Well-known Australian horse trainer, Clinton Anderson, believes you should teach a horse control before you ride it. Recently, in the UK, I came across one of his inventions – the patience pole. This makes it easy to tie a horse with its head up while still allowing it to move around freely.
READ: Keep horses calm
Keeping a horse’s head up is important for safety and control. Modern horse boxes are fitted with rings that are much higher than the horse’s withers. The reason for this is that if the head is secured at the same level as the shoulders and the driver brakes suddenly, or the horse panics, it can dislocate its neck vertebrae. Old-fashioned stables also have high-set rings. Too many people today tie horses to a rail, not realising how dangerous this can be if the horse pulls back.
Anderson noticed that when teaching a horse to tie up for the first time, it settled down much more quickly if the lead rein was tied to an overhead object that allowed the horse to move in circles. This mirrored Anderson’s principle of ‘lunging for respect’, where the owner holds the lunge line.
Simple yet effective
The patience pole is made of steel tubing about 4m long. It is set in concrete and has a steel rotating arm that allows the horse to move in a circle without becoming entangled. It can be ordered from behlencountry.com for about R10 000, including shipping charges. It is a simple device, though, and there is nothing to stop a horse owner from constructing a home-made equivalent.
Impatience and panic in horses are difficult to deal with. Early in a horse’s career it must be taught to lead and stand still. In some yearlings this is easy, but many learn to rear and pull back, which is dangerous for horse and handler. Once they have succeeded in breaking away, this can lead to a bad habit. When a horse is attached to a patience pole it can lunge around the pole until it gets rid of excess energy or feelings of panic and settles down.
Yet it cannot pull back strongly enough to hurt itself. The patience pole also saves on labour; a horse can be tied up outside to await a rider or be washed down after riding, rather than requiring a handler.
Although the pole should not be used for initial haltering and leading of a young colt – this should be done in a stable – it can be used in training or to retrain problem horses. It is particularly useful for young colts that fidget while being led and
refuse to stand still. An hour or two on the pole settles this behaviour. The pole is also useful for drying off horses after washing, as they cannot roll while wet. They also receive sufficient exercise to avoid getting cold as the water evaporates.
This article was originally published in the 9 August 2013 issue of Farmers Weekly.