Whether you’re a serious competitor or passionate pleasure rider, the need to tie up your horse arises at some point. Sure, many of us utilize crossties for tack and wash stalls, but there will inevitably be a time when your need to hitch your horse up to a pole or fence post for any number of reasons.
To be sure you are tying your horse up safely and correctly, here are some essential knots that every horseman and woman (and child) needs to know how to do. They are all easy to learn and we’ve included videos of each. As one of the video illustrates, you can and should practice these knots without a horse, and instead clip the lead rope to your belt, then the rest of the lead, the “tail” as it’s called, is free to tie. Another tip: always go over what you’re tying your horse to, never under. You go under only if it’s “wrapping,” which will allow the horse to have “drift” and some freedom to move. If you’re confused, don’t worry, our video experts have got you covered.
The Bowline Knot
Todd Johnson from the JBIT Ranch in Virginia shows us the Bowline Knot (pronounced Bo-Lynn), a “three-bite knot which means the rope bites on itself in three places.” This is a quick-release knot and one of the most common, but it’s also the best knot to use if you’re tying rope around a horse’s neck to lead the animal, since it won’t tighten when the rope is pulled.
But it’s safety first; watch Johnson give us a tip on how to avoid getting a finger caught in the loop – which can be dangerous. Just ask Pat Parelli, who lost a thumb when it got stuck in the loop as he tied a Bowline Knot and the horse spooked!
Bank Robber’s Knot or Getaway Hitch
As the name implies, this is also a quick-release knot, albeit for different reasons and was used by thieves and highway robbers back in the day. Today it’s often a favourite way to tie your horse inside a trailer for transportation purposes or while waiting your turn at a show.
Quick-Release Knot or Slip Knot
This is probably the knot you’re already doing, it’s super fast to tie and to undo. Of course, your horse may also learn set itself free too, so there’s also a trick to prevent a “Houdini horse” from breaking free.
This is used if tying to a smooth pole, such as a metal hitching post, as this knot clamps down and doesn’t slide along so you can keep a safe distance between multiple horses tied to the post, say trail horses or polo ponies.
Out on the trail in the woods and want to stop for a picnic? The name says it all: use this knot to tie your horse to a tree and it will hold in place and not slide down the trunk (skip to 3:00 mark). This video comes to us from TrailMeister, a free online resource for horse and mule trail riding.
And if you want to know even more about equine knots, The Pocket Guide to Equine Knots is available online.