All riding horses learn to cross-tie. No racehorses do, at least during their time at the track. At the racetrack, when horses are out of their stalls they are either being ridden or being led by someone with a shank. When racehorses are groomed, they are tied by a single rope to the stall wall and stand while the groom goes about their business.
Smarty arrived at Bel Canto having not been exposed to this simple method, used to make horses stand out in the open while the rider grooms and tacks up the horse. I assume that he had never really stood outside of his stall before while being groomed; being out in the barn aisle was something he needed to grow accustomed to.
I began the process shortly after Smarty arrived. I started by keeping him tied in his stall, just like what would be typical at the track. First, I clipped one tie to his halter and knotted it higher up in the stall, while leaving him tied to the stall wall. For a while, I groomed him like that, making sure he was fine with the rope flapping around near his head. I added another tie to the opposite side of his halter, all while leaving him tied in the stall. Smarty was perfectly fine to stand with both ties clipped to either side of his halter.
Then, I took him out of the stall and into the barn aisle. I would tie him, then just stand there facing him. If he took a step forwards, I would ask him to move back and basically just encourage him to stand still in one place. The next day, I had a friend hold him while I went about grooming. Smarty did take a few steps forwards and move just a bit, but always straightened up when I asked him to. This continued twice more, with a friend holding the horse while I groomed. After I was sure Smarty was comfortable standing outside his stall, I just draped the lead rope over his neck while I worked around him. Smarty was perfect! After a few sessions like this, I felt comfortable unclipping the lead rope and just letting Smarty stand in the cross-ties.
The whole process took about a week, with no problems or delays at all. Smarty was wonderful throughout the whole procedure, as he has been with everything introduced to him so far. This is just a pretty simple and easy thing to teach a horse, but an essential thing to learn. Certainly not much of an accomplishment on my part, but it still feels good to have been part of Smarty’s training! Hopefully he will take the whole riding thing will go just as well.