is exactly where the horse should be.

How long does this take?

It could be different for everyone. But if you work at getting your horse to understand the feel of that lead rope and to set its' feet up to follow it, then you can have a horse that ground ties calmly and safely while you go about doing your day-to-day handling.

The other thing I find important for ground tying is the mental connection between you and your horse. I have found that those who work with their horses in ways that the horse can understand have more success at ground tying. People who work at keeping their horses confident, interested, and relaxed often find the benefits will show when they need their horses to be still and with them.

You'd like your horse to be happier to be with you than elsewhere. These horses will stay with these people because of the many hours spent working toward mutual respect, understanding, and confidence-building. It also helps to not distract and confuse them with constant hand-outs or food fed from your hand, so they can concentrate on being with you.

I don't consider my horses to be “well behaved.” I'm not really interested in teaching behaviors. Leave that to the clicker trainers.
What I want is a horse whose behaviors are naturally occurring by his own choice. He is with me not because I trained him to be, but because he's more comfortable there than anywhere else.

So in a nutshell, if you ask me how to teach your horse to ground tie now, my answer would be something along the lines of: “Get everything going well for the horse.”

How's that for simple?

Read more about the power of positive training.

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8/21/2015 Rob
Great article , ground tieing to me is just another result of good handling skills and thourough preparation through groundwork and the development of feel. Thank you for confirming that to me!

"My horses are my friends, not my slaves" - Dr. Reiner Klimke