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Cross-ties/straight tying spin off...Has anyone seen a horse hurt themself?

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  • Cross-ties/straight tying spin off...Has anyone seen a horse hurt themself?

    The post on a horse discovering he has the power to break cross-ties got me a'thinkin. I've been around horses for almost twenty years now, and have seen some ugly things happen, but I've (huge knock on wood) have never seen a horse significantly hurt themselves pulling back on either a cross or straight tie. A few different scenarios from my past come to mind immediately: (prepare yourself, this isn't short)

    Tying Lesson #1: First trainer ever had an orphaned (spoiled rotten) filly. Trainer had converted all of her horses, and most boarders, to stiff rope halters ala-Buck Branaman style. Filly is tied (quick release) knot to a ring in the wall, and pitches The. Fit. Sits, pulls, scrambles and scares the bejeezus out of myself and a couple other young girls. Trainer watches, relaxed, and informs us to just "Wait her out. We can't help her now or she'll hurt us. Plus she has to learn the hard way." Apparently filly had managed to pull herself loose previously. THAT phrase has forever been cemented in my mind.

    Tying Lesson #2: I'm bathing ex-BO's monster-sized QH. Wash rack is a concrete slab with a HUGE hitching rail with both ends sunk in the ground. Rail is nailed onto posts with railroad-size nails. Unbeknownst to me, another girl had freaked this horse out (no surprise once I heard about it) and he had pulled back and broken his halter a few days before. Today he was in a rope halter (easier to bathe in). He is standing quietly, then randomly sits and pulls so hard, the hitching rail moves. Seriously. Thank god the horse stopped himself, because if he had pulled that thing loose...Oiy. Before the incident with the other girl the horse had no history of pulling. I worked the horse 4-5 days a week, so something tells me a habit like that would have shown up eventually. However, after the incident, the horse would randomly sit and pull whenever the mood struck. He would pull until the halter broke, but if he was in a rope halter, he would only pull until the point where a regular halter would have broken, and finding himself still "caught", would give up.

    Tying Lesson #3: Old friend's horse was a HORRIBLE puller, and had even come close to pulling over his trailer (according to him, I did not witness this) at one point. He tried everything he knew of to fix the horse, and he only got worse and worse. Eventually horse went to a stock yard for a couple months (ugly divorce). Cowboys down there told Friend they could fix him, but it might kill him. Friend says ok because horse has caused so much damage at this point he didn't know what else to do. They tie horse with two halters. Both breakaway, with a lasso going through both of them and secured around his neck. Horse pulled, broke one halter, then the other, then hit the lasso. Knocked horse to his knees (by the way it sounded, it choked him) but he has never pulled again.

    When I got my current horse as a long 2-year old, he was already accustomed to being tied, but I wanted to cement the fact that when he was tied, he was TIED. He spent many hours being tied to the barn, the trailer, his stall, anywhere I could safely put him, and the couple of times he gave a half-assed attempt at pulling, he failed (rope halter) and gave up. He has (knock on wood) not had a problem being tied or cross-tied anywhere, ever.

    That's the way things were done in the Midwest. Now that I have lived on both coasts, I've heard horror stories of horses severely hurting and even killing themselves when they pulled and couldn't get loose. However, I've seen more horses pull back for recreational reasons out here than I ever did back home. There is a 5yr TB who once he learned he could break the cross ties has been a 50/50 chance at tying ever since.

    So what have you COTH's seen/witnessed as far as a horse pulling getting hurt? I find it odd that in twenty years I've not seen this, yet a LOT of people refuse to use anything but a leather or breakaway halter because of the potential dangers.
    runnjump86 Instagram

    Horse Junkies United guest blogger

  • #2
    I wasn't there, so I didn't see it happen, but one of my aunt's homebred TB two year olds fillies was in the wash stall. She apparently sat back and broke the cross-ties. In the process she also managed to snap an artery or vein in her neck (up high in the top of the neck). She bled out before the vet could get there.

    I never found out what anyone thought caused her to sit back.


    • #3
      At a barn I was once at a large pony pulled back from a straight tie and flipped over backwards, cracking her head on the concrete. She nearly died. The vet came out and among other things, gave i.v. dmso. It stank up the whole barn but the pony did recover although there were lasting neurological problems.

