There comes a time when a horse needs to be tied up, whether to momentarily restrain the horse while saddling up or leaving the horse hitched while pursuing some other activity. It’s good to know a few safety knots commonly used for tying up a horse. Most of the knots are based on the slipknot, which is probably the easiest knot to tie. The above videos teach the slipknot, slipknot with half-hitch, quick release knot, and the bank robber’s knot. All good knots to know when working around horses.
Old dried out ropes and leather are not recommended for tying up a horse. The stiff leather or rope doesn’t provide sufficient flexibility and prevents the knot from quickly releasing when pulled. Instead find a flexible lead rope which offers less resistance yet ties securely.
Even the “kid safe” horse at times may become frightened, spook or do the unexpected; therefore, the safety knot provides a fast release in such a situation. If the horse rears back suddenly, a quick release knot can prevent serious injury to the horse’s head and neck. It’s always good to remember that the horse is a prey animal and in some situations will feel the need for immediate escape, even though to us the situation may seem silly, to the horse it’s pure instinct.
Fortunately, I’ve never experienced a serious problem while hitching up a horse. I did experience a minor problem when trying to tie CJ to the outside hitching ring in order to saddle and clean his feet. He felt uncomfortable, restless and nervous. I finally decided saddling, grooming and cleaning his feet were easier in his stall than outside where he was scared. Even though I don’t tie him in the stall, I do slip the lead rope through the metal bars of the hay rack when I saddle or pick out his feet. CJ doesn’t care for the girth and on occasion has tried to nip me. If he decides to reach towards me for a little nip all I have to do is gently pull the rope and continue securing the girth. The same thing works pretty well for cleaning his hooves. Instead of CJ dancing around his stall and pulling away from me, one easy pull on the rope tells him to stay put. The rope through the hay rack allows me to decide how much head room he is going to have without having to totally restrain the horse.
The horse’s bridle is not meant for tying up the animal. There are basically two reasons for this. First, if the tied animal pulls back the bit may cause pain or injury to the horse’s mouth. Second the bridle and reins are made of thin leather which easily breaks under pressure. If a horse needs to be tied up while bridled put a halter on over the bridle and tie the horse using the halter and a lead rope.
Some trail riders ride with a halter and a bridle. When the rider dismounts to take a break on a long ride, he/she can easily tie up their horse. I have ridden with both a halter and bridle; usually the halter is placed under the bridle. When I rode this way it was mainly for extra leverage with a green broke horse. I have never been on a trail ride where I found it necessary to tie up my horse, however, for those who plan to picnic, go fishing or camp, putting on the halter seems like an excellent idea.
There are lots of interesting knots to learn and I’m sure there must be others used to tie up a horse; these are the basic knots. As with everything concerning horses, what seems simple in reality isn’t so the more you know the better. Happy trails to everyone, have fun and be safe.