Here's how to tie a highline, starting with a few
1. Check your halters. First, check their condition. Examine the
stitching for signs of wear or breakage. Make sure the buckles are
in good working order. Then check their fit. They should fit your
horses comfortably without constricting or rubbing. Make sure each
throatlatch is snug enough so that you can't pull the halter over
your horse's ears.
2. Get the right lead ropes. Make sure they're soft and pliable.
If they're too stiff, the knots will slip. Cotton is a good
3. Get highline rope. You'll need 3/8 to 1/2-inch-diameter cotton
rope, which you'll find at your local hardware store. For two
horses, get at least 15 feet. Add 5 feet for each additional horse
you'll tie to the line.
4. Practice your knot tying. My favorite highline knot is the
taut-line hitch (described below). It's easy to tie, and with a
combination of half the hitches, you can tie almost anything. And
unlike quick-release knots, the half hitch won't jam. However,
always keep a sharp knife handy to free a horse in trouble
Once you have the basics down pat, you're ready to create
a highline at your campsite. Here's how.
1. Choose two sturdy, firmly rooted, live trees. Look for those
with branches that will help support your highline from below.
2. Locate a place on each tree at least 5 feet high where you'll
tie your line. Wrap a 'tree saver' around each tree trunk to protect
the bark. You can use a gunnysack, a commercial webbed model
(www.havesaddlewilltravel.com; www.outfitterssupply.com), or even
your saddle cinch.
3. Wrap the line around the tree-saver, and tie two half hitches
with an extra wrap (below left).
4. Draw the line over to and around the second tree, pulling out
as much slack as you can. Tie this end with two half hitches and an
5. Now, swing on the rope at its midpoint to stretch it. (And
giggle a lot--this can be fun!)
6. Untie one end, take up the slack, and retie the line.
Now you're ready to tie your horses' lead ropes to the highline.
Here are some tips.
7. Always use a taut-line hitch (described below). The three
wraps in that knot provide sufficient friction that the hitch won't
slide sideways along the line.
8. Tie the lead rope just long enough to allow your horse to
touch his nose to the ground directly under the knot, when he pulls
the line down slightly. Any longer, and he might put his foot over
the rope, which could cause him injury. Place his feed under the
9. To keep horses tangle-free, tie them at least 5 feet
apart?more if they're either aggressive or overtly passive and
likely to be picked on.
10. Tie horses far enough in from the trees so that they can't
paw the roots or chew the bark--either can kill the tree.
Here's how to tie a taut-line
hitch--that is, two half hitches with an extra wrap.
1.Hold one end of the line in your left hand; this will be your
working end. Hold the other end of the line in your right hand; this
will be the standing end. Wrap the line's working end once around
the tree trunk, leaving extra length. (You may need to experiment a
little with the length.)
2. Wrap the working end once around the standing line you've just
3. Make a half hitch. Bring the working end through the hole
created by the tree trunk and the standing end. Pull it snug.
4. Do an extra wrap. Wrap the working end between the highline
and your first half hitch.
5. Make another half hitch. Bring the working end toward your
horse, past the first half hitch. Bring the working end toward your
horse, past the first half hitch. Then wrap the working end around
the standing line again in the same direction, and up through the
hole between the first half hitch and the tree trunk. Snug it up.