Ground-Tying a Horse

By Jim & Phyllis Dobbs and Alice Woodyard

This is the third article in our series about the use of horses with pointing dogs. The first one in the series covered teaching a dog not to chase horses and to remain steady when on point even if approached by someone on horseback. The second article covered teaching a dog to "heel" to a horse.

Now we will use the e-collar on the horse itself to train it to remain "ground-tied" while you dismount and look for a bird the dog has pointed.

Start in the Corral

Teaching a horse to ground-tie, like other basic schooling, is best begun in the corral. As a prerequisite, the horse must know that "whoa" means to stop, and be used to hearing gunfire.

Put a halter and long lead rope (about 14 feet long) on the horse, and tie the free end of the rope into a large ball of knots (see photo).

Fasten a second strap onto your e-collar so that it will fit the horse's neck. Use the lowest
Level of intensity for the horse's early lessons.

Place the receiver part of the collar high on the horse's neck at the poll, just behind the ears. This placement will cause the horse to drops its head instead of throwing it.

Lead the horse to the center of your corral, tell it, "Whoa," and walk out in front of it. Drop the end of the rope, with its ball of knots, on the ground in front of the horse and say, "Whoa." When you drop the end of the rope, leave enough slack so that the movement of the horse's head doesn't make the ball of knots move on the ground. However, if the horse starts to walk away, the knots will move.

Walk away, watching the horse and the knotted rope. As the horse starts to move, the ball of knots will start to move, too. The moment the ball moves, nick the horse with the e-collar. If it doesn't stop and stand still on its own right away, tell it, "Whoa," and help the horse come to a stop. Repeat this procedure in different places in the corral so that the horse has several experiences of being nicked right after the ball of knots starts to move. It will start to become very aware of the ball of knots and its motion and become a bit suspicious of it!

This Technique Takes Advantage of Timing

This technique uses perfect timing to cause the horse to associate the movement of the highly visible ball of knots with the nick. The horse associates the movement of the end of the rope lying on the ground with what is nicking it every time it starts to walk.

Now, with each additional repetition, start taking one of the knots out of the end of the rope until there aren't any knots left. Now you can substitute a regular length lead rope for the long rope you started with.

Pretend to Find a Bird

After you have walked out in front of the horse and dropped the lead rope, go through the motions of trying to flush an imaginary bird. Keep an eye on the horse as you go through your bird-flushing motions, and any time the end of that lead rope moves, nick the horse with the e-collar.

Add the Saddle, Bridle, and the Rider

Now that the horse is familiar with the correction and why it happens, put the bridle and saddle on the horse and lead it around the corral. Your bridle and reins will substitute for the halter and rope as you repeat the familiar training procedure.

Now mount up and ride to a different part of the corral. As you dismount, say, "Whoa," and drop the reins. Go out to the front of him again like you're looking for the bird.

Add the Rest of the Picture

Go to a fenced pasture and dismount a couple of times, being ready to reinforce the lesson the horse learned in the corral.

Now add the rest of the picture. Add the dog on point, add flushing a real bird, and add firing a gun. As the last part of the picture, have other horses and riders come up and stop behind the ground-tied horse. With each new addition, repeat the familiar exercise of walking out in front of the horse, dropping the reins, and saying, "Whoa." Nick the horse with the e-collar any time it starts to move away.

Now it's Time for Fieldwork!

When you are sure the horse has accepted its ground-tying lesson, take it out to the field and enjoy the fruits of your labors as you work your dogs.

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9627 Spring Valley Road
Marysville, CA 95901
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