Teaching a Horse to Ground Tie

Teaching a Horse to Ground Tie

Ranch horse training tips for how to teach a horse to stand still.

ground tie horse (Credit: Abigail Boatwright for Journal)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By AQHA Professional Horseman Mike Major with Abigail Boatwright

Maybe you’re training a horse to ground tie so you can compete in ranch trail in AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse competitions. Or perhaps you want a well-broke horse that will stand still when you dismount on the range. Either way, these ground tying training tips can help. 

When I stop my horse for ground tying, I try to get all four legs square underneath him like a halter horse. If he’s squared up, he’s not as apt to move, as opposed to having one front leg forward and a back leg forward. When the legs are split, it’s natural for him to take another step to even out. When all four legs are already straight underneath, he will have to make more of an effort to take that step. 

When you’re teaching a horse to ground tie, don’t walk away from his head in the beginning. That tells your horse to follow you. Pet on your horse and then walk away from his back end. That will reduce the chances of him drawing toward you. 

Walking to the rear gets your horse standing out in the middle of the arena and it gets him used to standing by himself. A lot of horses have a lot of anxiety being in the arena by themselves. They are not used to being alone. You’ll need to work through that anxiety. That’s part of why having a tired horse helps. 

I like to point the horse away from the gate going out of the arena. Step off your horse, pet him and drop the reins. If he starts to move, put him right back in the tracks where he was standing. But do it really slow – don’t move quickly. Tell your horse “Whoa” if he moves. “Whoa” means “stop” on the ground just as much as when you’re on his back. If he takes a step toward you, try putting him back in his tracks. That will start to make him think about being completely still. 

Walk away from his hip, and walk a circle around to his face. Come straight into him. If you come into the side, he might come to you, or he might drive away, but a lot of times a horse won’t take that step straight forward. I will then usually come down the opposite side and walk to the hip. I’ll then walk away and go the other direction. Then I’ll walk around behind his head and go the opposite direction. And then I’ll come back to his front.

If he does start taking a step or walking away, slowly walk back to him. Don’t run up to him because that will scare him off. If he walks away, try to put him back in the same steps he was in, and then walk off away from his hip. 

I just keep repeating the process over and over. But don’t make too big of an issue about it. You just want the horse to understand that you want him to stand in his tracks when you get off of him. Pretty soon you should be able to walk away from his head. You’ll love having a horse that will stand where you put him, without having to be tied or held. 

About the Expert

Mike Major is an AQHA Professional Horseman and a three-time AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse world champion. He was the 2010 Project Cowboy champion and the winner of the cow horse competition at the 2010 Battle in the Saddle. He was the 2015
 junior ranch riding world and reserve world champion 
at the Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show. Mike, who previously ranched in Colorado, he is now located in Bowie, Texas, where he trains horses and amateurs for performance events.