Equipment, part 2


Last time I brought forth the importance of using equipment to help wean us from equipment.

Success in life should measure our desire to drop false gods (rope and leather) and tune in to the true giver of life. Since we get to play the role of God to our horse, it gives us a good analogy comparing horses tuning more into us with us tuning more into God.

Most people have a wide webbed halter (one inch thick) full of metal rings and buckles with a short six-foot lead rope that they catch and lead their horse with. They may snap a 20-foot line onto the halter to exercise the horse before they get on. But it is all basically clumsy or awkward, not providing a very smooth transition for less dependency on equipment. A hand-tied halter with no metal hardware is much lighter than the standard halter. Yet it will dig in more and make a horse more uncomfortable when they lean on it while they are trying to do their own thing. When they are tuning into the human, listening to body language, then the halter is light as though it was not even there. The standard halter is heavy all the time and does not make them uncomfortable enough when they choose to lean on it. So the hand-tied halter is much like we want to be: Soft and light when the horse is right, yet tough and hard when the horse is wrong. This halter coupled with at least a 12-foot lead rope provides a great teaching tool to get horses to be less dependent on gear and more dependent on us.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

A 12-foot lead rope seems awkward to most people who do not know how to use it. The key is to learn how to store the extra rope over your shoulder or the horse’s withers, or doubled over itself. I explain to people to start out holding the 12-foot rope doubled over so it becomes a 6-foot rope with the potential to become a 12-foot rope.

While on a horse, we essentially have three parts as we hold the rope in one hand: A loop, an end and the part from our hand to the halter. I explain the loop as the bank account we draw on as needed. A 6-or-8-foot rope may not give us enough leverage if a horse is trying to wrestle with us for any reason. A long rope always gives us more leverage if a horse is being disrespectful or is spooking away from us. If they are real bad that way, I recommend a 20-foot rope with the additional leverage of being inside a round pen.

Not only does the 12-foot rope give us extra leverage when we need it, it allows us to practice liberty work more easily. We can give our horse more time to listen to our body language before we actually pull on them to correct them. We can easily circle our horse around us getting them used to us being under control and not pulling on them except as needed. The secret to getting horses tuning into body language is to give them time to respond before we actually correct them. None of us like to be corrected, so if we practice true religion by being sharp and keeping our heads out of the sand, we will see and give warnings before corrections. We can actually drop this long lead rope on the ground as the horse is circling us, acting like the horse is circling at liberty. If we need to correct the horse, we can step on it as needed. We can put this horse through a myriad of maneuvers this way, being skillful dancers ourselves as we become adept at avoiding or stepping on the rope as needed.

We can also loop this lead rope in our belt on the ground or in the saddle. I find this the most practical way to teach a horse to stay with me as I’m out moving poly lines in my cell grazing system with my cattle. This is called “mecate style,” and originated from the Spanish vaquero (cowboy). The usual mecate style consists of a 12-foot lead rope attached to the left side of a snaffle bit. I choose to just leave the hand-tied halter and 12-foot lead rope under the snaffle bridle. I feel it is more versatile this way.  I can easily tie my horse to a tree if needed, and this system consists of different components not being dependent upon one another.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville.  Email: