The patience pole, or, the ‘tree of knowledge’ is an exercise in basically tying the horse up to a pole or a tree, where they will remain tied up for hours or days.
Sometimes it’s 5 hours.
Sometimes it’s overnight,
Sometimes it’s for days.
It’s a long accepted practice and approach to teaching our horses to have patience, manners and the skill of standing tied.
The result is a horse that is standing tied, appears to have ‘respect’ and ‘manners’.
But why does it work, and what psychological and psychological impact is it having on our horses ?
The patience pole restricts our horses movement - both from a perspective of moving from one place to another, but also from the perspective of lowering his head, scratching, self soothing, and having a full range of motion - for an extended period of time. Of course all horse owners restrict movement in this way - when trailering, riding and tying - and our horses must have this skill, but the patience pole is designed to extend this to the extreme.
When we look at our horses survival mechanisms a horses 5 steps to survival:
1. Do the opposite of what a predator asks
4. Push into pressure
5. Accept my own death
The act of tying a horse to a ‘patience pole’ causes him to go through these processes - and eventually accept that they cannot escape, cannot fight, cannot push, and are going to die here. The act of not behind able to scratch or comfort themselves, defend themselves, all cause a ‘shut down’ coping strategy to kick in.
The more we learn about our horses physiology, the more we must reconsider these types of practices.
A horse when stressed is in sympathetic nervous system - fight or flight - and when we restrict that process from playing out, we prevent learning, and growth.
For a horse to come back into parasympathetic nervous system - rest and digest - he must move his feet, graze, and lower his head - all prevented by the ‘patience pole’
When a horse is unable to process from sympathetic to parasympathetic as nature intended, he enters ‘freeze’ as a protective mechanism.
This article isn’t ‘anti tying’ - my horses will happily stand tied for hours, and if they were in an emergency and had to -
All night or all day, BUT, I don’t want to take anything from them, I want to educate them, nurture them to become confident, mentally and emotionally balanced citizens.
There are ways to teach your horse to safely and confidently tie without ‘letting him figure it out for himself’ and breaking him mentally and emotionally. It just takes a little bit more time, effort and skill than just tying him to a post and walking away.
For the horse