I do not recommend starting to tie a horse until they are halter trained, meaning they start to understand to yield to pressure. For this exercise I have come to use a Training Clip. If you do not have one of these, you can also just weave a rope through a pipe panel to create a similar training set up where the give of the rope is regulated.
The secret to teaching a horse to tie quietly is to ensure the horse can get some relief from the pressure when her emotional level rises, but does not get a release, meaning she actually breaks free. A Training Clip allows the horse the relief without the release and helps them to learn to yield to pressure. When young horses are first tied up, it is only natural they will want to get away. They can then panic, which tends to escalate their flight instinct and make things worse. If they are tied hard and fast, it is very easy for a young horse to get hurt, especially if the rope breaks – which happens more often than you may realize. The sudden release once the rope snaps may result in the horse actually flipping over on her back or falling down. This typically causes real trauma from which a horse may never recover – both physically and mentally. Instead, the Training Clip was designed to allow a horse to pull some slack in the rope when she panics (or falls). This releases pressure and lowers her emotional level while also reducing the risk of injury. Now again – you do not need a Training Clip to get the job done, lots of worked for years without one of these by using pipe panels and other objects to regulate slack, but they do make the job easier and since it regulates itself, it also allows you far greater flexibility in schooling a horse to tie in a variety of situations.
So for the first lessons in tying, here are a couple of tips to keep in mind. First, choose a location where the horse is likely to be very comfortable. Set her up for success. Do not choose to teach a horse to tie where there is a lot of activity or objects she will find fearful, or even away from her regular buddies. Instead select an area where she is comfortable and as likely as possible to be complacent. In or around her stall or paddock for example. If you use the Training Clip, make sure you follow the directions exactly to ensure the equipment will regulate the slack. Otherwise, choose a long lead rope and loop it once around a very solid object. The loop should still allow the rope to give and take, you will be controlling the slack, it simply helps regulate the pressure a bit for you.
Next, tie her up and stand back to watch (or to regulate rope if need be). In either method, she should have the ability to get some relief from the pressure when she makes contact on the rope, by having the rope give a bit – but NOT get a true release. How your young horse takes to tying will vary dramatically. Many youngsters will stomp their feet, backup, try to push forward, swing their hips around, whinny, just be very dramatic in general trying to figure out how to get away from the restraint. Others quiet within a short period of time. However, whether your horse is fussing or quiet, please always have basic tying sessions be very short. With the horse that is fussing, you will need to wait till the horse is quiet for even just a moment in order to reward the behavior before you untie her. Make sure you time it right too! But start out initial tying sessions at just a few minutes. Let the horse experience the feeling of the pressure from the rope, to get the relief but not release, and then as soon as she quiets, you can quit and call that lesson number one for tying. The next day, do it again. Spend a few minutes each day tying your baby up, adding a couple of minutes as she progresses. Over time you will want to work up to 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then an hour or even two when the horse is a bit older. The key to having a horse that learns to tie quietly for a lifetime of ease is to take it slow, very small steps, and to teach the horse to tie in a variety of locations.
I start out for short periods in comfortable locations. But over time we will ask the horse to tie in different areas as well that are less familiar and may have more and more distractions. I have tie rings at 5 different hitching posts at my training facility, in many of the stalls and paddocks, in the round pen, in the indoor and outdoor arenas, in the wash racks, on different trees around the property, in the cross ties and in my trailer. Over time, I will ask horses to tie at all of those locations, and for longer periods of time. If you intend to show, trail ride, camp, your horse simply must tie safely and well. The advantage in having a young horse to work with now, before you are riding, is that you have ample time to work on these key foundation exercises that will help set you up to do all of these things and more with your horse. Take advantage of that time and really make the effort to teach your horse seemingly basic lessons like this, but ones which many horses simply are never taught. I have had a lot of people contact me over the years about wanting to take up horse camping. They write saying they have great trail horses, but their horse panicked or acted up when asked to be tied up overnight for the trip. In most cases, these horses were never really trained correctly, and some may even have a pull back problem. You cannot just take a horse that is used to only being tied up for 5 minutes and expect it to be tied all night. You have to build up their confidence and comfort before you ask them to tie for long periods of time. Remember these are horses – with very strong flight instincts which we are restraining every time we tie them up. You need to slowly build your horse’s trust and comfort to be tied for long periods of time. But I promise you, it’s worth doing. Having a horse you can take places and tie up safely as needed is a wonderful luxury.Below is the link to purchase a Training Cliphttp://www.charleswilhelm.com/products/index.php?p=product&id=160&parent=3