Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying horses safely.

It seems simple, until you have a mishap and wish you learned the proper way to tie your horse. Wife and husband horse trainers Kelli and Luke Neubert address safe ways to tie horses, plus a step-by-step guide to tying three kinds of knots.

The No. 1 rule for tying horses safely is to start with a solid foundation. A horse that is not broke should never be tied solid. From there, the rest is all about foreseeing potential dangerous situations and how to avoid them. Teaching horses to be tied can seem daunting, but the Neuberts share a few key tips to keep both you and your horse safe.

Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying safely.
Tying horses up seems simple, but if done incorrectly, mindlessly or without safety in mind, it can be dangerous. Photo by Kailey Sullins.

Preparing to Tie

Both Kelli and Luke begin preparing their horses to be tied from an early age. They prefer to get their colts used to being haltered and led as foals and yearlings. They begin leading colts horseback so they become familiar with pressure on the halter and lead from different levels. This eliminates a majority of accidents that might occur when tied.

“They can feel that pressure up above them,” Kelli said. “It helps them think through that pressure. Sometimes if you make a big deal out of all the prep work, it can become a bigger problem than [easing them into the situation].”

If you don’t have the luxury of starting your horse as a youngster or have an older horse with bad tying habits, Kelli suggests being aware of those issues and working with the horse to overcome them. Be patient and don’t push your horse. Kelli advises against abruptly pulling on a horse when leading. Instead, gently encourage it to follow the pressure until it becomes accustomed to the feel.

“You can teach a horse to take pressure and get down or release to that pressure,” Luke said. “Those things can help. Try to have your horses ready to be tied before you go to town. More than anything, preparing your horse and getting your horse where it will lead up from different levels.”

Once you’ve done your preparation, then it’s time to tie.

Steps to Tying

There are a few key factors Kelli insists on when tying horses, and these are things she teaches her kids as well as anyone who comes to work on the property.

First and foremost, never put your fingers in between the lead rope loops when tying a horse.

“If you tie a bad knot or a horse gets loose, it’s a lot better than losing a finger or hand,” Kelli said. “Keep yourself safe.”

Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying safely.
Never tie your horse where it can get its feet or legs through gaps in the fence or gates. Here, Kelli demonstrates why she and Luke built their gates and fences with bars over any gaps in fences to eliminate horses getting hung up should they rear, kick, paw or set back and come forward. Photo by Kailey Sullins.

Second, tie a horse high enough it can’t get a leg over its lead rope, and always tie to something solid. Third, be cognizant of where you tie. Make sure the horse can’t get its legs through any spaces in the fencing if it strikes or kicks, as well as tie far enough away from other horses that they can’t kick each other.

Above all else, keep safety in mind at all times. Think about any scenario that could turn bad, no matter how small or unlikely it seems, and how you could mitigate the situation.

Tying Protocols

Kelli says even with thorough training and prep work, sometimes it isn’t possible to keep a horse from setting back. This is where the protocols for tying and good knots come into play — there are ways to reduce damage.

“For us, it’s worked well to tie them up high — they tend to get in less trouble. Tie a decent knot and put them in a situation where even if they [set back or get scared], they don’t get themselves hurt,” Kelli said. “Always tie to something solid.”

Kelli says one of the biggest dangers isn’t always the act of the horse setting back, but what happens afterward when they spring forward to come out of it.

“I always look for things to have no gaps,” Kelli said. “If a horse were to set back and come forward, I’ve seen them put their foot through gaps in the fences and not be able to get out. Then, obviously never tie to anything they could bust loose and drag — no panels.”

Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying safely.
The Neuberts advise never tying to anything that can be broken or dragged loose, like a gate, panel or wire fence. For instance, this stall wall may seem sturdy, but if a horse were tied directly to the wiring, it could bust loose or bend the fence. Kelli would tie to pipe brace poles instead. Photo by Kailey Sullins.

Be aware of what’s surrounding your horse, like water buckets on fences or automatic waterers in stalls. If your horse is saddled, think about anything that could get caught on the saddle or stirrups. If a saddled horse is tied too loose, they can chew on the saddle or get their jaw caught on the stirrup. Gate latches, water hydrants and latches on your trailer could potentially catch your horse’s halter or saddle.

“Think about anything your halter could get hung on,” Luke cautioned. “I don’t tie by gate latches or where they can get their head over the fence and get caught.”

Using basic common sense is a good rule of thumb when tying horses.

“If there is something in the way, either move it or find a different place to tie,” Kelli said.

Kelli jokes that it seems like common sense, but she teaches her children basic protocols, like never tie ponies to the trampoline. The same goes for unhooked trailers or potentially moveable objects.

Watch Yourself

Keeping yourself safe is a vital step in tying horses, especially when trailering a horse. Be aware of your body position — don’t stand in front of a horse and make sure you aren’t in an area where you can get pinned against the fence or trailer.

Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying safely.

