Here on the Utah trails, we often take horseback rides that last all day or maybe even several days. Of course, that does not mean that we stay in the saddle the entire time. Since we aren’t riding for the Pony Express or trying to outrun the Apache, but are just out here to enjoy God’s creation, we like to rest every few hours and of course that means the horse gets to rest too.
Whenever we stop for a rest, you will likely want to tie your horse up rather than hold onto his lead rope or reins the entire time. It is important that the horse be either held, hobbled, or tied up while he is not ridden because otherwise he may very well decide to just run home without you, leaving you to take a long walk back down the steep Utah mountainside until you finally get back to the ranch. Not only might a horse decide to go home without you, but he also might find some way to get into trouble by getting into some old piece of barbed wire fence or sharp logs, he might get his leg caught in a hole or get bogged down in the mud, or any other thing might happen. One thing a lot of people do not realize is that, while horses are incredibly built for speed and strength, they are also strangely vulnerable in many ways. On the one hand, having a horse grow up in the wild mountain and desert country does help a horse to understand how to move and how to be somewhat cautious; but on the other hand, just throwing a horse out into the wild and letting him fend for himself is by no means a sure way to help him live a long and healthy life. Even the wild mustangs generally have a shorter (and much rougher) life than a horse that is cared for by a decent man, At any rate, you can’t just treat your horse like he were a dog and just expect him to hang around you up in the mountains- you need to make sure he is safely tied up or hobbled.
In tying up a horse, there are several things you must keep in mind:
Tie Short. 18-24 inches is plenty of slack for your horse, and if you give him much more than this, he may very well get his feet caught in it by stepping over it and then he will get scared, pull back with all his might, and may very well injure himself or even kill himself.
Tie High. Make sure the lead rope is at or above the horse’s eye level. If lower than that, he may well step over it as spoken of above. He also may very well get scared because of the way the lead rope pulls on him when it is tied low, and when he pulls back on it, he may permanently damage his neck.
Tie with the Lead Rope- NOT the Reins. If a horse pulls back on a good lead rope he will not break the rope and will not hurt himself, and will likely learn to simply never pull back on the rope anyway. However, if a horse is tied by the reins, he will very likely break the reins or the bride, and he may also hurt or permanently damage his teeth.
Tie to an unbreakable object. A horse must be tied to an unbreakable object such as a good hitching post or stout tree. He must never be tied to a porch or a wooden fence rail or any other thing that cannot bear the thousands of pounds of force that a horse can exert when he pulls back. If you tie to something breakable, not only will the horse get away, but he will very likely injure or kill himself due to the fact that he will still be tied to whatever it is he just broke. As he runs, he will feel that the object to which he is tied is chasing him, causing him to panic and run even faster, crashing through trees and fences and any other thing that might be in his way until eventually he stops from being too injured to move or is dead.
Just be responsible. Your horse depends on you. You are making your horse do all kinds of things that are very unnatural to him- wearing a saddle and bit, carrying a human, standing tied up etc. He does not understand, nor can he possibly understand, all the potential hazards that things like ropes and fences can create. Don’t be lazy and just leave your horse tied to junk or tied by the reins. Take the time it takes to keep him safe.
If you are ever out here in Utah, I hope you will drop in for a great horseback riding adventure right here at Rising K Ranch!