KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

Safe Knots for Tying Horses

In most instances you will probably want to tie your horse "fast". By this we mean that your horse is secure and can't pull away. But what if something panics your horse and he pulls and gets hung up? How are you going to get him free? In many instances you will not be able to unhook the "bull snap". You may be able to open the jaw, but there may be too much tension to get it free from the halter. Even if you have a quick release snap, it may not be possible or safe to reach in and release it if the horse is throwing his head around.

Here's how we tie to prevent disasters.

Tying Properly

First off, we tie to secure objects such as telephone poles. The height of the eye bolt or other point of attachment is roughly the same as the horse's top line as shown by the red line. This way if he pulls, he is less likely to hurt himself.

Quick Release Knots

Next we will secure the horse with a quick release knot. If the horse has a pulling problem and we don't want a "fast" attachment, we will use a "safety loop. A vertical loop is formed, then a horizontal loop is passed through the attachment and over the vertical loop to hold it. (Note the green rope is merely our point of attachment, not part of the "safety loop" knot.) The safety loop is strong enough that the horse will "feel" tied. If the horse pulls back in a panic, the horizontal loop will pull the vertical loop through the attachment whereupon they will separate. Nothing feeds through the attachment so if the handler grabs the rope, he won't get his hands jerked through the small opening.

If we want a more "tamper-proof" knot, we simply keep forming loops, passing each new loop through the previous loop until we use up the rope. Pull the free end, and the knot opens up like a zipper. For those horses who are mouthy and pull loose rope ends, you can drop the tail through the last loop so "old Trigger" can't untie himself.

Proper Rope

When making these knots, it's important to have a supple, easily bent rope with which the loops and knots can be formed without a fuss. We don't recommend using old sun-hardened ropes with which to tie horses. They are difficult to handle and you can't count on the knots to behave properly.

(Please also see the feature that discusses dynamic safe ties.)

Also practice with the knots before tying a horse. It often takes a few attempts before one gets comfortable with how to position the loops so that they will both hold and release when necessary.

Friction Ties and Break-away Ties

There are several products on the market that can facilitate tying horses and avoiding them getting hung up if they spook or slip. One type is a break-away device that releases the horse once there is a certain amount of pressure applied. These products vary and buyers should assess which ones best suit their particular needs.

Another type is the friction tie. Blocker makes such a tie that is quick to use and depending on how the lead is passed through the tie mechanism, the amount of drag on the lead can be adjusted to apply more or less friction.

In a pinch, a loop made from a couple of wraps of bailing twine passed through the trailer or tie post tie ring will hold most horses but will snap if the horse panics or falls.

Even the drafters stay securely tied with this setup

Important Safety Notes!

Even with quick release snaps and quick release knots, your horse can get hung up. He could even get a hind foot caught in the halter. You need to have a tool to deal with such emergencies. The "Marlin Spike," pictured right, is a handy tool to cut away a rope or halter and the spike can be used to loosen overtightened knots. The more substantial versions of Leatherman or Gerber multi-tools are useful also.

Also inspect your tie posts regularly for damage and especially for rotting below the soil surface. There have been some pretty hairy horse accidents that have resulted from large posts with rotten bases coming out of the ground, striking and "chasing" horses that have pulled back!

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