I can recall one story my mom still relates whenever we happen upon a tethered horse together. A neighbour and good childhood friend of hers used to tether her horse for a good 7 years, with never an incident. One day, the mare’s owners returned to find their beloved mare with a broken leg, courtesy of the rope. This was a horse who had been tethered SEVEN years! She was as rope-safe as they come! Yet she still somehow wound up with a broken leg – and dead.
Others I have heard tell stories of how they’ve returned home at times to find their tethered, very rope-savvy, horses with rope burns on their legs. Horses are still prey animals! You can do your best to teach them to think (though many of these people tethering, I find, aren’t), to release to pressure, and all about ropes, but there is always the possibility that they might spook and become entangled in the rope. You’re not there to guide them or to help them. Prior and proper preparation can go a long way, but by tethering a horse you are constantly putting your horse in a situation where he is at high risk of being injured and killed. The longer you do so, the greater the chance that some day something will happen. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow – maybe not even with your present horse. But those chances are still there, and it could happen one day. It’s just not a risk worth taking, so please re-consider it.
If you feel you just absolutely need to tether your horse, here are a few tips I can offer to perhaps help:
1. Use thick, cotton rope that breaks away at either the snap (Parelli rope snaps are designed to break in the case of an emergency) or at the tether post
2. Use a well-fitting halter done up snugly that can break in case of emergency
3. Supervise your horse(s) at all times
4. Practise practise practise! Teach your horse to move off of pressure, to think through situations, and to (directly) work through being tangled in ropes (in a controlled situation).
Otherwise, you can also use electric fencing stakes to fashion temporary grazing areas for your horses, with one or two lines of electric tape/line. You probably only have to have the fence running hot the first few times, and then only the odd time thereafter, before your horses respect it enough not to go through it; teach your horses to respect fences by releasing to pressure and don't leave them in an area so short on grass they are tempted to test the fence.