      My pony can be a puller and has broken a few crossties, once she fell butt first into a muck bucket. It smashed the muck bucket but she was only scraped a little.
      My blog: Crackerdog Farm


      • #4
        Actually I've dealt with a couple of cases where they got hurt because they did get themselves loose but that was due to either the halter or cross ties breaking during a panic situation AND landing on an unforgiving surface. In both cases the horses were in cross ties, spooked, pulled back and one slipped (wash rack with wet floor, rubber mats didn't make a difference), lost their balance, flipped and fractured its skull. I had to euthanize her in the end. The other was a similar incident though the horse didn't lose it's balance due to the footing. The force it hit the cross ties with when it reared and set back was so great that when the cross ties broke it fell back into the wall and then flipped over also hitting it's head and receiving severe enough trauma that seizures began. This was not the first time the horse had done something like that in the cross ties and the owner insisted on euthanasia so whether or not the skull was fractured I never pursued far enough to find out. I can say from the symptoms that the horse suffered a severe concussion.

        As for pulling back when tied, I've dealt with a few neck injuries on youngstock, some severe. In these cases the rope and/or halter did not break.
        Ranch of Last Resort


        • #5
          Years ago I had a pony that used to panic on cross ties. Apparently one day the farrier came when we weren't there and tied her to a fence (she had never been tied before and was maybe 3 at the time). After that she was terrible on cross ties. We bought a longish bungee cord and put snaps at either end, one side attached to a loop of baling twine and the other to her halter. When she pulled back it would stretch and she would relax ( never tried to pull to the end of it) and that was the end of it with her. Looking back I probably wouldn't try that with another horse but it worked for her.


          • #6
            If mine are tied, I use a neck rope or cow collar, not anchored by their halter.

            I have seen neck damage done with halter tied horses, nerve damage that happened when halter failed and horse flipped over backwards. The WORST damages seem to happen when someone ties a foal, very young animal and they don't know how to give to pressure. They often get permanent damages, think Wobblers.

            My horses are taught to GIVE to pressure when we start their tie-up lessons as yearlings. They have been well handled, led, from foals on, but never tied, see above paragraph for why. None of my baby horses gets the CHANCE to damage themselves by being tied, they have baby brains and are not safe to tie that young.

            We teach the give-to-pressure lessons until they respond correctly EVERY time. They learn this in the stall first, totally understand. I then advance to a belly rope, teach them to GIVE and move forward when the belly rope is pulled. When they have that lesson, with NO HESITATION at giving and moving forward with pull, they are FINALLY ready to start being tied. We use a BIKE innertube with a welded ring to tie high on the wall (about eye high on yearling colt), since a bike tube GIVES too, unlike car innertubes. I CAN'T make a car innertube stretch, so young horse can't either.

            Colt is tied with the belly rope, long end goes thru halter chin ring to keep head facing the tie point. Tie rope has a fair amount of slack, he can lower head to chest, but not turn around. He is in the box stall, so his rump will hit the other wall (12ft x12ft) as rope snugs up. He can't get back far enough to really pull or fight, just will feel the tight belly rope and should move forward again. So far we have NEVER had a fight with a young horse, they all learn easily what we want and cooperate.

            We tie them for longer and longer periods of time with the belly rope, ALWAYS are under supervision, though not being much talked to or petted during tie-up time. Then they get moved outside for more time tied with belly rope, to a post or our solid wall, as things happen around them. As they continue to show steadiness, behave well, they will probably get changed to a neckrope or the cow collar, with the rope end still run thru the halter chin strap and tied to the anchor point.

            We own NO hitch rails. We have seen TOO MANY accidents with horses pulling back, cross rail comes off, posts uproot or pulled horse then goes OVER the cross rail to hang up on top. If a horse goes down while tied, they slide UNDER the hitch rail, causing OTHER problems.

            I learned about belly ropes from Western Horseman MANY years ago, modified what they showed. Way back then, we had pretty cheap, untrained horses that were too big to fight with. Belly rope method was a good way to tie and not let them hurt themselves. Do tie HIGH if you use it. Those kind of horses were the ones who fought the halters, flipped over, damaged themselves, because equipment failed, horse had gotten loose a few times! Belly rope was only as harsh as the horse made it, and for many animals the Big Squeeze removed ALL THOUGHT of fighting and they learned to be good citizens. They do need supervision in case they should slip, need the rope untied and get them up to retie to continue learning. Method may be too harsh for folks here, but I never saw any kind of damage done beyond a few scrape marks. NOTHING permanently damaged by ropes or halters in nerves or bones, like seen when using other methods. I don't like rope halters, seen quite a bit of damage, from rope digging into horse or burns done with them fighting, so we never use them at all.

