By Patty Wilber
A horse that can “ground tie” stands in place, without eating, when you drop the reins or lead rope and say “whoa!”
This can be useful if, say, you are fixing fence on the prairie where there are no trees and you don’t feel like tying your trusty steed to a barbed wire fence.
Or maybe when you are packing out elk quarters and the trees nearest the kill are not so near.
Or if you keep entering horse show events like Ranch Versatility or Ranch Trail where they make you ground tie in the arena AS IF you’d actually use your gazillion dollar show horse on the prairie or hauling elk.
Oh wait, I would do that with my (gazillion dollar) show horses.
Unfortunately, none of mine ground tie.
I have never taught a horse to ground tie, so I looked on the amazing Internet. I checked out Cherry Hill, Lynn Palm, and Charles Wilhelm.
(I also phoned a trainer friend, but he hasn’t done ground tie training either. He suggested an Internet search for Corky Randal, trick horse trainer –who also happens to have passed away…)
So back to my first three.
Cherry Hill had detailed, clear (mainly), step by step instructions. She starts ground tie training with a hobbled horse in a round pen…but…
I want my horses to graze when hobbled and when ground tied I do not want them to snack, so, on to:
Lynn Palm. She had much more general directions, but I have used some of her ground work stuff before–went to a clinic of hers in College Station, TX (College Station, TX must be said with a drawl) in 1986 and I still think it was one of the best clinics I have ever attended.
Lynn is big on doing a new maneuver in a particular location until the horse gets it, then moving to a new spot. Her ground tie progression was stall, barn aisle, round pen, arena, field.
That seemed like a long time for a relatively simple (I am hoping it is simple) task.
Charles Wilhelm’s program was: go to an arena with your haltered horse on a 12 foot lead line. Set them up square (one foot at each corner of the body, essentially, like you would do for a halter class), say “Whoa!” and walk away. The horse will follow. Turn around, back them up vigorously, set them up, say “Whoa!”
Pretty soon they just stay there. Takes about four lessons.
Perfect–I am writing this on Monday, so by Friday morning I will post the blog while my horse is ground tied on the “lawn “outside. She can look in and I will be able to shout “Whoa!” through the double-paned argon-filled windows, and I am certain she will be as still as an ice cube in the freezer. Or will be eating.
I thought about conducting a training test. Lacey could be taught with Cherry Hill’s method, LT with Lynn Palm’s and Toots with Charles Wilhelm’s.
But then I figured that was not a fair test because Toots, who is the quietest and most compliant, will likely be the easiest to train, regardless of method.
Also, LT is bright but busy and Lacey has been on vacation for six weeks…
The “study” would have too many uncontrolled variables.
Fine, Charles Wilhelm, Toots, Lacey and LT will be at the mercy of your method, starting Tuesday.
Rode Toots (ok, sat on her) while I gave a lesson . Toots slept through most of that, head about six inches off the ground. Then I actually worked her. Finally, I tried ground tie training. Set her up, said,”Whoa!” and walked off about five feet. She drooped her head to her peanut roller height and nearly fell asleep.
UM??? It can’t be that easy. So, tried to walk a circle around her and then she did want to follow me. Reset (and not vigorously either). Went around her. Both directions. Toots: Not Moving.
Rode Lacey (second ride in six weeks) and she did NOT feel like a bomb with a lit fuse this time, so we even got to trot… Finished with the ground tie training. In contrast to Toots, I had to reset Lacey (vigorously) at least 15 times before she figured out that just standing there (with me a few feet away) was the easier thing to do. No walking around her today.
Forgot to try it with LT! Oops.
Toots, on the gravel, square and not moving.
Toots, on the weeds. Her head started dipping toward the those semi-palatable stalks, but a single verbal “Eenh!” stopped that.
Um, that was ridiculously perfect on Toot’s part.
LT, Lacey and Stetson hung around the gate the whole time I was playing with Toots. Lacey was watching.
So I got Lacey out.
Lacey, on the gravel, square and not moving.
Deja vu with a horse of a different color.
Lacey tried the “i can’t hold up my head” trick: too, and just like Toots, stopped on a single verbal reprimand.
That went sort of amazingly well.
Only had time for Toots.
Put her on the lawn in front of the computer window.
She ate the grass! Shouting through the window was wholly ineffective, so I opened it and shouted instructions to Mojo’s (the Fjord) Mom instead (she is a better listener than Toots) on how to tell Toots to keep her head up and greenery off her brain. Even with eating, Toots did not move her feet.
In about five tries, Toots had it, and stood patiently while I fiddle-farted around snapping pictures out the window!
Through the window.
Well, good on ya, Charles Wilhelm! That worked like a charm!
Now I guess I should try it on LT...that might produce a whole other story, possibly unfit for family consumption!
Regular practice will be needed to get ground tying all wrapped up, but if I fail to follow through, at least I can get the maneuver showable in Toots in just a few days!
I would probably be too chicken to try it while packing elk–but maybe next year after 12 months of practice!