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Help! My horse has learned to break cross ties - I think he's got my number

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  • Help! My horse has learned to break cross ties - I think he's got my number

    I've had my 15yo OTTB for 2 1/2 years. Never a problem in cross ties, often looks like he's going to sleep. Last week, just as I was about to tack up, "something" set him off and he started dancing around, pulling back, and tossing his head until the opposite side tie broke. Not eye-rolling crazy but kind of scary. I was able to undo the clip on my side and grab his halter - then he was fine.

    Freaked me out so I put him away. I did try leading him back to cross ties and he was just antsy so that was all I was up for that day.

    Back yesterday, he started in again almost immediately when the second tie was on. I didn't want to let him break it again so I undid one and held halter - fine. One repeat of this and I decided to tack him up in his stall. Had an uneventful ride, took tack off in his stall.

    I strongly suspect that whatever set him off the first time, this is now a fun new game. So here's the choices I see:

    1. give up on cross ties
    2. use one cross tie at a time or try different cross ties. There's one set I can put a couple of boards up behind.
    3. some kind of "correction" when he backs up (whips do make him go sideways though)
    4. I don't think just letting him work it out is really a choice, don't want anyone to get hurt.

    He can be a "drama queen" about trailering - he's no longer scared but if you're not firm he will jerk you around all day.

    What do you think?
    http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!

  • #2
    Blocker tie rings saved me. My horse was always great in crossties, but one day decided the hose was going to get him and he freaked out and broke them. after that he broke out 2 more times until i got the blocker tie rings and learned to use them. Now he is fine again. no problems. You do need the thinner nylon lead ropes with them, tho. Cotton usually does not fit. http://www.blockerranch.com/

    Comment


    • #3
      First off, I hate when they break cross ties. It's scary.

      Now that I've said that, make sure that it's not YOU at the cross ties now that is setting him off. Make sure you are confident and quiet.

      I don't know your horse, but, there are some that a "correction" can make things worse.

      Before I would give up on cross ties, I would invest in the ones that are slow to release, I can't remember their name - blocker ties? They allow the movement of pulling back to be released slowly without the panic of being tied. And it gives you time to react. Quietly.

      Good luck.

      Comment


      • #4
        Just teach him to ground tie. Or use twine for a while attached to the end of the cross tie.

        Having been down this road with an anxious horse, it's best to just start over with cross tie training. He might do better with a single tie, he might do better starting back with cross ties in this stall. If he's backing up to break them, try having a solid wall behind him in the cross ties.

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        • #5
          Finnegan pulled out of a grooming halter one day on cross ties. He didn't want his left ear clipped.
          The next day, I switched over to a regular halter that he couldn't slip out of and he broke the cross ties twice. Next time I came out to the barn I put a rope halter on with the crossties and a lead rope. He leaned back to break the crossties and decided he really didn't like the bite of the rope halter and hasn't sat back against the cross ties since. It has been three years.

          However he wasn't aggitated, it had just become a game. If he was really anxious about being in the cross ties I would have handled it a little differently.
          Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)

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          • #6
            I agree with the rope halter. My horse learned that she could break crossties one day and then decided it was great fun to do this. She wouldn't go anywhere after she broke them, just stand there looking proud of herself, but I was getting really tired of re-tying the bailing twine that had broken. She managed to break a couple of leather halters, too. I got a rope halter for her and that took care of the problem in just one day. Those suckers don't feel good over their poll as they're pulling back. Make sure the rope halter is nice and snug, not loose, on the horses face.
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            • #7
              Use the cross ties with the board behind him. 1) the boards will limit how far back he can go and 2) they are in a different location from the scary cross ties

              Then add a crosstie on the far side and use a leadrope (tied to the side of the halter, just as a x tie is) to hold him in place as you are grooming. Switch x tie when you switch sides.

              For now, when you tack him up, I would tie him to the wall in a single ring.

              I have used the "Be Nice" / or war bridle rope halters on horses that pull and it works great. The Be Nice has a ring that goes through the noseband to attache a rope to so the whole thing tightens around his head if he pulls away. You can get them on ebay for under $10.

              EDITED to say that I just checke on ebay and they are now selling new for $50 - $77!!! OUTRAGEOUS!

              I bought one for $7 and then got soft rope and, using the one I bought, made several others -- in about 10 minute each. I even put knots where the pressure points are behind the ears.

              PSHAW. $77 for a rope halter which can be made for $3 of rope and 10 minutes of time. Grrrrrrr.
              "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

              Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't think the "be nice" halters are meant to be tied by the ring that you lead by!

