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Discussion on Rearing in Cross Ties

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Susan Bawer
New Member
Username: Sbawer

Post Number: 1
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 5, 2003 - 1:25 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

My 20 year old TB gelding has started rearing when in cross ties. He has never had any behavior problems before. This behavior started a month ago when a saddle fell from a rack and scared him. Since then he has reared 4 times, breaking the cross ties and running into his stall. What has set him off has been a hose, lifting his hoof, moving a blanket...etc.
Any suggestions are appreciated. He seems very nervous in the ties. Thanks.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Username: Dro

Post Number: 7744
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Friday, Feb 7, 2003 - 6:02 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello Susan,
I am afraid the scare and more important the breaking ties have caused him to lose confidence in the cross ties. This is critical for you to understand: had the ties not broke the horse would not be exhibiting this behavior. He would have fought awhile and then settled down. Everytime he breaks them again things are worse.

You have several alternatives open to you and the one you choose depends on your skill and willing to accept some degree of risk:
  • The first and safest is to just assume he will not cross tie and find other ways to get stuff done.
  • Traditional is to find the safest and securest way to tie him into a set of cross ties that will not break and prevent him from flipping over and let him work this out himself. Once he convinces himself he cannot break them he will not try them as often but you must continue with these ties until you are sure he will not do this again. The problem with this system is he may injure himself during the learning phase. See the article associated with this forum for more on this.
  • Lastly you might try a positive reinforcement regimen designed to reward a relaxed behavior while in the ties. By identifying the points where he starts becoming nervous and preventing them from growing with small food rewards you slowly work him through the procedures he seems to have unlearned. The first problem is that most people do not understand the principles and try to make him behave with the food and thereby end up rewarding the undesired behavior. The second problem with such a idea is the behavior is so explosive that you have little time to react and everytme he does this things are worse. I would still make the ties unbreakable. For more on this see Training Horses Training the Mind of Your Horse Modifying a Horses Behavior: Conditioned Responses.

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Renee Abrams
Username: Mrenee

Post Number: 15
Registered: 3-2002
Posted on Friday, Feb 7, 2003 - 10:09 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I agree with Dr. O, however, I kind of see a little "I can get out of here and run to my stall" attitude. And I would correct the rearing. Your horse will associate rearing with escaping work etc...once they learn a trick like that they usually find other ways of using it. Personally, I would make the ties unbreakable, halter unbreakable (like a rope halter) and let the horse figure out that escape is not an option anymore. If he continue to rear, I would cut that out too. The way I address rearing is when the horse is in the air, I use a springy dressage whip on the lower legs. Make sure the whip is not stiff and unyielding, you dont want to hurt the horse, just correct the legs in the air. The second he is back on the ground stop the correction. Be careful while he is in the crossties, you don't want him to flip over. Usually, I just hit the legs once. I would leave his leadrope on, and if he reared, I would grab the leadrope and slap the legs. By grabbing the leadrope, and pulling down while you use the whip, he shouldn't go over backwards. Of course, like Dr. O says, this all depends on your expertise and ease with dealing with explosive situations. I would not suggest attempting this if you are a beginner. Mentally go over in your mind what the steps will be so you can quickly execute what you plan. You don't want to be hesitant in the moment.
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Christine C. Mills in NC
Username: Chrism

Post Number: 884
Registered: 4-1999
Posted on Friday, Feb 7, 2003 - 5:23 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I'm going to assume his is a panic response and not a willful "I won't" response. I think this is more likely because he runs around in his stall after - big flee response. Just my feeling. In any case, perhaps using cross ties that have a bit of give will help him. They make ones that are bungie like and when he pulls back in panic they give and he can compose himself without feeling constrained. You can catch the moment and steady him, reward him for stepping forward into the cross ties.

Try cross tying him for brief moments and don't leave him. Praise him and untie him. Gradually build it in very small chunks over time.

Also, you can try putting a figure 8 body wrap on him while he is tied. For some reason, this can steady a horse that is frightened. Use 2 polo wraps tied end to end and wrap it in a figure 8 with a loop around his chest, criss-cross over his back and the other loop around his butt.

The security of feeling confined is one of the principles Temple Grandin (sp?) uses when she consults about humane animal slaughter. If you've not heard of her, she is very interesting and worth a google to read more about her techniques.

In any case, I'd try to maintain my composure, be very calm and not overract. I'd also try to make all the cross tie experiences end successfully, even if only for a short minute.

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Username: Valerieg

Post Number: 27
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, Feb 10, 2003 - 4:55 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

This is just an FYI:

A smart Polish warmblood took advantage of a snowy and icy walk last winter when we were walking up to the barn. I thought I was going to slip and I thought he was, too. In that second, he took off running. I still had the lead rope and attempted to run with him (for about 3 feet) hoping I could stop him. I had to let go or run into a pole. He took off running around a large paddock that had 3 horses in it and was racing one of the ones inside. It was snowy and slippery but it didn't seem to phase him one bit. Another helper in the barn came out to help. The horse came running up to where we were and reared up and she just raised her arm straight up in front of him. He immediately came down and just stood there. I asked her later how did she know to do that - she didn't really know-just thought it made him snap out of it. A few months later, my horse (at another barn) became very scared of a black mat. He reared up and broke one of the cross ties - the other very close to breaking and I didn't know what to do. I remembered she had raised her arm - so I tried it. My horse immediately dropped to the ground and stood there. The motion is not necessarily threatening - it's more that I am putting my hand up in his line of vision and it stops his train of thought - like it interrupted his current actions. He has reared up on a few more occassions (play, not fear, this time) and he still drops down and stands there. I was worried he would take the action as aggressive and attempt to defend - but since I hadn't touched him - I am just raising my arm above my head, he didn't take it that way.

If anyone can think of a reason why this has worked - and any reason why it could be dangerous - please respond!
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