25 February 2011

Compa Tests the High Line

Compa can't be turned out with other horses yet. And he certainly doesn't need to spend Long hours in a stall! What to do?

We have a saying around here, it's "time to hang horses from trees!" I gather up the herd, halter them and tie them from the live oak branches in the pasture. This practice has many benefits. For Compa, I built a high line between two trees outside the pasture, about 15 feet from the fence. One of the trees I chose is solid - there's no "give", the other is younger and bends slightly under pressure. Here's what I want the high line to do for Compa:
  1. I placed the high line close to the pasture so the herd could keep him company if they choose. He can see them and interact with them, but he cannot touch them, they cannot touch him. The high line will teach him patience.
  2. Patience comes in the form of circling. He can move around without causing any damage to feet that have extremely long toes (think curled up) and horribly underslung heels. The pressure on his tendons, suspensories and ligaments is overwhelming. The barefoot trimmer can only take a little bit off each time, so this movement is enough for right now.
  3. Slow circling leads to disengagement. One hind foot steps deeply in front of the other when Compa reaches the end of the rope and has no where left to go. The disengagement bends him, stops his front feet and causes his scattered mind to pause for a moment. The disengagement exercises almost all of the muscles in his body. The disengagement causes him to release through pressure and teaches Compa softness through his jaw, poll, neck, shoulders, ribs, back, loins and hind legs. The best part? No one is asking him to do it, he creates all the benefits himself. When he circles too long in one direction, the halter gets tight on his nose and that tells him to start circling and disengaging in the other direction. Wahla, the horse is worked equally in both directions and he's doing so of his own accord.
  4. When circling gets boring and Compa still wants to move his feet, he walks in a straight line to the end of the rope, presses against it and finds out that it does not give. The halter builds pressure on the end of his nose and across the top of his poll and he must make a decision, so he backs up! Repeating this movement produces a horse that tucks his nose and backs up willingly when pressed across the bridge of his nose. That will come in very handy when it's time for the bosal and really helps with leading.
  5. Now Compa has learned four directions - forward, backward, left and right. That's a huge improvement toward leading, too. Now he's not just following me because he doesn't know any different, now he's leading with purpose and direction and meaning. With four hours on the high line Compa is easy to lead from point A to point B. Oh goodie!
  6. Lastly, the high line teaches Compa to stand still and be quiet. He can find comfort in cocking a hind foot and just enjoying the day. He doesn't have to move all the time. Napping is a good idea!


    1. What did the horses have to say to him as he hung on the high-line? How do you judge the length of rope you tie him to? Any rule of thumb for measuring?

    2. I'd never heard of this before. Love learning from all of this.

    3. @ Kate - They are fascinated by Compa. His complete lack of equine socialization skills causes him to do strange things. So they watched him for hours (yesterday and today), trying to figure him out!
      The high line is all one piece of rope. In the center I tied a loop that wouldn't change shape. I tied the hanger on the center loop. I tie the halter rope to the hanger loop. The hanger loop should be as high as possible but still reachable. Tall as I am, mine are way up there. It is important to tie high, because a horse will test the strength of the line by pulling back. The give from the high line causes the horse to stop pulling, unlike a solid tie, where they panic when they hit the end. Some horses rear as they pull. Tying high prevents a front foot from catching in the halter rope. None of this is difficult, but it does require some skill...

    4. I don't know why I had a problem getting here yesterday but it's ok today. thanks. Could you make a diagram and take some photos so we can see exactly how to do this? i have seen horses tied this way at overnight camps but the way you describe it sounds a little different. I have never tried it myself but it sounds like a very good idea.

    5. I am loving these updates on this charming and inspiring horse!

    6. Thanks! Loving the writing and adventures of Compa and the gang! xo