            The neckrope, cow collar methods of tying are nice because they place any kind of pull, further back on the neck over muscle layers. Horse is pulling neck rope or collar on neck musles. Not pulling on his halter where the strap is right on the spine/skull joint where he can be so easily hurt. Both neckrope and cow collar can't tighten, they have fixed settings so they fit around the neck and stay at that size. This photo shows a neck rope on the front horse, cow collar on the rear horse. He wears a cow collar because he can remove his halter and neck rope, this is the ONLY method we have found to keep him "dressed" while tied. Never had any other horses who got a neck rope off when tied. I use GOOD halters with heavy hardware that won't break, good thick cotton rope with good snaps and rings, not going to break with a pull or even a fight.


            My horses are tied hard and fast, every time they get tied. I don't want them hurting someone by getting loose using the binder twine or breakaway halters. Loose horses I see always seem to get hurt or cause hurt to other WELL BEHAVED animals that were not doing anything wrong!! Mine are not allowed that option. We go to many places, some they could get lost in or easily hurt, if they got loose to run freely. Not going to happen. I am there to protect THEM from other loose animals, which I have had to do. They depend on us for that while tied, reward us with their good behaviour.

            There is no reason a horse should not be taught to tie well. If horse has broken that tie training, he needs to be reschooled in tying, though the method is a bit hard. But harshness is HIS CHOICE, if he doesn't behave as taught. We have reviewed the give-to-pull lessons, he KNOWS how to remove it, doesn't CHOOSE to behave correctly.

            I have had to do the tie-up training with purchased animals, so they learn tying is NOT optional. Had a couple who objected and found out they had no choice in the matter. Oddly, some were good for X amount of time, THEN blew up and fought. Like riding lesson horses, TIME IS UP! " I have been good, let me go or ELSE I will be BAD", thinking. They all learned well from the belly rope, stood well for as LONG as I chose to tie. Were better horses to deal with in every facet of activity later.


            • #7
              Had a mare flip over. She was straight tied to a hitching post. The lead rope was a quick release knot tied to a loop of bailing twine. She freaked and pulled back. The twine did not break immediately. Before anyone could get to her head to attempt to free her, the twine did snap. At that point she was basically sitting and had all her weight against the rope. When it let go, she flipped completely onto her back. Ultimately she was okay, but had some swelling on her rump and back for a few days. The whole thing took only seconds to happen. Sometimes you can do everything right and the freak accident still occurs.


              • Original Poster

                I completely agree that freak accidents do happen. They ARE animals, after all. But I also completely agree that in most places, especially if you are not "safe and sound" at home, a loose horse can cause more damage to itself or others.

                goodhors, I have a hard time picturing your method, but it sounds pretty damn solid. Once again I agree that pullers and horses who don't tie NEED to re-learn the lesson. My gelding got his rope halter stuck on the sliding latch on his stall door (years ago, old barn) because I hadn't slid the door shut and he was able to stick his nose out. He panicked for about five seconds, but when he couldn't get free he just stood and looked at me like "Mom! HELP!" He's gotten himself into a few situations that could have been catastrophic, but because (at least I think) he learned early on that he wasn't going to get loose from pulling and panicking, he has avoided injury.
                runnjump86 Instagram

                Horse Junkies United guest blogger


                • #9
                  Belly rope I use is a rope with a big ring on one end, with other end run thru the ring, located around the barrel of horse behind withers. Long rope end is brought forward thru the front legs, up to and thru halter chin ring, then tied to your anchor point. Using a welded ring allows rope to tighten and LOOSEN easily for learning to give to the pull of rope end.

                  My small, young horses have a thick cotton rope we use for belly rope lessons. Older horses have a lariat belly rope with a big (3")welded steel ring replacing the hondo for better slide and release of pressure when horse gives to pull and moves forward. Makes for FAST reward, horse gets that reward fixed in his head quickly, so he can reward himself easily in the learning process.

