MYTH: I purchased a 9-year-old mare that when I go to catch her by her halter she gets tense. Then when I actually tie her to a post, she freaks, pulling back and smashing herself around. I know it is not good when she breaks free but she sometimes pulls so hard she does. I have been just getting in close to her and soothing her. I have been told this will eventually make her stop because she knows a human finally cares about her?
FACT: You now have a confirmed Halter Puller on your hands. At her age, retraining may be tougher to do if she has been doing it for years. I must warn you to stay clear of a horse that is halter pulling. If the halter or the lead rope breaks, they may flip completely over backwards and you want to be well clear of that. They also lunge foreword suddenly and again you must stay clear. Never approach a pulling horse until they have quit. THEN ONLY WITH EXTREME CAUTION.
Always make sure the halter, lead rope, snap on lead rope and post/object she is tied to are the strongest possible. I have seen terrible wrecks when the object the horse is tied to breaks or comes loose as they panic and end up dragging the post/etc. as it is still attached to the lead rope. You need to buy heavy gauge rope, a bull snap that will not break, a heavy halter that will not break and never tie to any object that will break/come loose.
I have had good success with horses that do not mind someone touching (catching) the halter but pull once tied. Most halter pullers if and when they decide to pull, only do it once or twice before giving up until the next time. But there is always a next time for them.
Most Confirmed Halter Pullers, can be retrained by simply tying them up in a safe location and leaving them tied anywhere from three to five days. They are fed (hang a hay net high up on the snubbing post or fence) and either watered three times a day from a bucket or hang it on the post or fence too. This is not as cruel as you may think. Even more cruel is the pain she causes herself in her Neck and Poll every time she does this and other injuries suffered. Many horses are kept in Tie Stalls their whole lives and do just fine. Always tie a horse at their wither height and only as much slack in the rope as approx. the length of your arm. And with a quick release knot, though a halter puller can tighten these knots up too.
If the horse throws themselves while tied, do not panic. Unless they have twisted their necks or are choking because the throat latch remained on their windpipe cutting off their air supply, leave them to get up on their own. Always have a knife handy to cut the rope if they are in danger which most are not no matter how bad it looks. To safely cut the rope, approach the downed horse from it's back, not it's legs to prevent getting seriously injured yourself by a suddenly struggling horse. NOTE: The horse must be checked on continually all day and all night while tied for these 3 to 5 days. But if you have tied the horse with strong equipment to a safe post/etc. and the correct height and the correct length of rope from post to halter, the horse should be fine. Never tie to a post that the rope can slip down on the post. If it slips down to low, the horse is now pulling at a downwards angle and can permanently injure their necks or even break their necks.
This safe location should be in one of the busier areas of your establishment. She needs to remain tied while you push wheelbarrows around, carry bales around, mow grass, lead other horses past, drive by with trucks and trailers, all things like that. Your intent is not to purposely make her pull but condition her that normal everyday life goes on as usual, whether she likes it or not.
Such methods as running a lariat around their barrel (behind the withers), up between the front legs, through the halter ring and then tied to the post works with younger horses but I have never known it to work with aged horses if they have been doing this for years. The theory here is that when they pull, the rope tightens around their mid section causing them to leap foreword to relieve the pressure. This should not be attempted by anyone but an experienced horse person.
The tied for many days works wonderfully. But again, a Confirmed Halter Puller should never be trusted. They may a week, a month or a year down the road decide to pull again, placing themselves and their owners in danger. THIS IS A VERY DANGEROUS HABIT FOR BOTH THE HORSE AND HUMANS. STAY CLEAR OF A HALTER PULLER!!!