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Cross Ties for Horses: Everything You Need to Know

Last updated: February 17, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

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When my granddaughter and I went to the racehorse barn, she noticed that the trainer secured the horses differently from us at home. We typically use a single lead rope, while he uses cross ties. On our way home, she wanted to know all about cross ties and if we could set some up for her horse.

Using cross ties is a great way to tether your horse while working with them. It provides you space and keeps the animal centered, so they don’t get tangled or – hurt you. Cross ties should be at least the height of your horses’ whithers and meet in the middle.

In this comprehensive guide, I discuss the different types of cross ties, how to use them safely, and their benefits. I also answer some common questions. If you are considering purchasing cross ties for your horse or are just curious about them, then this guide is for you!

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What are cross ties, and what do they do?

Horse cross ties are simply two pieces of rope, strap, or chains attached to either side of a wall or two posts, with a quick-release snap clip at the end that can be attached to a horse’s halter.

They allow you to safely tie your horse up so that they cannot move around and release them quickly if there’s ever an emergency. Cross ties are especially useful when working with young horses.

The different types of cross ties for horses

If you’re in the market for a cross tie for your horse, you may wonder which type is right for you. There are several different types of cross ties available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Which kind of cross-tie is best for your needs depends on the situation and your preferences. Let’s take a closer look at each type.

There are two main types of cross ties: the standard cross tie and the adjustable cross tie. However, they come in many variations, such as nylon, rope, and breakaway.

The standard cross tie is the most common type. It consists of two ropes or chains attached to either side of facing walls or two posts with a snap on the end.

The adjustable cross tie is similar to the standard cross tie, but it includes a mechanism that allows you to adjust the length of the ropes or chains. This type is ideal for horses that vary in size since you can easily adjust the length to fit them correctly.

What are cross-tie straps made of?

Cross tie straps are usually made of nylon or polyester, but I have seen them made from all kinds of materials, including chains, bungee, and leather. The material should have a little give or be attached to something flexible.

Essential features are a quick release on one end and breakaway capabilities. Some people design their own breakaway system by attaching baling string or zip ties to the wall tie rings and then hooking the quick-release snap to it.

But I prefer to have the breakaway safety feature on the halter, so the broken side falls and stays attached to the wall; it doesn’t follow your already excited horse. I’ve also heard of cross ties breaking away from walls snapping back, and hitting a horse in the eye.

Regardless of which breakaway method you prefer, use one because it’s better for a horse to break the cross-ties and run loose than hurt himself.

Below is a helpful YouTube video with safety tips about cross-tying a horse.

The benefits of using cross ties with your horses

If you’re a horse owner, then you know the importance of keeping your horse calm and relaxed. One way to do this is by using cross ties. They’re a safe and convenient way to handle your horse, making grooming and saddling much easier.

There are two wash racks at the horse barn we use to board our racehorses, and both have good lighting, concrete floors covered with rubber mats, and cross ties. All three are essential to work with horses safely.

When the grooms take our horses from their stall, they always go to the wash rack and secure them with cross ties. While there, they are brushed and examined closely for swelling, injuries, and foot problems. After being cleaned up and cleared, they are tacked up for morning training.

Once their training is complete, they are returned to the wash rack and reconnected to the cross ties. This time they are unsaddled, brushed, and examined again before going to the wheel to cool down.

When they finish at the walking wheel, they are again brought back to the wash rack for a good bath before returning to their stall.

You can use cross ties to hold a horse’s head up, keep the horse from moving around, and train young horses. They are valuable tools for green horses not accustomed to being restrained. It teaches them to stand still and doesn’t allow them to move around as much as standard tying methods.

Picture of a horse on cross-ties.

Setting up cross ties for your horses.

If you’re designing a new horse barn, I strongly suggest including an area to set up cross ties. Working with horses can be a lot of fun, but it’s essential to ensure you do everything safely. One necessary safety precaution is setting up cross ties for your horses.

To set up cross ties, you will need two posts or sturdy walls at least eight feet apart to have enough room to work around your horse and get out of its way if it startles. In most barn aisles or washracks, the distance is usually 10-12 feet, which is ideal.

Install a tie ring on each side approximately six feet or six inches above your horse’s withers. (I prefer using blocker tie rings.) Attach your adjustable cross-tie strap to the tie rings. Pull both ends to the middle at an angle to where your horse’s head would be and cross them about three inches to determine the length.

With this length, your horse can stand comfortably and raise and lower its head; this is essential for balance, especially when picking up one of its feet. You may need to adjust the length for your horse, but make sure that there is enough slack so that your horse can move around some but not so much that it can reach the ground with its head.

Make sure you have a breakaway system before connecting the cross ties to your horse’s halter. I typically put a plastic tie or clip on their halter to clip my cross tie quick release. This ensures the halter connection breaks if the horse spooks.

Never leave your horses tied up for extended periods, as this can be dangerous. Crossties are a great way to work with your horses safely, but always use quick releases and breakaway connections.