                  John Lyons had some good information about teaching horse to give head to pressure, because it does seem a great many horses get snagged by the halter or bridle, usually panic. With TRAINING on give to pressure, handler can ask horse to "give" and unhook the halter or bridle before horse gets damaged.

                  Ours also get some Hobble training, which makes them more accepting if they do get snagged, held unexpectedly. Has come in helpful when we got two hung up in the smooth wire, didn't tear themselves up fighting. Hobble training is not that hard, just another "Weird thing Mom makes us do" from the horse viewpoint. Big sigh, "YES MOM, we CAN stand here with our leg being held onto." They are not excited, just kind of act put-upon, long suffering looks on their faces while they learn to stand quietly with legs hobbled. I use burlap hobbles I make up, never purchased ones. Purchased ones never seem to be wide enough for our horses, with their big chests. Actually appear painful when legs are pulled that tight together, so I don't use the purchased ones at all.

                  I only use the hobbles for standing uses, never turn them loose in them. I want horses to learn to STAND in them, not think they can travel in hobbles. Hobble lessons also are done over longer periods of time standing, so horse understands staying put. Helpful with the impatient horse tied to a trailer, who is PAWING and damaging your trailer side!!

                  Sounds like your old horse taught himself a good lesson without hurting himself, and it was a huge benefit to his safety!!


                  • #10
                    Remember a friend telling of a breeder who tied his youngsters to inner tubes firmly tied to trees. They pull, the tube gives, they give tube gives.

                    Never had to try it.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                    • #11
                      Whatever you do, do not do this:


                      Warning: GRAPHIC!

                      Really, if you do not know how to teach a horse to give to pressure so they don't learn to pull back, get someone to do it for you.

                      I am guessing that these horses were injured but the, um, "trainers" were too dumb to notice. IMHO.


                      • #12
                        A friend was given a really nice colt by her brother.
                        The helpful brother decided, before hauling the colt to her, to halter break it.
                        Most that do that use a flat halter, to be sure the pressure is not too strong behind the ears on the neck, as a rope halter can do, but he used a rope halter.
                        The colt fought and broke a vertebrae high up in the neck, as per x-rays.
                        He is now five and still holds his head crooked, can't turn his head but a little to one side, but rides lightly nicely.
                        He was lucky.

                        Yes, you have to teach a colt first to give and then not tie hard and fast right off the first few times you teach them to stand there.

                        Some use a rubber inner-tube to tie, so there is a bit of give, not such a hard hit at the end of the rope.
                        We tie colts by running the rope over a higher pipe and tying to the lower one, so the rope has a bit of play, plus we have worked with the colts to teach them to give first.

                        With young foals and weanlings, you can't believe how fast they can flip over if they feel tight before they learn to give.
                        I know a "colt breaker" that held onto the rope, the weanling flipped, hit his head and died in a few minutes, very, very sad.


                        • #13
                          goodhors - You wouldn't happen to have any photos of the belly rope in action. I understand what you are saying, but the visual learner in me is screaming "photo, photo"

                          We always did the innertube thing w/I-won't-be-tied horses. A tree was involved - no concrete or other stuff around - in a paddock. And the horses were never left there without someone keeping an eye on them.

                          We don't raise babies as a rule but have had a few throughout the years. We have been VERY fortunate that through lots of handling & training from the moment they hit the ground (and they were well wired in the brain department!), we've never had one of our homebreds to have tying issues. As for cross ties...whenever we've introduced those, we've started them in a stall or area of the barn where there are solid walls around them. They back up a couple of steps to pull and there is a wall...plus someone on hand to say "whoa".

                          These horror stories make me realize just how fortunate we've been.


                          • #14
                            Our old vet always told us about the belly rope and how many horses he had treated that injured their withers with that.
                            He was violently against that method.

                            Maybe if you use one over a saddle, so the saddle takes the brunt of the pull ...


                            • #15
                              When I was a teenager, one of my first OTTB resale projects flipped over on the cross-ties. He was never riding sound again in the time I had him. That was a lesson I wish I hadn't learned the hard way...

                              I also had a TB mare break her shoulder right in front of me while straight-tied in a stall. That was a freak accident, but another lesson learned.

                              Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                              Remember a friend telling of a breeder who tied his youngsters to inner tubes firmly tied to trees. They pull, the tube gives, they give tube gives.

