Horse Tying Safety Tip
- July 26, 2021
- Jan Swan Wood
We’ve all done it. After a graphic illustration of why not to many years ago, though, I stopped doing it. Doing what? Tying a horse up with your back to it. Let me explain further.
I see it often. Someone leads a horse up to a fence, trailer or a barn wall tie, with the horse against the side with the wall. Then, with the rope still tight, ties the horse up. The person has their back to the horse, therefore isn’t seeing the horse’s reaction to being “trapped” in the triangle between the person and the wall. Most broke horses won’t be concerned about it and will tolerate what’s happening. But, a green, watchy, or suspicious horse is sure going to feel the pressure of being trapped there.
What the horse will do when it finally can’t tolerate the pressure is to fall back to escape that situation. When they do that and the halter rope comes tight, they will jump forward. If the person in front of them hasn’t moved out of the way, that person is in the crash zone. Since they have their back to the horse and can’t see it, one’s reaction isn’t fast enough to get out of the way.
The graphic demonstration that I referred to resulted in the horse owner losing the ends of several fingers when they were crushed off by the fence and the horses muzzle/teeth when the horse jumped forward. It was a broke horse, not usually spooky, but it spooked that time. But, my friend was hurt just the same.
Worse case scenario is that the person is knocked down by the horse’s lunge, the horse really panics and the person is badly injured and the horse is fried for life about being tied up. It seems so much easier to not set oneself up for that situation.
When I lead a horse up to be tied, I want them at my shoulder so they’re in my peripheral vision and standing straight out from the post, not angled or against the fence. As I stop at the post, I turn toward the horse somewhat, so I’m seeing with both my eyes, make sure the halter rope is slack and horse standing still and focused on me. I may even take a moment to pet the horse if it’s a greener individual, just to make sure it is calm. Only then will I tie the horse, stepping back to make sure the post and the horse are in my vision, the rope still slack and the horse standing. As I finish the tie, I will usually turn completely toward the horse and pet the neck a stroke and then walk past them, keeping my hand in contact as I do, or if not, walk away at an angle. It takes a moment longer, but, not a significant enough amount of time to make a difference in the day.
If the horse is a youngster or a broncier horse, I will bring it up fairly close then slip the rope around behind the post, ask them to step up to where I want them standing when tied, and then tie the rope off to the next post down, giving myself a safe avenue to approach and leave.
This may seem like a silly thing to post to a horseman’s group, but, apparently it needs said. People, both newbies and experienced horsemen, get hurt every day by horses. They are big fight or flight animals, outweigh us significantly, and biologically consider us predators with our forward facing eyes. Getting sloppy with how we handle them, and by example, show our children how to handle them, can lead to terrible tragedy.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....