Tethering is a technique of keeping livestock like

Tethering is a technique of keeping livestock like horses secured to a specific area even without the fencing. Instead, the animal is tied with a chain or rope.

The chain or rope is secured to a stake in the ground or any other secure fastening just like a tree and also the horse wears a head collar or perhaps a collar like a leather belt around its neck to add it to the tether.

Whilst for many horses, it is employed only like a temporary approach to placing the horse on fresh grazing, for others, it is their everyday existence. In some areas of the united kingdom and Ireland patches of ground deemed suitable by owners can contain high amounts of tethered horses in close proximity to each other.

Origins of Tethering

Historically and traditionally tethering continues to be associated with the travelling community who obviously did not have the chance to fence land for their animals since they were permanently on the go. Instead the horses were grazed on any patch of grass which afforded enough space and in which a complaint was unlikely to be lodged at short notice.

Generations ago, when travelling horses and their owners were constantly roving from site to site, it was not a particular issue. The horses were worked hard pulling vehicles or being ridden the majority of the day, and were often very tired by the time that the group made camp- at this point they would gladly graze quietly and doze on their tethers. Because the camp soon moved on there was rarely any time for complaints or objections, and frequently the horses had left before residents even noticed they had been there.

Issues with Tethering

Tethering is extremely controversial for any number of reasons.

Modern travelling families have a very different lifestyle from their forebears, often relatively static, and rarely work their horses towards the extent that they are in the past, meaning that tethered horses can be much more restless and much more prone to get themselves yet others into trouble.

However the lives of travellers might have changed, tethering still remains an accepted way of grazing and looking after their horses and it is strongly defended through the community whenever it is challenged by political or animal welfare groups. Representatives point out that it is an ancient tradition central for their way of life, along with a far safer practice compared to free grazing, where horses are simply dumped loose on open land and will wander freely concerning the neighborhood, even into gardens and onto crop fields.

More about this topic

    Benefits of Electric Fencing for HorsesHow to Tie a HorseDesensitize Your Horse During Ground Work

    Travelling people are often careful introducing their horses towards the tether from an earlier age and will actually sell their horses as ‘educated to the tether’.

    Since the economic downturn lots of people who’d previously have kept their horses at livery have considered the reduced cost alternative of grazing them on waste or common land wherever they think it is, often using tethering to secure them. They may not understand how dangerous this practice could be if the horse is unused to some tether and panics. This quite recent rise in inexperienced handlers and horses adopting tethering might have lead to a rise in negative incidents involving tethered horses.

    The legal side of using what is often private or council owned land for grazing without permission is also of interest to a lot of. Horses can create a great deal of mess and damage, churning up the land in wet weather, grazing patches of ground bare, and damaging trees or fences which may be employed as a makeshift stake on their behalf.

    For many animal lovers though, the primary concern is how comfortable a lifestyle these tethered horses have.

    Welfare of Tethered Horses

    According to UK codes of practice drafted through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to guard the welfare of equids (horses, ponies, donkeys as well as their hybrids) elderly or infirm animals, heavily pregnant mares, nursing mares with foals at foot and youngstock under 2 yrs old should not be tethered, nor should tethered animals be kept within the same area as free roaming animals. In fact observers often make sure all such practices are common in any area where tethering is prevalent.

    Opponents of tethering horses explain that the horses are exposed to heat of the sun, the entire force from the wind and rain, and to the constant annoyance of flies as they are not able to move from a relatively small, often exposed, spot to find any shade or shelter. They’re also vulnerable to harassment or injury from dogs, children or teenagers, since they cannot escape from provocation- similarly there’s a risk to any person or animal approaching a tethered horse which might lash out or charge their way if it’s nervous and feels threatened.

    It is argued that tethered horses rarely plenty of water because they are often provided with limited bucketfuls once or twice each day by hand, and then any containers left with them are often tipped over through boredom or the look for fresh grass underneath. The quantity of feed they can access can also be often of interest, as if the horse is not checked regularly and moved around to achieve fresh grazing every day approximately, the region within reach from the tether can soon become overgrazed and nothing more than an area of mud.

    Some horses are not checked regularly enough to ensure their basic feed and water requirements are now being met, or to ensure they haven’t yet been hurt or are sickening by any means. Several horse charities can report problem reports of young tethered horses being left unchecked for such a long time that they have outgrown their tethers, which eat in to the flesh of their neck or head, causing serious or painful injuries.

    Much natural behaviour is either difficult or impossible for horses on tethers. They are able to only move about a comparatively small circle, and equine play, as bucking, galloping and kicking is highly restricted. Because they should be kept a secure distance apart to help keep two horses from becoming tangled, the enjoyable social activity of mutual grooming between horses can’t be practiced.

    There are a good many horror stories of horses being killed or injured by their tethers. Horses happen to be strangled by slipping into ditches or down embankments at the perimeter of the grazing area and not being able to free themselves, or by tangling the rope or chain around a tree or even another horse. When the chain entangles the horse’s limbs also it panics they can easily be permanently damaged or broken.

    Should the horses be able to reach each other, perhaps because one person has miscalculated the distance of his horse’s tether, a resulting entanglement can lead to violent struggles prone to cause choking or breakage of limbs. Similarly a horse that’s loose but shares grazing space having a tethered horse may become tangled in the chain or rope potentially causing serious or fatal problems for both tethered animal and the loose one.

    Tethering and Traffic Accidents

    By far one of the biggest issues raised in objection to tethering is the number of horses that break free and therefore are involved with traffic accidents. This really is all too common, particularly as horses are often tethered on grass verges at the roadside. Frequently the horses involved with collisions with vehicles are killed. A whole lot worse, the sheer weight and size of horses represents some risk to the driver and passengers as they possibly can crush smaller cars on impact. Many reports given about such incidents suggest that the folks within the vehicles only escaped death or serious injury because they were driving large cars or vans.

    What you can do

    Tethering itself is not illegal, but anyone can monitor tethered horses to be in good health and are being correctly looked after. Watch out for a tether on the point of breaking or coming loose, and if necessary alert police, particularly if the horse is near roads.

    Check horses for any wounds particularly in the region from the tether itself. The horses ought to be in good weight, not ribby and angular especially round the spine and hip. Also, they ought to not show signs of ill health for example running nose or eyes, severe coughing or wheezing. Sunburn is a very common problem for horses staked in summer so search for severe scabbing and soreness especially round the nose of horses with pale or flesh coloured skin on the muzzle. Learn about coping with horses who may need the intervention of a rescue group.

    If a particular tethered horse or perhaps a number of them causes concern speak to your local welfare organisation. In the united kingdom the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare have inspectors that can come out to look at the horse(s) in question.


    Code of Practice for that Welfare of Horses, Ponies, Donkeys and their Hybrids DEFRA, accessed 02/07/2012.

    Full Recovery for Rescued Stallion- Redwings Horses Sanctuary, accessed 05/07/2012.

    Illegally Tethered Horses, Julian Sturdy accessed 08/07/2012.

    World Horse Welfare accessed 01/06/2012.


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