Being able to lead your horse or mule is a basic skill for horsemen. But before we lead the animal, we must halter it and then attach a lead rope to the halter. How we connect our lead rope to our halter is an important consideration. We want it to stay on yet still be easy to disconnect whenever we want. These are six methods I know to accomplish this.
- Loop to Loop – I like lead ropes that have an eye loop already spliced in. I like this yacht braid model from Weaver Leather. With this I can very quickly and easily tie in and out.
If your lead doesn’t have a loop you’re still in luck because leads without loops are usually less expensive and the knots are super easy to tie.
- Square Knot – I like using a square knot because the tag end of the lead goes down and away from my animal. I remember this knot by tracing a rabbit coming out of his hole, around the tree, and back down the hole. Does that remind you of another knot? It should! (I’ll put the answer at the end!)*
- The Sheet Bend and its Family – For me the sheet bend is where it’s at for tying onto a halter because it’s the exact same knot that we use to tie the crown of the rope halter. You are tying your rope halter properly, aren’t you? Only having to remember one knot is a good thing.
- The Double Sheet Bend – If you want a little more heft to the knot or want to be doubly sure it won’t come undone, you can wrap the lead around the loop an extra time before tucking it under. I’ve heard more than one clinician claim this as their special knot and even named it after themselves. I don’t have that big of an ego. And by the way it can be found described in a book printed way back in 1774.
- The Halter Hitch – Want a quick release version? Tie a single sheet bend with a bight or slippery hitch. I don’t like this method because it makes for a big wad of material, but it sure does come undone in a jiffy.
- Snaps or Hardware – I’ll be really honest here. Generally, when I’m camping or riding, I’ll just clip the lead to the halter with a snap. It’s quick and easy. When I’m camping though, I’m prone to using a locking carabineer instead of weaker snaps.
Hardware can give conflicting cues but let’s face it, quiet hands on your part can help cure that. My biggest reason not to use hardware is that it’s always the weakest part of the connection. No matter what type of clip or snap you use it can and will break, or you’ll lose it. For this reason, we should all know different ways to tie that lead onto the halter. Learning and practicing one of these methods to accomplish that will hold you, and your animal, well.
*Answer: The bowline knot also uses a rabbit mnemonic to help teach how to tie it. “Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he.”
For more practical information on trail riding and camping with stock, plus the world’s largest guide to horse trails and camps, visit us at www.TrailMeister.com.
Robert Eversole, ”the trail meister,” owns www.TrailMeister.com, the largest database of horse riding and camping areas in the U.S. with free trail and trailhead information, trail maps, and much more to help horse enthusiasts experience the joys of trail riding. Robert is a registered riding instructor with PATH International, a mounted search and rescue team member, and a U.S. Marine who has served on the board of the Backcountry Horsemen of Washington (BCHW). He is enjoying his new career helping fellow trail riders stay found and safe on the trail. When not on the trail, The Trail Meister resides near Spokane, WA and teaches land navigation to a wide variety of outdoor groups across the nation. For North America’s largest horse trail and camping directory, trail tips, and more, visit www.TrailMeister.com.