I've been intrigued by the variety of methods people use to keep horses in one place - that is, variations on tying or confining them. The styles vary with the lifestyle and landscape, and each method has advantages and disadvantages. Some are based on the obvious necessities of the environment: for example if trees are hard to find, then wooden fences or buildings won't be your first choice; if you move around a lot, nomad-style, then you will probably use something lightweight and moveable, like a tether, to keep your horse nearby. Depending on where you live, some of these methods may seem very normal, and others quite unusual!
Fences - made of wood, rope, wire, vinyl or myriad other materials - are more or less permanent ways to contain a horse in a fixed area as well as a way to discourage predators and thieves. The effectiveness of the fence depends on its sturdiness and height. Fences tend to either be high enough to prevent jumping, or made with something that inflicts a little pain (barbs, thorns, electricity), to prevent the horse leaving or predators or people coming in. Horses generally thrive on extensive fresh air and exercise, which fencing permits. Of course, injury can occur if a horse attempts to break out, or is startled into getting tangled in the fencing material. And fencing alone does not provide any protection from the weather. Above, a typical wooden fence for horses in the eastern United States, from a photo by BeautifulRust on flickr.
Buildings - stalls and barns are the most secure way to keep a horse safely in one place. Buildings do the best job of preventing theft, predator attacks, and (usually) accidental injury. Downsides can include lack of fresh air, long hours standing on hard surfaces, lack of exercise (which can affect overall health) and social isolation (depending on building design). However, a well-designed and well-maintained stable, with a daily exercise program or turnout, can prevent these problems. Above, the interior of a fancy modern barn from FaceMePLS on flickr.Of course, buildings are not convenient in some environments: where there is no wood or stone available, or where people move their animals from one place to another, or where conditions are too poor for stabling to be affordable. For many cool photos of stables from around the world, check out this post over on The Equinest's blog.
Halters - Halters are a common method of connecting a horse to a rope in order to tie it to something or lead it around. Halters can be made of leather, scraps of fabric, rope, string... and range from the barely functional to the highly decorative. Above, simple rope halters on a mule and pony in old China, courtesy of Okinawa Soba.
Collars - also common, collars are used instead of or even in addition to halters, most commonly in parts of Asia, southern Europe and Latin America. The horse above is wearing a halter, but is tied by a collar (photo: Macsurak on flickr).
Hobbles - hobbles tie two feet together, allowing the horse to move around to graze without wandering too fast or too far. They are easy to carry, for temporary use during rest breaks on long rides, for example. Once trained, a hobbled horse is usually quite comfortable taking the small steps the hobbles permit. Above, a hobbled donkey in Sardinia, photographed by Jack Hynes. Hopefully she won't wander into the road.
Foot tethers - these seem to be most common in Asia, especially India. Above a line of horses tethered by the hind feet at the Pushkar fair, from a photo by Shreyans Bhansali.
The various systems of tying horses - whether by foot, halter or collar, all involve a little more risk of injury if the horse is tied to something on the ground or to something breakable. Typically horses that are tethered to the ground from an early age under good supervision learn to keep their feet organized around the rope and know what the parameters of movement are. In some places the risk of tangling is lessened by only tying the horse to high objects, such as tree trunks, overhead rings or ropes, or rings set into the walls of buildings.