Indy ties. He ties quite well. He also leads very well, and has excellent ground manners. I’d say it’s because I’ve been fortunate enough this spend a lot of time with him, but it’s not fortunate. It’s because I made time for him. I waited to breed until my life would allow me that time to spend with him. When he was born I actually had three jobs, three very time consuming jobs. I got up early, sacrificed time with friends (they just learned to come to the barn if they wanted to see me) and made the time. I’m not the only one who will handle him in his life. He will be boarded, he will be handled by barn staff, farriers, vets, and, should the unthinkable happen to me, someone else may have to step in and care for him. Unfortunately, not everyone has patience, and not everyone in the horse world is kind. I don’t want my horses to know abuse or have a fear of humans. Doing my part to teach them good manners will only make them easier for everyone to handle, and also they area less likely to be handled harshly. It also helps keep them safer in an emergency. I know that they both will easily go on a trailer, can be led by anyone, stand for hosing, stand in buckets for soaking, etc.
But I digress. I wanted to talk about how I taught Indy to tie and crosstie.
I have to first give credit to Shady, who has been an excellent role model for Indy. She has been incredibly patient with all the crazy things he, and I, do.
I began teaching him to tie in conjunction with teaching him how to be hosed and bathed. Does anyone think it is fun to try and hose off a full grown horse that has never seen a scary scary hose before?? Been there, not fun! Why wait? Take the time when they are little and less likely to kill you.
I had another set of hands and I took my time. The barn we were at had a nice set of crossties outside, with a fence on either side, creating a stall like feel. First, I introduced Indy to the area by walking him in while Shady stood next to it, being supportive as always. Then, I would crosstie Shady and lead Indy in next to her. I would have my helper hold Indy while I very gently turned the hose on, letting the water gently spray his hoof. Nobody likes being sprayed with a cold, hard stream, so I kept it very light. I would keep one hand on him, patting him and telling him he was a good boy. I then very, very slowly moved the hose up to about his knee, still patting and reassuring him. He was great, so I left him alone and hosed off Shady right next to him, being careful not to spray him. That was it for the day. He felt the hose, heard the noises, and saw the splashing around him as his mom stood very quietly for her hosing. Foals have a very short attention span and there is no need, or rush, to push them to their limits.
Over the next few days I did the same, using a helper to hold him so I could slowly begin to move the hose all over his body. A little more each day. Then we added in some shampoo and a rinse. His first bath. He seemed to like the sponge scrubbing him all over. He never really resisted the hose; he wasn’t too keen on it at first but never showed much of a fear of it. Soon I was able to hold him myself while hosing him, as he stood quietly next to Shady.
Eventually, I began needing two hands to be able to bathe him by myself. I began loosely tying the lead rope around the fence, in a loose slip knot that would easily come undone should someone panic. He was still fairly little at the time and if he did step back I could reach his bum to push him forward. He got the idea fast. Thanks to all the leading I had done, he had learned not to pull back.
Crossties too came easy for us. I began by putting Shady in the crossties and putting Indy in front of her. I would put a crosstie on one side of his halter and the lead rope on the other, with me holding the other end of the lead. I always kept these lessons short as Indy’s little attention span would get the best of him and he would start to squirm around or want to nurse.
I held the lead initially so I could have a little more control and be able to let go if something went wrong. I should also note that the area we were in had a solid wall on either side of Indy, and another about 8 feet behind him. With Shady in front of him, facing him, there really wasn’t a lot of places he could go.
Holding the lead also helped teach Indy boundaries. When he would try to turn sideways, I could use the lead to pull his hind end back to a straighter position. When he would go backwards I could apply pressure and then soften when he came forward. When he showed signs of understanding the crosstie, I added the other one. Shady was very patient, standing quietly as a great example while I groomed Indy. It helped of course that he loves to be groomed. Grooming to him was a great reward for standing still and tied like a big boy.
I always, always keep these training sessions short. There is no rush and no reason to push a foal beyond their comfort level mentally. I will have a better horse, and a better relationship with my horse for our lifetime together.