                              Never had to try it.
                              I do this to teach babies to tie. I don't use a tree- I do supervised sessions in the stall with a quick release panic snap on a stretchy, thin inner tube. Thin inner tubes are great for little ones because they have lots of "give," but adult horses can break them and send dangerous, projectile objects at your head (ask me how I know ).
                              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                              • Original Poster

                                Originally posted by Texarkana View Post

                                Thin inner tubes are great for little ones because they have lots of "give," but adult horses can break them and send dangerous, projectile objects at your head (ask me how I know ).
                                Bahahaha...the mental video of this is rather amusing, so long as nobody gets injured.

                                So to pose another probably controversial question regarding tying, do any of you think that only using breakable halters and/or ties, just in case a horse pulls, creates more of a problem, or avoids potential injury?
                                runnjump86 Instagram

                                Horse Junkies United guest blogger


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by runNjump86 View Post
                                  Bahahaha...the mental video of this is rather amusing, so long as nobody gets injured.

                                  So to pose another probably controversial question regarding tying, do any of you think that only using breakable halters and/or ties, just in case a horse pulls, creates more of a problem, or avoids potential injury?
                                  The problem is not the tying there, but that you be where if the horse gets loose, it is not going to harm others, like running out into a highway and kill someone in a wreck.

                                  If that were to happen and you had a break away halter, I expect you could be found guilty, not be an unavoidable accident, for not at least trying to keep your horse from running loose.

                                  There is pulling back and there is panic, I am going to do whatever it takes, if it kill me and anyone around me pulling back.

                                  Some horses are not the few that just can't be tied and those, well, you need to find another way to keep them confined, always, or risk them and others getting hurt.


                                  • #18
                                    I worked at a barn for 5 months that taught their horses to tie simply by putting a nylon halter on them, a rope tied directly to the halter, and then tied securely to a post or tree. They did this with the 7-9 month old foals for a week or two and then start all over with them as 3yr olds. None of those horses ever had problems and were great tiers. My own horse, who was a product that that halter training, is fantastic to tie, he never even tests the rope and he will tie anywhere, no matter what is happening (I do now keep a breakaway halter with him and these days he is always tied to a quick release...)

                                    More recently we had a mare that pulled back all the time. She broke halters, the baling twine on the cross ties, you name it and she pulled back with it and broke it. We switched her to a rope halter and added more baling twine to the cross ties so it wouldn't break so easily. She tried to pull back and couldn't get it to break, jumped forward to get it to break, and after several attempts and not succeeding to break free she hasn't pulled back since and stands like a doll on the cross ties.

                                    I am sure freak accidents happen and I knew a horse that couldn't be tied (would sit back at the slightest bit of pole pressure) but in my experience it is the exception, not the rule.
                                    "I'm too sexy for my blanket, too sexy for my blanket, these mares-they should take it..." (J-Lu) - Featuring The Skypizzle Pony aka Classic Skyline


                                    • #19
                                      Using breakaways absolutely can cause problems, I hate them. My Quillin halters are much heavier so it takes actual force to break them.

                                      I do have a story though. A friend had a horse that didn't cross tie, the girl leasing him cross tied him, he flipped over, and killed himself. I forget exactly what injury he had but definitely happened. He was in a wash stall standing on a concrete pad.

                                      Before I boarded at one barn they had a foal get a halter stuck on the latch of the door (open with a stall gate) and break its neck.

                                      It does happen. So I always tie with a breakaway or leather unless I am standing right there and really never tie with nylon. But I would if the horse was developing that habit, although I wouldn't leave the horse.

                                      I also witnessed a horse pull back and take a hitching rail with him and a few other horses attached. Not good, freak accident. FIL saw a horse take off with a gate attached to his halter this past year.

                                      So most importantly be careful what you tie to.


                                      • #20
                                        Picture of how we tied foals every day with their mothers, while we cleaned their pens.
                                        That was done from the day they were born for three weeks, until the mother was out of foal heat, then they were turned out to pasture, foals strong enough to run with the herd and already used to humans and what humans do.
                                        This foal is a few days old, already a hand at tying.
                                        You can see the rope has some play along the top pipe, so it has some give to it.
                                        The same foal at weaning time, just being worked with, someone was holding him there, then tied for a bit, the same routine they had as foals.
                                        In all the many years and foals, we never once had one that became a puller.
                                        You can barely see the other foal he was weaned with, already tied: