Monday, July 7, 2008

No Crossties?

I've had people ask me how is it that Monty just stands there? I almost never use crossties with him and he just stays in his place on the aisle floor. And the only answer I can give is he taught me to let him do that.

Maybe you have as puzzled a look as they did with that answer. Well, here's the "secret", maybe someone will find it useful to try with their horse.

Monty was always good on crossties at my last barn. When I moved to this place, he was fine for awhile, but then began to have issues with pulling back and breaking the ties or his halter. This could happen just from raising my hand with a brush to brush his face! I know the guys who work at the barn are not rough with the horses. Something was up.

All the crossties at this barn have a rubber "O" ring fastner at the end that will simply break if a horse pulls back hard. The vet would rather replace this cheap part than have someone's horse seriously hurt themself. After my horse went through a few of these I thought he had just figured out it was too easy to break them. I continued trying to crosstie him and watch his body language as I groomed him. If he gave any indication of going back to pull into the ties, I'd move to the side behind him and tell him "Step up!", but this only worked when I was grooming around his back and hind end. I couldn't get in position fast enough if it started when I was working around his head. I also noticed that after he broke the ties and was free, he didn't bolt or run out of the barn. After the initial pull and scramble until the ties or halter broke, he'd back up a few steps, then stand there. Also, if he's crosstied in an area that is closed behind him, like at the end of the aisle with the door closed, he won't pull back. Which is what my farrier does when he's being shod.

Ah, that's why I had no problem at the last barn, that's exactly the way the ties were set up. Okay, I guessed he just didn't like being crosstied with all that open space behind him. Well, then if he was willing to stand still in the aisle untied then I was willing to allow him to do it.

So from then on, he was haltered with a long lead shank clipped to it. I would either hold the lead or drape it across his back where I could grab it if I needed to in case he moved. Any time he moved a step, I would put him back in place with a gentle push and a simple command to step up. As time went on with this repetitious cue, he would just stand where I put him and I didn't have to hold the lead. He was never allowed to walk away, walk into his stall or move over unless told to do so. And after several weeks, he "got it".

Now, when I come to the barn in the evening and I'm alone, I can ask him to walk out of his stall, turn around and stand in place on the floor with no halter or lead. I have even went to the tack room to get things and left him there completely free and he doesn't move! I would never, ever do this during the day when the workers and other boarders are around, for their safety and ours I keep a grooming halter and lead on him but no crossties.

Patience and kindness are key but the important point is the constant repetition of the desired behavior. It took him weeks, it could take a different horse days or months.

HE taught me to let him do what he wanted, on MY terms.


Pony Girl said...

Good training tip. I think horses are quick to figure out what we want. My horse isn't really ground-tied, but I don't have to really tie him, if anything, I'll just wrap the leadrope over the post once so he thinks he's tied (if I am walking away from him, out of sight, I will quick-release knot it. I don't trust him that well, LOL!) He just doesn't move when tied. He's 14 so someone in his life really worked with him on tying. He's so good!

SolitaireMare said...

Hi ponygirl! Thanks for stopping by my blog! Your horse and mine are close in age, Monty is 13. I really think many of them are at their absolute best at this age! Even my last horse didn't start to get her act together until she was around 12 years old.

After reading your blog I'm motivated to post pictures of my barn space (is that like myspace for horse owners?) It should be amusing since I have everything crammed into an approximately 40"x30"x30" boarder's locker!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Monty sounds like a gem. Our horses need to be cross-tied or they would be visiting and grooming each other over the stall guards. Some of the places I boarded were so busy you couldn't get anything done on the cross ties with all the aisle activity so I mainly just groomed them in their stalls and then they would stand in one spot and behave. You did a great job training him to stand in the aisle, what a good boy.

SolitaireMare said...

LOL, I know what you mean about there being too much activity in the aisles, grey horse. Especially if you are in a barn with a lot of kids, they always go zooming under the crossties with their ponies (mostly because the ponies walk THEM) before you can get your horse unclipped and moved over!

The only time I'd rather groom in the stall here is when the workers are bringing in the horses from turnout. Most of the horses are walked in in pairs and there is no way 2 horses are going to fit through the aisle past my big beast.

Mrs Mom said...

I have always had a "thing" about crossties-- just never comfortable with them. Never could put my finger on it... so I just either teach ground tying or tie in a single spot (like Pony Girl, with the lead looped over the tie spot once...) Most of my horses over the years pick things up real quick, so it works well.

Monty is really a handsome fellow! Love the expression on his face here. Have to agree whole heartedly with you and GHM-- by the time they hit those teenage years, they get soooo settled and smart and easy to deal with! Now if only that were true for our two legged!