Yes, I am sure this will get a lot of disagreement from horse owners, but remember, my site is based on “if I were a horse”. What horse really wants to be confined to a rope tied on both sides of their head so they can’t see what dangers may be behind them? Definitely not my Cheyenne and I think now that I don’t cross tie Bailey anymore, she is not missing that confined feeling either.
Bailey was previously kept in the typical large barn format of cross tying your horse when grooming and tacking up. The barn feature stalls on both sides, and when the owner brings out their horse to brush and tack up, they attach a type of lead rope to each side of the horses halter, confining the horse right down the center of the aisle. When I first looked to purchase Bailey she was cross tied, and she stood like a champion. I never had an issue or thought regarding cross tying Bailey or any horse for that matter.
All that changed when Miss Cheyenne joined the family. I went to look at Cheyenne to purchase her and she was at the owner’s home. She stood ground tied outside while we saddled her up. When I brought her home to my barn, I did what I always had been doing with Bailey, I cross tied her between my barn doors. I didn’t realize the potential for danger until it happened. The first time I cross tied her, there was no problem. It was a fast tack up and I never left her side. The next day I cross tied her again, and I was spending some new owner quality time grooming her. She was calm, and everything seemed fine until she exploded from the cross ties pulling the rings with the lead ropes attached right out of the barn molding. She almost flipped over. There was no warning, and it was very scary to witness. I was using safety release cross ties that did not release as intended and were mounted at the proper height and length as recommended for my horse and location. I tried to come up with a reason for the unexpected behavior of my new horse. Was it a painful horse fly bite or bee sting that startled Cheyenne? Now day three of owning and cross tying her, and we are all tacked up when she explodes again with no warning. This time I only had lead ropes looped on hooks on each side of the barn since she had pulled the rings out the day before.
I knew, at least temporarily, I could not cross tie this horse.
I started googling, how to teach your horse to cross tie, but of course, that also led to the dangers of cross tying that I had already witnessed. There were lots of great suggestions to teach her, but I had a horse that didn’t seem to have an issue standing quiet as much as being confined in cross ties. So I asked myself, why does she need to be cross tied?
Horse owners cross tie for many reasons, but from what I see, it is for the owners purpose, not the horse. Here are the reasons I have been told by owners. The horse stands straight in the aisle, so its easy to pick up manure. It is the rule at the barn I board at. I can leave the horse when I need to and the horse will be fine for a few minutes. It is easy for my farrier to do my horses feet without me being there. A well trained horse should be able to cross tie. Now here is what the horse may be thinking. I can move for you to pick up my manure. Dumb barn rule. You really should never leave me tied unattended. Who is this stranger picking up my hooves? I am trained to stand nicely, I don’t need any ties.
Cross ties are difficult for horses who are afraid of things behind them, because it makes it hard for the horse to turn his head to see what’s going on around him. When a horse feels trapped, it doesn’t think, it reacts. Unexpected behavior is something every horse owner needs to remember happens with a horse and especially with a new horse.
A lot of cross tying does seem to lend itself to the environment. Many horse owners in Australia do not have barns, so consequently cross tying is pretty much unheard of there. Private horse owners with run in sheds or stalls only probably do not cross tie. Many show barns do use cross ties. What you choose to do is your choice. My lesson learned is don’t assume all horses have been taught to cross tie. Take precautions to introduce that method of tying as it can be dangerous to your horse. Consider using a quick release knot on your cross ties.
I groom and tack my horses in their stall or in the barn doorway with just a single lead rope attached to the bottom halter ring with a quick release knot on a wall ring. I feel more relaxed with this setup and so do my horses.