“If a horse does set back, a lot of times they set back and come ahead real strong,” Luke said. “If I’m in a trailer or narrow stall, I think about where I stand. I want to get out if needed.”

Luke’s preference when loading horses is to have two people, with one person to hold the horse from the outside until the person loading the horse can get out safely, and then tie the horse up from the outside. That isn’t always possible, so Luke cautions against getting trapped in a tight area of the trailer. If possible, tie to the side of the horse or wait until you are out of the trailer to tie and tie from the outside. He also suggests untying your horse from the outside before getting in to unload — this is to ensure the horse doesn’t get in a hurry to back out of the trailer when it’s still tied and create a panic situation where the horse sets back while tied inside the trailer.

This can also happen if you are tying outside against a fence or to the outside of your trailer. If your horse is not paying attention or doesn’t have respect for your personal space, a dangerous situation can happen quickly and without warning if a horse spooks and pins you against a wall or fence. Make sure to always have an escape route when tying a horse.

“I don’t like it when a horse comes into my bubble,” Luke said. “I don’t mind going and loving on a horse, but I don’t want them to push on me. Pretty soon, I’m so little that I’m not important to them at all, and they weigh a lot more than me. That becomes dangerous.”

Another safety tip is to make sure the horse sees you before approaching a tied horse. It can be as simple as snapping your fingers or talking before you approach to make sure they see you and don’t get startled. Kelli says she’s seen horses set back when they don’t know you are approaching or even kick if they don’t realize you are there or think you are another animal.

Ultimately, be aware of your surroundings, use common sense and prepare your horse for being tied. Keep you and your horse’s safety in mind, and only tie to solid items. Outside of that, a few decent knots can also keep a horse from untying itself, but safety is always key.

Learn To Tie Knots

The Neuberts prefer to use one of the following three knots: Quick Release, Bowline and Kelli’s Half-Hitch.


The Quick Release

Pros: As the name mentions, a Quick Release Knot allows a person to quickly untie a horse with minimal effort. This is the safest knot for a beginner or novice horse owner. A Quick Release eliminates the risk of getting fingers caught in the loops of more advanced knots such as the Bowline.

Cons: If not tied properly, a horse could untie itself from the Quick Release. It’s difficult to get loose after intense pressure when a horse sets back.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place the lead rope over the pipe, looping it twice. (Photo 1)
  2. With the left-hand side of the lead rope, create a loop facing the right-hand side of the lead line — the side connected to the halter. (Photo 2)
  3. Take the lead rope in your left hand and bring it under the loop and the right-hand side of the lead line. Pull that section of the lead rope and bring it back through the loop, creating another loop. (Photo 3)
  4. Pull tight, and then pull the tail of the lead rope back through the loop to secure. (Photo 4)
Kelli and Luke Neubert demonstrate three ways to tie horses properly, as well as the dos and don’ts of tying safely.

Kelli’s Half-Hitch Knot

Pros: The Half-Hitch is easy to get loose after the fact if a horse sets back. It allows you to tie a horse to a high fixture without the worry of getting your hands or fingers caught in any loops. Plus, it’s a simple knot to learn and execute.

Cons: It’s a secure knot but is not quick to re- lease if you need to untie a horse quickly.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place the lead rope over the pipe. With the left side of the lead rope, bring it over the right side of the lead line — the side attached to the halter. (Photo 1)
  2. Place the tail of the lead rope over the pipe on the right side of the lead line. Then bring it around the pipe and back through itself to create a half-hitch around the pipe. (Photo 2)
  3. Pull tight to secure. (Photo 3)
  4. For added security, create another half-hitch around the pipe by pulling the end of the lead rope around the backside of the pipe, up and over the pipe and back through itself. (Photo 4)

Bowline Knot

Pros: The Bowline is the most secure knot of the three listed here. A horse will not be able to untie itself from the fence or trailer.

Cons: Not for beginners. The Bowline is not quick to release if you need to untie a horse quickly. The Bowline is more complicated to tie, and therefore for an inexperenced horse owner, there is a level of risk involved when tying the Bowline. Kelli stresses never putting fingers or hands through the loops when tying a Bowline, because the risk of losing a finger or getting your hand caught in the tie can occur if your horse is nervous, anxious or sets back. There is room for error with the Bowline.

Step-by-Step:

  1. Place the lead rope over the pipe or fence. Then, create a loop in the lead line with your right hand and right side of the lead line, facing left. (Photo 1)
  2. Take the end of the lead rope in your left hand and pass it through the loop you created on the lead line. (Photo 2)
  3. Once the lead rope in your left hand is passed through the loop, take the end of the lead rope, cross it over the line on the right, and bring it back up through the underside of the right lead line and through the loop. (Photos 3 and 4)
  4. Pull tight. (Photo 5)

This article was originally published in the July 2023 issue of Barrel Horse News.

Author

Kailey Sullins is editor of Barrel Horse News, and an avid barrel racer and breakaway roper. Email comments or questions to [email protected]

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