Feb 282020

By Patty Wilber

I went to Clovis last week to Hight Performance Horses to visit H, work cows with Lucy, and drive one of my colt starts crazy (LOL) by taking her to a new location that was UNFAMILIAR! 

(H will come home in a few weeks since I have access to cows now!)

As I rode Lucy, Birdie was tied with one of my favorite knots, but when I finished riding, she was loose…The knot had not come undone and she had not broken the snap.  Apparently, she somehow gapped the bull snap and slipped free. She was wandering around and all the hardware was intact.

At least it was not my knot.

So, speaking of knots…

I went looking, and found a gazillion videos on how to tie a quick release knot.  Ok, so that is all fine and good, but frankly, whenever I have needed to quickly untie a fractious horse I

a) can’t get to the knot because the horse is being too wild or

b) when I get there, the quick release knot has tightened up so much that I can’t untie it in five minutes, let alone quickly.  

In a true emergency, cutting the rope seems to be the best solution, but following a minor meltdown, something that can actually be untied seemed useful.

So, what to do?

  1.  Don’t tie them at all.  Well, ok.  At home, not tying a knot might work, but I go to shows and tie to the trailer.  I go in the backcountry and need to tie and highline.  To teach tying, at first I may start with a drag rope, which can allow a horse to lose fear of the rope, and teach the animal to give to the rope when it is stepped on.  I do like drag ropes.  BUT drag ropes should be used under supervision because if a drag rope hangs up on some unforeseen rope-snagging-item and you have a young not-rope-broke horse, you could end up with a very bad situation. I have had good luck being able to tie horses that have gotten used to giving to a drag rope.
  2. Wrap the lead rope around the hitching rail a bunch of times (4 or 5) to create drag in the case of melt down.  If the horse loses it, the wrap pulls, but if the rope is long enough and there were enough wraps, it slows the horse down, without the horse breaking anything or getting loose.  If I have used a drag rope first, sometimes the horse has learned to pull the rope with its head and will mess around and work itself loose.  Also, if too few wraps are used, there is not enough drag and the horse gets loose.  Too many wraps and there is no drag–it is just like a hard tie. But it is easy to undo because there are no knots!!
  3. The ever famous quick release knot.  But that will tighten when 1000 pounds sits back on it, and then you can’t untie it, so you have to cut it.  So, what good is that in an emergency?
  4. My knot that I think I learned from Amber.  It must have some sort of name. Basically it is an overhand knot on a bight, around a rail.  Yeah, that is the name of it. Overhand Knot on a Bight Around a Rail. It will tighten some, but surprisingly not that much.  It is sort of semi-quick release.
  5. Bowline.  Not a quick release, but it will not slip and it will not tighten up, so after drama, you can still untie it. When we went to Chile on a horse adventure, the wrangler used the bowline. I plan to start using more bowlines, especially when tying out in the backcountry.  
  6. I swear there are at least two other knots for tying horses that I have seen, but I just could not find descriptions of them on line.  My friend Ed had one, but he is no longer with us, so I can’t ask him to show me again. 

The Overhand Knot on a Bight Around a Rail. And Lucy (R) and Birdie (L) in Clovis,

A couple other things to consider. 

  1. Do not tie to anything that will break. Horse sits back, thing breaks, horse runs off with broken thing chasing it.  Never good.
  2. Do not tie to dead trees. Not even big ones. They fall over.  Not kidding.
  3. Do not tie so low the equine can get its foot over the lead rope.
  4. Do not tie so high the animal cannot hold its head in a natural position.

Happy knotting.

I liked this video because she mentions the quick release knot will tighten up, and she demonstrates the bowline!







  6 Responses to “Will your horse stay tied, or knot?”

  1. H looks so sharp. Thanks for the link about knots. I need to watch it many times to learn that bowline.

  2. I had a horse do that to me in 1980 at a lesson. Never ever used a bull snap again. Had to trudge miles to find my horse.

  3. ( ( H is coming home soon) That is an impressive baby! I know where you can get a deal on cases of superglue….Ha Ha!

    What is your new source of cattle?

    • Thanks re H! I think he is going to be a heck of a horse! I have a friend that has room, so they are going to keep a couple for me and we will share theirs and mine. They are going to be multipurpose and get roped by an 8 yr old, and cow worked by me, so we will see how often we have to turn them over!

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