                OP, sounds like something happened to set your horse off in the first place. Who knows what it was...maybe a painful muscle spasm? Now he assosicates that pain with the cross tie, particularly as he was allowed to think about what happened (just put in stall after). This is how quickly a phobia/negative association can develop.

                I would avoid cross ties for a while and hope he forgets the incident. When you do go back to cross tying, I would do it after you ride (when he should be relaxed) and see if you can recondition his response to being tied to being positive, using time and patience rather than force and "creativity"
                Freeing worms from cans everywhere!

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                • #9
                  You could try leaving a lead with chain on his nose while he is cross tied (you hold the end of the lead while grooming and tacking), and make sure the cross ties will break if pressured (baling twine, the velcro release kind, etc.). If he backs up and breaks the cross ties, he ends up with an angry you hanging on to a leadrope with a chain over the nose. This often works if the horse is really breaking the ties for his own amusement. Not sure I would try it if the horse is really scared, as that may make it worse.

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                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Thanks for all your suggestions!

                    The barn was busy today so I just tacked up in the stall - I think a break will help, along with getting him back into more regular work. I will try him with the boards behind him and one cross tie at a time.

                    I'm boarding now but will have my own place (yes!) in a couple of months. For that I will seriously look at the blocker ties. We have a 2yo Clydesdale who's been a star in cross ties so far, but I'd rather have something that's less likely to create a crisis than baling twine.
                    http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!

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                    • #11
                      I use the Velcro ties and love them. If the horse gets scared and backs up to that critical point, they quickly release and you're left with a nice 12" soft Velcro section dangling from the halter to catch him, instead of a long crosstie with a metal weight at the end flying around. Almost always, the horse just stands there once the Velcro releases. I did one time have one side not release, and the other emergency clip at the wall end of the crosstie came undone.

                      With a young horse who made a habit of slowly backing up and breaking the ties and then standing there looking pleased, I eventually would just quietly catch her and walk her forward and reVelcro her. She finally realized she wasn't accomplishing anything and wasn't pushing my buttons (or found other ways to do that!) and now stands well, looking bored.

                      I teach a lot of kids and novice adults, so 1. the schoolhorses are generally pretty well behaved, but 2. I need something that works (i.e. releases if truly necessary) without my having to be supervising at the horse's head all the time, if say I'm at the next crosstie down helping someone tighten a girth.
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                      • #12
                        One of my horses had this same habit for a few months and I found the perfect way to rid him of it with a little bit of experimenting. He was a TB also and very stubborn and clever, but this method worked and he hasn't pulled back since after repeating this whenever he attempted to pull.

                        First off, I always connect my cross ties to the wall with twine, just in case there is a true reason for the horse needing to escape. I would tie him with one cross tie and leave the other cross tie completely unhooked. I would snap his lead rope to where you would normally attach the cross tie on the halter, and loosely string the lead rope through the ring on the wall (but not tied, so it will go slack when he pulls back.)
                        Then I would go about my routine, but make sure to always be close to the lead rope. When he starts to pull back, immediately grab the lead rope before it goes completely through the ring, reprimand the horse, and have him stand nicely in the ties again. After just a few times of doing this, he figured out that he could no longer get away and that it was more pleasant just to stand there and get treats on the days he doesn't try to pull. After a while, it almost seemed like he forgot he could get away if he pulled back because he never truly got loose or far from the ties.

                        Good luck, I hope this method works with your horse!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I second the blocker tie - great tool

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Third on the blocker tie. They make pulling back really really boring and unrewarding for the horse.
                            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

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                            • #15
                              Blocker ring x10000. We finally put one on "the patience tree" once every young horse on the property discovered they could break the velcro tie (HATE those things) by throwing a very mild tantrum.

                              Good luck, OP. Pulling/setting back for amusement is one of my pet peeves as I've seen thousands of dollars of damaged caused. It is definitely a habit you need to fix sooner than later or the game becomes a very dangerous habit.
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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by NotAtTheBarn View Post
                                One of my horses had this same habit for a few months and I found the perfect way to rid him of it with a little bit of experimenting. He was a TB also and very stubborn and clever, but this method worked and he hasn't pulled back since after repeating this whenever he attempted to pull.

                                First off, I always connect my cross ties to the wall with twine, just in case there is a true reason for the horse needing to escape. I would tie him with one cross tie and leave the other cross tie completely unhooked. I would snap his lead rope to where you would normally attach the cross tie on the halter, and loosely string the lead rope through the ring on the wall (but not tied, so it will go slack when he pulls back.)
                                Then I would go about my routine, but make sure to always be close to the lead rope. When he starts to pull back, immediately grab the lead rope before it goes completely through the ring, reprimand the horse, and have him stand nicely in the ties again. After just a few times of doing this, he figured out that he could no longer get away and that it was more pleasant just to stand there and get treats on the days he doesn't try to pull. After a while, it almost seemed like he forgot he could get away if he pulled back because he never truly got loose or far from the ties.

