More than simply a matter of dropping the lead rope and expecting a horse to stand still, horsesman Chris Cox says that ground-tying is the culmination of a solid ground-work program that teaches a horse respect.
Story by SUSAN MORRISON
Photography by ROSS HECOX
A HORSE THAT WILL GROUND-TIE makes life easier. Whether grooming or saddling, stepping off to fix a fence or showing on a trail course that includes dismounting at an obstacle, having a horse that reliably stays put is invaluable. But teaching a horse to ground-tie isn’t based on one specific lesson, according to horseman Chris Cox of Mineral Wells, Texas. Rather, it is the result of a solid training program that begins with teaching a horse respect on the ground.
“It’s all related to our ground work,” Cox says. “How I get a horse to stand still is by moving him.”
Although that concept may at first sound contradictory, it makes perfect sense to the horse. Cox simply builds on his ability to make the horse move when he wants it to move, and in the direction he wants. When he’s accomplished that, he says, getting the horse to stand still demonstrates the refinement of his ground work.
“If I can get my horse to stand still without restraining him, without hobbling him, without tying him up, I have a big advantage,” he says. “If he won’t stand still and allow me to brush him or saddle him without tying him, I don’t feel like I’ve got the control I need.”
To accomplish that, Cox starts with a series of lessons on the ground that teach a horse to move when asked and stand still when not being asked to move.
Horseman Chris Cox teaches his horses to respond to his body signals, mimicking the way horses communicate with each other.
To initiate ground work, Cox draws an imaginary “V,” with a line coming outward from each of the horse’s hips. When he’s inside that line, he expects the horse to stand still.
When he is outside of the “V” and behind the horse’s rib cage, and initiates movement, the horse goes forward but bends its rib cage.
When he gives the “direct and drive” signal, the horse starts out by going sideways, but if Cox remains in front of the horse’s rib cage, the horse starts moving backward.
If the horse makes a mistake, Cox picks up the lead rope and exaggerates his movements to get the horse to respond.
After the horse consistently reacts to his signals, Cox drops the lead rope or drapes it over the horse’s back. He then can test how reliable his ground work is by moving around the horse but staying at a close enough distance to correct if necessary.
A solid ground-work program leads to a horse that can be safely ground-tied.
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