Ground tie – Importance and How to teach your horse
by Dr. Mike Guerini, Ph.D. (www.dunmovinranch.com)
Does your horse know how to Ground Tie? Have you ever had the need to ground tie your horse?
Imagine yourself coming up at the end of a trail ride or needing to close the gate at the arena. You are standing next to your horse and HOPE he stays put. But alas, in those 3 seconds it took you to reach for and open the gate, your horse has pulled up a full mouth of luscious grass, stepped on (and broke) your new rein, jumped backwards with a head tossing flair, and trotted off towards the barn, road or somewhere you cannot quite get to quickly enough.
Before you begin, make sure you take away the common problems that keep you from succeeding in this ground tie training. Remove the flies (fly spray works), find a bare patch of dirt for the first few training sessions (green grass is awfully distracting), and get away from any other distractions.
1. Connect with your horse. Take time to do some ground work. Practice walk, whoa, turn on the forehand, side pass, turn on the haunches, and backing….doing this with you on both sides of your horse. Make sure you have solid ground work and that your horse is paying attention to you and will immediately respond to your ground work cues/aids/commands. If you need to spend a few days reinforcing your ground work and ground manners — please do so — it will save you time in the long run.
2. Reinforce the importance of the word “Whoa”. Take a few minutes and make sure every time you stop your horse when you are walking him on a lead line, you verbally say “whoa” and pull down on the lead line ever so slightly, then let the lead line go slack.
3. Once you are sure that the connection to your horse is strong and the ground work is solid, begin testing and strengthening that connection. Open and close gates and doors and trailers and move bags and boxes while you have the lead shank in your hand. Reinforce that your horse is to pay attention to you when you are performing any action you might do when you ground tie your horse (another example is getting a saddle out of the tack room). In all of these actions, ask your horse to stand still — while you are still holding the end of the lead line.
4. As you get ready to begin the actual ground tie training. Make sure that you trust your horse. Begin the training by telling the horse “whoa,” pull down slightly on the lead line and then drop the lead line (so it goes slack) and walk away a few steps. Be confident that your horse will stand where you left him. Do not wait around once you say ‘whoa” and drop the lead line…make sure you walk away a few steps. You must establish that you want the horse to stay and so you must give the horse a chance to make the mistake so that you can correct the mistake and take the opportunity to train your horse to do the correct thing.
5. After you have dropped the lead line and walked a few steps, just as soon as your horse moves, immediately turn around and establish the connection to your horse (pick up the lead line) and back your horse with a purpose and authority (note: this is not being mean, simply being firm to correct the wrong behavior).
I normally begin this training with an ~ 15 to 20 foot lead line. What this lets me do is to drop the part closest to the horse while still letting me have ahold of the tail (end) of the lead line. The cue for this command to ground tie for me is two-fold — I say the word “whoa”, then I pull down slightly on the lead line and drop it on the ground.
It will take a few training sessions with your horse to get this command firm and listened to by your horse.
Remember — make sure your ground work with your horse is very good, you are prepared and firm in your commands, and you use cues/aids that your horse easily can understand.
Some horses benefit from having this training start in a stall or small paddock.
We may all have some different ways of teaching to ground tie and I welcome you to share this blog and comment on additional ways you teach this important cue.
Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (http://www.coachscorral.com/), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (http://www.hydrot.com/).