Training Gear



This page will discuss gear used in the training of green unbroken horses. I would like to use the term 'Breaking Gear' but the term 'Breaking' no longer gels well with modern attitudes and interpretations by visitors to this site who do not have English as a native language. Of course we do not 'break' the horse. It is a traditional term that is well understood in the English speaking world e.g. in Western terminology 'Green Broke' Nevertheless, I will forthwith only use the term 'training'. 



Ropes are indispensible. For a number of reasons any-old-rope does not cut it.  Better that we select and design our ropes as specialist items.


Rope materials

There are a wide range of synthetic ropes nowadays. These are very strong and virtually unbreakable by the horse. For a number of reasons I do not like synthetic.


Any but the very expensive marine type ropes are stiff and remain stiff.  They will not run easily around posts or rails. Their knots are more likely to loosen and untie. They are more likely to cause rope burns on the hands or on the horse.

They only have 3 advantages: They do not weaken with age. They can be left out doors.  The strand ends can be melted together, which is fast and easy


I much prefer natural fibre. Supplies are still available:

I use either sisal or manila. Sisal is surprisingly cheap. It will feel prickly when new but soon softens up. You may have to wear gloves in the beginning. The best binding twine is  hemp ‘Shop Twine” (see web site above) this is low cost and comes in rolls.


Diameter and length  

Neck ropes (minimum): 25 mm diameter, 5 metres length 

Rump ropes (minimum) 16 mm diameter, 7 metres length


You will also need at least one set of neck rope 7 m, rump rope 9 m. DONT skimp on these lengths or you will regret it. 




Natural fibre has one problem – binding the ends. We can splice but then the ends are to large in diameter to go through rings etc. There is a trick: bind the ends with twine then dip in epoxy resin.

If you want more than one rope don’t get them cut to length in the shop. Cut the total length and ensure that the ends are bound with tape.

Lay the rope out, mark the cut points. You are going to do 2 bindings before you cut. The following technique (demonstrated on a 25 mm broom handle) of binding eliminates any annoying knots. These will become very hard after epoxy treatment. 


Step 1: You will need about 800 mm of twine. Start the bind around 12 mm from the cut mark. Bind Tightly. 


Step 2: feed the bind end through the loop after 8 rotations

Step 3: Pull the twine on right until the loop and bind end is snuggly under the bind. 

You will find a natural channel within the rope, which makes it easier to pull

Completed bind ready for cutting and epoxy treatment


Epoxy treatment


2-pack epoxy resin can be found in any hardware shop. It is expensive but we dont need much.  Mix and thoroughly dip the rope ends into about 12 mm beyond the bindings -  no more or you will end up with a long stiff end which is a pain in the butt. Lay the ropes out vertical as the ends will drip. After an hour re-dip and lay out to cure. You have yourself the ultimate rope


A bound end on sisal rope after several years of use. 


The Bowline


Tying up green horses on halters with snap-hook leads of the type found in saddlery stores is simply not an option. These are not strong enough. We must be absolutely sure that if a horse pulls back nothing will break. Furthermore, commercial lead ropes are not long enough. Often we are coaxing a horse up to the tie post by wrapping the neck and rump ropes around the post at least one rotation with the horse often as far away from the post as 4 metres. He is a nervous green horse. He is not going to come foreword easily if you in his face. This is why I recommend that one set of neck and rump ropes need to be 7 and 9 metres respectively. These ropes are tied around the neck and rump using the bowline knot. 


Surprisingly many people don't know how to tie the bowline knot and consider it a kind of mystery. Some try and get it wrong which results in a slip knot that can strangle the horse. A correct bowline cannot slip and is always easy to untie regardless of how a horse has pulled. One can tow cars with it and still untie the knot. Note though that when there is weight on it it cannot be untied. This is why we always carry a sharp knife when handling horses e.g. if a horse goes down, has weight on the rope and it is clear, after say 5 minutes, he not going to get up on his own accord, we cut the rope. I once saw a situation at a show where a horse tied to a float got his lead hooked under a tow bar. He ended up head down on about 300 mm of rope. There was no way of unhooking him, so the rope was cut. 



How to tie the bowline

When tying the bowline think of 2 paralled lines. twist a half-hitch into the long end.



From there on we can think of a ryme: 

'Over, Under, Over, Under, In’.  


‘Under, Over, Under, Over, In’,   

-      Depending on which way we have twisted the half hitch.


The first 2 words in the rhymes are critical. There are 2 ways to feed the rope end through the half hitch. One is right, the other wrong - which can result in a slip knot. The important thing to observe from the following photos is that the correct way locks the half-hitch closed, the incorrect way does not.


                                            Correct : "Over, Under'


                        Incorrect: The half-hitch is not locked in place


                               'Over, Under, Over"


'Over, Under, Over, Under, In' Note the figure 8 profile


One further trick


If the rope is stiff the knot can work loose and un-tie - especially in the rump rope when we are leading off another horse.  To avoid this do one more 'In'. 


                     Bowline with 2 'Ins"  This will not work loose. 


Note that in the above example the half-hitch has been twisted clockwise. If it were to be anti-clockwise the rhym starts with a 'Under'. Practise both ways, the important point being that the half-hitch is alway locked closed by the short end