Question Category: Issues from the Ground
Question: I have a 7 year old quarter horse mare that as a rule is very easy going. About 1 month ago the barn she is boarded at had lice so I powdered her. When I was putting the powder on her neck she reared up in the cross ties. Luckily she settled down. Last week my daughter took out a powder to put on her cut and she went ballistic in the cross ties, reared up twice, broke the two by four in the roof of the barn, took the skin off the top of her head. Two days ago I was grooming her and she reared up again when a butterfly landed between her front hoofs and was just frantic. Can you offer me any advice as to why all of a sudden she’s obviously very upset in the cross ties.
Cross ties can be one of the most dangerous ways to tie a horse and there is an article about the risks and how you train a horse to cross ties, which you definitely need to read. According to the dictionary as written by the horse, cross ties are a gymnastic apparatus.
NEVER medicate, treat, fly spray or any thing else that might cause a horse discomfort or alarm when he is tied hard and fast. ESPECIALLY not in cross ties, which are after all, an apparatus for doing back flips. That would be dangerous and could initiate a catastrophic chain of events leading to injury to horse and human and/or a horse that pulls back in panic when he is tied. In cross ties, it is much easier for a horse to get tangled up and turn upside down in the cross ties (which is why they should ALWAYS have breakaways). A horse single tied in front to a safe tie wall won’t get in trouble as quickly as it can in cross ties.
Once a horse is trained to cross ties, they are reasonably safe there, as long as you don’t do something to provoke an incident. Read the article about cross tying in the Q&A section of my website for more information on training a horse to the cross ties. Of course, it is much easier to train them from scratch than to train over established behavior. Your mare has every reason to be afraid of the cross ties and this behavior has become engrained, so you’ll have to take it slowly with her.
If you must continue to cross tie rather than single tie, attach one side and use a long training lead to just loop through the tie ring on the other side. Hold the end of the long lead as you work around the horse. A 12-15 foot lead will work fine (you can order a training lead from my website if you don’t have one). Your mare will think she is cross tied but she is not tied hard and fast so you can manipulate the rope as needed to give her a release if she panics but control her movement as much as possible and teach her to stand and tolerate the confinement of her head. Take it slowly, training her from scratch.
These are the type of things you learn in the school of hard knocks horsemanship. The more time goes by and the more wrecks with horses you see, the more cautious and preventative you become. Horses don’t have to be nearly as risky as it seems; when people always operate with safety as the first priority, and they know enough to be able to foresee potential problems, it’s a pretty safe activity. But when they don’t, the wrecks can be huge. With horses, always plan for the worst case scenario, because sooner or later it will happen. Chalk this one up to experience and be grateful that no human was hurt, and only your horse’s psyche is a bit damaged. As Mark Twain said, “good judgment comes from experience, and a whole lot of that comes from bad judgment.” You know better now and hopefully that type of wreck won’t happen to you again.
Good luck and be safe,
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