Teaching your horse to stand relaxed in the cross ties

There are many horses that feel tense and uncomfortable in the cross ties, who don’t want to enter the space, who struggle, who protest.

The anxiety can also be disguised – impatient pawing on the floor, weaving or even whinnying.

For some horses, the cross ties can be a very claustrophobic space, a place where they’re held and controlled; trapped, even.

This doesn’t mean that your horse can’t feel confident and relaxed when tied up, it just means that you need to show your horse the bits and pieces of the information that he is currently missing.

I worked with a very shy mare, for whom the cross ties were a very uncomfortable space that she’d rather just rush into, to get it over with.

But by letting her rush in, she also rushes past all the steps she needs to take to feel comfortable in such a tight and restraining space.

Before we start to work with the cross ties, you need to find a spot where your horse feels comfortable. This will be your spot to return to so your horse has a place where they can drain the built-up tension from their body.

I explain more about this first step in the video below.

Once you’ve found a good position to fall back to, it’s time to control the approach.

Every step forward will be a step towards the pressure zone. It’s important that you help to remind her to ground herself; lowering her head and relaxing the muscles in her body will subsequently relax her mind too.

For this mare, the approach is a set blueprint.

She knows she needs to turn around when being put in the cross ties, so you can see her thinking: “Okay, I got in, I now need to spin around because we always do so.”

It’s important that you break through that chain of thought and change it into one that’s way more relaxed.

At this point of the training, I again remind her of the relaxing and grounding methods, until I feel like she’s more relaxed in the space she’s in.

I let her look and feel until her thought changes to: “Oh, I am in this scary space, but I don’t feel like I have to turn around. I can actually explore a bit!”

That’s the moment I back out to her position of rest.

Building those steps further and further will eventually mean that you can move the position of rest.

Your horse will feel more comfortable in places closer to their place of pressure, in this case the cross ties.

It’s in moments like these where I like to reward the horse and remind them that we’re doing this to help them, not to argue with them.

I like to do that with a little pet and a break. Once you feel like your horse is ready, you can get back to your training.

You will notice that the progress is not gradual. You can take a step forward, but you’ll also have to take a step backward. It’s because you’re trying to change a horse’s way of thinking, a mental thought process that’s been established a long time ago.

It will take time and patience to rewrite that thought process in a way that’s more comfortable for the horse.

I want to press to your heart that it’s not about the end-game.

Your horse will only stand calmly in the cross ties once they understand what they’re doing there and don’t feel like they’re trapped for an indefinite amount of time.

Don’t rush through the steps, but take your time to explain to your horse why you’re doing the things you do.

Make sure that, at any given moment, you can let your horse take as many steps back or forward when you want them to.

That control will tell you that your horse feels balanced and comfortable in the situation you’re working in.

Standing calmly in the cross ties will be one of the many positive outcomes of that approach!

Get free access to my Reduce Tension Course

A stress-free horse anywhere, anytime, from trailer to competition, TRT Method gives you all the tools you need to give your horse a confident and relaxed life.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.