Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rope Work

As I wrote earlier it was the particular methodology in each man's use of the rope that I saw as the most striking commonality between Buck Brannaman and Harvey Jacobs. Their use of this tool just another extension of their reach, as natural and fluid as if they were born with it attached at the end of the arm. They could and did put that rope around any body part of the horse they chose regardless of the animal's antics. Incorporating that with their understanding of  herd dynamics and equine body language, their impeccable timing made even the renegade horses see the man as the superior without causing harm or pain.

It struck me as I witnessed each of these men interact with various horses, there were no gimmicks to what they did, no endorsed equipment to buy. Their tools were the basic equipment of a ranch working cowboy and their desire to build upon an idea that horses should not be broken but instead taught with methods that instill trust and encourage partnership.

Of all of the clinicians advocating natural horsemanship I have seen, with the exception of John Lyons who had been the first and laid the foundation for my journey, it has been these two men that have given me fresh ideas that could get me where I want to be with my own development.

Ever since I first witnessed Harvey throw a rope on Rhythm I have seen the value of such work. Then watching Buck with the renegade stallion, it reiterated this and gave me some new perspective in ways only such jeopardy can do for something to become crystal clear. By roping that horse on a hind foot, Buck was able to control the horse's movement and even enough so as to make a rider safe. Who would even imagine such a thing could happen by just hanging onto a horse's foot? Certainly not me.....until I saw it in action  Harvey's method of teaching a horse to lead by each foot had new meaning.

Watching a loop fly with such precision makes me want to be forty years younger so I might have some hope at attaining such proficiency. I see the limitations I have without such a tool as much as I hate admitting to that. The ability that kind of rope work affords to get inside a horse's head is something magical to me.

 Working with Arabian horses who can actually do two things at one time makes the lack of such a tool a really big deal, a means of accomplishing in minutes what it otherwise could take me weeks to do. The perception it changes for the horse something not easily duplicated by other means. A switch flipped from doing enough to one of undivided attention.

Such a huge gap between the two that can mean a horse is so focused on what he is asked that he doesn't even notice the unruly kids playing on the rail over his head or hear the cell phone drop. That kind of commitment from the horse is based on a deep trust.

 Some think such trust can only be built over years but watching the greats in this style of training suggests otherwise. What is seen at those clinics may just be the cornerstone for that deep trust but it is a piece of the journey that many never achieve. It is what I strive to attain with each and every horse and I have no doubt good rope work would be a huge step in the right direction.

The only problem I see with that logic is sorting through the crazy world of determining which rope will be the right one and followed by much practice.

Anyone know how to choose a rope?


  1. I was told to just choose a rope that "felt right"! While I can't rope a horse, I do use a long line to ask the horse to move forward, stop etc and have been very successful with that, but knowing I have NO aim whatsoever, I do NOT wish to do more harm than good by doing it wrong!!! I also use pool noodles and softened (by a pool noodle or lots of tape) dressage whips to get a horse used to being touched. It has worked well for me and what I have, but I've only owned 1 horse that wished to harm me and she went back to the person I purchased her from as I was never told of her rogue behavior.

  2. So this is why you asked me long ago about the ropes.... A-Ha! lol

    I will ask my farrier next time he is out. He is a roper and may have a good idea of the what and how stuff. When I roped, I just used the rope that was on the saddle with the horse. Never had my own, always borrowed everything.

    I would say to go with the one that feels right to you, but then there are zillions our there, different weights, thicknesses, etc. Maybe try contacting Cactus Ropes and explain what you want and why. They should be able to point you in the right direction.