Ever tied your horse to a post, only to have them pull back and panic, breaking the post and anything else in the area? Being able to confidently tie your horse in place without them freaking out is an essential skill for most horses and their riders.
If you are a competitive rider, you would need to teach your horse to stand quietly when tied to a rail or to a pole while at events. This is where the patience pole comes in.
While there have been some pretty awful contraptions to “teach a horse to stand,” the patience pole isn’t one of them.
What Is a Patience Pole for Horses?
A patience pole is a metal pole that is higher than the horse’s withers, and it usually has a rotating top, which allows the horses to move sideways when they feel trapped.
It encourages a horse to move sideways instead of pulling backward when they feel they are tied. This helps them avoid panicking and calms them as the horse can release their energy through a safe movement.
The training effect is that the horse learns they can swing like a pendulum from side to side with their movement as opposed to pulling straight backward. Since the horse learns they can’t really go anywhere, they will learn to stand quietly and wait.
Patience Pole Benefits
The patience pole teaches a horse to think and not react, and it gives the horse a safe space to figure things out where they can’t hurt themselves or others if they do panic and pull back. There are several benefits to the way a patience pole works, including:
- Keeps the Horse’s Head Up
When a horse lowers their head, they can get themselves into trouble if they pull back. Many horses have been injured from being tied “hard” to a fixed barrier such as a wooden fence and then falling over backward if they drop their heads.
The patience pole, due to its elevated height, helps a horse keep their head up. This reduces their urge to pull backward. In addition, a horse with its head above wither height will be less likely to panic or get tangled in leads or ropes.
- It’s a Great Training Aid
Young horses often struggle with remaining calm and patient, and using the patience pole as part of your training program can help them learn these qualities.
As the horse can’t really injure themselves, they can learn in a safe environment. By learning patience, you will find that many other behavior problems will also improve.
- Multi-Functional to the Horse Owner
The patience pole is a multi-functional aid for horse owners. You can tie your horse there when they have been washed to prevent them from rolling, and you can also use it as a controlled exercise area since the horse can move.
If you like, you can tie your horse to the patience pole to cool down after exercise; this allows them to move without running away or fidgeting too much.
How to Build a Patience Pole for Horses
Building a patience pole for your horse is not as difficult as you may imagine. However, you should keep in mind that what may feel sturdy for you may not be as secure for your horse as you might imagine.
Be sure to test your construction to ensure it can support and contain your horse, as having your horse pull the pole out of the ground could result in them running around while still tied, and potentially, this leads to serious injuries.
Patience Pole Tools & Materials
To construct a patience pole, you will need:
- A 13-foot metal tube pole
- Anchor bolts, suitable to support at least three to seven tones of weight
- A steel arm of at least four-and-a-half to five feet
- A power drill
- Socket set to tighten the anchor bolts
- Swivel base like a wheel hub or windy drier base
Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Patience Pole
Step 1. Plant the Patience Pole
Plant the vertical pole, placing it three to four feet into the ground. Concrete it into place, ensuring it is completely vertical and balanced. A pole that hangs to one side will cause the arm to stay stationary. Allow it several days to set, and wait for the concrete to cure for a secure base.
Step 2. Attach the Top Arm
The patience pole has an arm that swings on a swivel base at the top. Attach the patience pole arm securely using bolts and ensure the base can swivel a full 360 degrees. Be careful of simply welding on a base as this can have unpredictable weak spots, and you don’t want your horse pulling the base off the pole.
Step 3. Test the Patience Pole
Be sure to test the pole before you tie your horse to it. For example, I like to fill feed bags with sand and swing it from the pole. This quite accurately simulates the circling weight of the horse that is tied to the patience pole.
Step 4. Provide Non-Slip Matting
It is a useful exercise to lay down some non-slip mats to prevent your horse from pawing or slipping if they get excited while tied to the patience pole.
Alternatives to a Patience Pole
While having a patience pole can be a great help, it may not be practical, or you may not have the finances or skills to build one.
Luckily, there are a few alternatives you can use instead of the patience pole:
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Taking the inner tubing of a tire, tie this with a cable to a high position such as a tree’s branch (making sure the branch is sturdy enough to withstand pulling).
Tie your horse’s lead to the other side of the inner tubing. This will create flexible support that your horse can feel resistance on when pulling back, though they will not be able to break it.
It will serve the same purpose as a patience pole without the ability to turn a full 360 degrees. The flexibility of this hold will help your horse remain calm as it won’t feel as trapped.
Be sure to keep an eye on your horse for the first couple of training sessions, and if necessary, you can intercede and calm your horse if they pull back too much.
A Baling Twine Release
Baling twine has a million great uses, including that you can create a staggered release system.
Tie three loops of baling twine onto a sturdy surface. I like to use a wall anchor bolt that can hold at least three to seven tones. This way, your horse can pull on it without fear of pulling the bolt from the wall.
Next, hook your horse’s lead through all three loops. Make sure the loops are three different sizes, with about half an inch gap in size between each.
When your horse pulls, the first loop will break, giving them some release and calming them down. The horse will still be tied with two loops, and they won’t be able to go anywhere, so they won’t learn the bad habit of being rewarded with running off after pulling back. Even if they pull again, they will still be tied.
For difficult horses, you can make as many loops as you require, teaching your horse that pulling and breaking a loop does nothing to reward them, so they may as well wait patiently.
A Quick Release Bungee Cable
This is a commercially available product, but you can easily make your own with some flexible elasticated bungee cord and two quick-release snap hooks.
I use mine to tie my young foals to the hitching rail. It is elasticated, meaning they can pull back slightly, but the more they pull, the more it holds them.
For the first couple of sessions, I keep an eye and encourage them forward if they pull back too much. Since the cable is elastic, the horse is less likely to panic, and they have a range of side-to-side motions they can go through. If things get out of hand, I can pop the quick release.
Patience Pole FAQs
A horse can remain tied to a patience pole for a reasonable amount of time, though you should use good judgment, factoring in the horse’s age, whether they have shade, and whether they are calm. Never leave a horse tied to a patience pole as punishment.
Your materials determine the cost of building your own patience pole. If you can source second-hand swivels and a metal pole that is currently not being used, it can cost you nothing more than some effort. Buying a new patience pole can cost around $650.