Although this equipment looks more reminiscent of a hangman’s noose, this is indeed marketed as a piece of kit for training horses. ‘Training them for what?’ I hear you ask. Patience apparently.
DO these patience poles actually train patience?
Patience is a human concept, so first let’s look at what we are actually aiming to teach:
1) standing still
2) standing still being tied up
I’d like to add both in a calm and relaxed manner.
First of all we need to understand that horses are designed to run when they are afraid, so tying them up so that they can’t get away is a pretty scary concept. Secondly, we need ask; why is the horse fearful or wanting to leave? (That’s a whole other post!)
But, let’s look at training the desired behaviour. Standing still and standing tied can be trained one of several ways, and there are many possible outcomes. The outcome and long term success largely depends on how you train this and your understanding of equine psychology.
For example. I recently saw a post from a ‘horseman’ that said he ties his horse up for hours until they learn to stand still. He claims once they learn to ‘give in’ they transfer these new found skills to the saddle.
What’s really going on?
Whether you’re using a patience pole, a metal ring or a metal post in cement block etc. If your method is to subject (flood) the horse to something they don’t understand that causes frustration, fear or anxiety until they ‘give in’ then is that good training or is it teaching the horse they have no say and going down the path of learned helplessness? What skill does this really translate to the saddle?
Firstly, I’d want to assess why the horse was on edge in the first place. Separation anxiety, fear of the trainer, fear of the environment etc. I’d remove the fear factors so the horse was calm and then I would begin reinforcing calm behaviour….
I might introduce a mat and teach target training to positively reinforce standing still in a place they are comfortable. …
Then I could try moving the mat to different places and reinforcing this behaviour….
Then I could work on my distance away from the horse but still holding the rope….
I could also introduce gentle pressure and release so the horse is not afraid of pressure on the halter (I prefer a padded headcollar)….
Do you see where I’m going with this?
The horse slowly develops confidence and trust in the handler and the behaviour. These are the skills I’m looking to transfer – see this photo of Teddy standing wonderfully with a friend of mine riding him for the first time (look no reins!).
Safety Tie Rings
When it comes to tying your horse, if your horse were to run back in a spook, rather than hitting pressure of the halter that they cannot run away from (and causing further panic), it’s perhaps safer to have a safety catch. For some they use baling twine, although this requires quite a lot of pressure to break, there are a few tie rings on the market, but I like the Equi-Ping. I’ve just started using it and so far we haven’t needed it, but I’ve tested it out and I was very happy with the results.
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