Training A Horse Not To Pull Back

Most horses that pull back when tied firmly do not give well enough to the feel of the lead rope. When he feels the pressure on the halter he pulls harder. In these cases he has learned to fight against the pressure rather than give to it. I would be very vigilant about teaching him to lead well and give to the slightest feel of the lead rope. This needs to get really good before tying him up again. I never train our own horses to tie up. We just teach them to lead very well and the tying is taken care of in the process.

The other factor that often comes into play is that many horses panic when they feel confined. A horse should learn not to panic about being confined. Horses can pull harder because he knows he is trapped by the lead rope and wouldn't be able to get away if he needed. They are not so worried about being tied up, but more worried about not being able to flee if they need to.

Many trainers would recommend using a rope collar, a strong rope and a sturdy post. They would suggest tying him using the collar to a post and letting him pull until he gives up. Some will even fit hobbles to a horse in this situation and some will sack a horse out in an attempt to force them to struggle to learn they can't escape. I stay away from these methods. Even though some horses do eventually learn to stop pulling, these methods are dangerous and horses do get hurt and some have been killed. Not only are these practices potentially dangerous they are not necessary.

If you have a horse that pulls back, get a long rope, between 7 and 10 metres, and clip it to your halter. Wrap your rope around your tie up post 2 or 3 times or 4 times. The number of wraps will depend on how much resistance there is for the rope to slide around the post. You want enough resistance that if your horse gave a half-hearted attempt at pulling away the rope would not slide around the post. But if he panicked and pulled with almost everything he had you want the rope to slide around the post, albeit with some resistance. Once you have wrapped the rope around the post, take the tail end of the rope and go and sit in a chair with the end in your hand or where you can grab it quickly. Wait for your horse to pull away.

When he pulls away hard allow the rope to slide. The horse will pull for a short distance and then stop. He will discover that pulling away does allow his feet to move, but the pressure of the rope stays with him. I have never had a horse pull away more than 7 metres before stopping. When he stops and comes forward a fraction off the feel of the rope, go up to him and rub him gently. Lead him back to the post, shorten up the rope and start again. Sit in your chair and listen to the radio or read a book while you wait for him to pull again.

When he can stand there for whatever time you think is a good improvement, put him away for the day. The next day repeat the process. Each day choose a different location to tie him and different things to tie him up to such as a tree or float; if that's possible - make sure you alter the number of wraps to ensure the rope slides just enough when he pulls hard. It won't take long before he gets very comfortable about being hitched to a post or tree or float.

The reason I believe horses respond so well to this approach is that they don't feel trapped because it allows them to move - this inhibits the horse from escalating his panic (which is what gets them hurt in the method of tying them firm and letting them pull). But at the same time pulling takes considerable effort with little reward for the horse. It is the sliding of the rope that makes the change from a feeling of panic to feeling okay and also keeps the horse safe (as long as you are smart enough to make sure they are not pulling back into an electric fence or over a cliff!).

It takes effort on your part to be consistent and put in the time, but we have had great success with using this approach.
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You can see here how the rope is wrapped around the post and the horse is leaning against the rope.
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In this photo the horse has already pulled back against the feel of the rope, but as I allowed the rope to feed out he stopped after a few feet.
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The horse is being asked to come forward as I pull on the rope.
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You can see the horse has yielded to the feel of the rope and I release the pressure. This is one of the first steps in teaching a horse to tie up.
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Again, I walk away holding the rope and the horse is urged to step forward from the feel of the rope.
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The horse eventually gave to the rope and walked all the way to the post.
The horse in these photos was a confirmed puller. She came to us having a number of tying up accidents where she had reared up and fallen over backwards. She even shook loose a telephone pole that she was tied to.