                                Good luck, I hope this method works with your horse!
                                I like this - it's pretty much a variation of what I did with my TB who was just being a knob about cross ties and had no real reason to be breaking them.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by NotAtTheBarn View Post
                                  One of my horses had this same habit for a few months and I found the perfect way to rid him of it with a little bit of experimenting. He was a TB also and very stubborn and clever, but this method worked and he hasn't pulled back since after repeating this whenever he attempted to pull.

                                  First off, I always connect my cross ties to the wall with twine, just in case there is a true reason for the horse needing to escape. I would tie him with one cross tie and leave the other cross tie completely unhooked. I would snap his lead rope to where you would normally attach the cross tie on the halter, and loosely string the lead rope through the ring on the wall (but not tied, so it will go slack when he pulls back.)
                                  Then I would go about my routine, but make sure to always be close to the lead rope. When he starts to pull back, immediately grab the lead rope before it goes completely through the ring, reprimand the horse, and have him stand nicely in the ties again. After just a few times of doing this, he figured out that he could no longer get away and that it was more pleasant just to stand there and get treats on the days he doesn't try to pull. After a while, it almost seemed like he forgot he could get away if he pulled back because he never truly got loose or far from the ties.

                                  Good luck, I hope this method works with your horse!
                                  From the responses it seems like this is a fun game for a lot of TB's

                                  I tried this yesterday after giving him a good "semi-directed" free lunge. It worked perfectly!

                                  Used a different set of cross ties (not the scary ones) and didn't bother with the boards, just kept it simple and groomed him as usual. He started backing up right off but only a couple of steps - the lack of tension just seemed to make him stop. I swear he looked disappointed! So I didn't have to pull much, just told him to "Stop it!" each time, then asked him to walk up followed by much praise and petting.

                                  I will definitely continue this for a while, eventually moving back to the "scary" cross ties.

                                  Thank you!
                                  http://essas-storm.blogspot.ca/ An OTTB rescue/project found me!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Nezzy View Post
                                    Blocker tie rings saved me. My horse was always great in crossties, but one day decided the hose was going to get him and he freaked out and broke them. after that he broke out 2 more times until i got the blocker tie rings and learned to use them. Now he is fine again. no problems. You do need the thinner nylon lead ropes with them, tho. Cotton usually does not fit. http://www.blockerranch.com/
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                                    • #19
                                      How about getting him to give to pressure. You can use all the gimmicks you want, but at the end of the day, your horse is not halter broke yet.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        You are getting a lot of suggestions - as always with horses, it's down to which one works best for you. This is what I have used in the past and it worked great for a very sensitive, very smart horse. Before I go into detail though, next time this happens you shouldn't put him away after he breaks the tie. You rewarded him the first time. I understand that the circumstances may have had you rattled, but 1 + 1 = 2 in any horse's mind, and I'm afraid he learned all about breaking ties in that one instance because he didn't receive any education otherwise. In the future, if you don't want to put him in the ties again, at least do some ground work (and I'm not a natural horsemanship person, just a practical person - make the horse work his brain as a correction in SOME way) or replace a tie with a lunge line and teach him through it. Don't put him away without a lesson.

                                        First, work with pressure - especially on the pole. This is easy and takes next to no time - I often just do this as a pre ride check as well, incorporating the bit, etc.

                                        Then, invest in a GOOD rope halter. Someone else suggested this. I like the double diamond brand. Putting pressure on this type of halter reinforces the "hey, stop and give because it isn't comfortable to push against" concept.

                                        Look into investing into on of "The Clips". Google it and you will see what it is. Someone else suggested a blocker tie ring but this is an alternative. I think they are easier to use and they also take a wider variety of ropes. Yeah, it is kind of gimmicky, but I consider it a safety thing. It teaches the horse that there isn't really any point in pulling back because it gives limited resistance. Pretty quickly they stop trying and I've transitioned them back to a hard tie. I always use The Clip in the trailer though - my horses all learn to ground tie and I don't even bother tying them in the trailer, but I never know about that random one that catches a ride for a friend. Often I will unhook a new horse in the trailer with the clip still attached and just reattach them to the side of the trailer... keeps my stuff from getting busted and keeps the horse safe!

                                        Do consider teaching ground tying though. I think it is impractical to rely on it exclusively; I move a lot and board at many different places, and most places understandably want you to tie your horse. It is a good lesson to learn though and is training that reinforces good ground manners. I think of it as parking my beast of a horse
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