Thursday, November 29, 2018

Comments on Loading a Horse Using a Butt Rope

I have received a few e-mails and comments on a previous article I did about loading a horse into the trailer using a butt rope. So I reckon I need to clarify some things. First, using a butt rope has specific applications and is not intended to be a everyday trailer loading method. It is basically a last ditch method. It should not be used as a short cut. I hesitated even writing about it as I did not want someone to think it would be easier to train a horse to load that way.

When I was a Range Rider, there were a few situations where I had to unload and load a horse from a narrow road with a steep incline on one side and a sharp decline on the other. This situation did not lend itself to anything other than leading or sending the horse straight into the trailer. The terrain simply did not lend itself for re-training a horse to load. The fact that I was up in rough country meant that I had a well broke horse but after a trailer ride on rough dirt roads and trails, to get me close enough for work on horseback, would make some horses think twice before loading for a repeat ride. So yes, I have used a butt rope a couple times in situations like this.

I have hauled horses for other law enforcement or rescue organizations with confiscation orders, and a few times it was just safer to load an unsafe horse using a butt rope and not to loiter around the premises. I never liked confiscating people's livestock, but I got over it when faced with a horse in body score 1 or 2, or calves that were nothing but bones and skin. There may also be an alike situation when you may be evacuating horses from a natural disaster such as a wildlands fire or a incoming hurricane, and time is a factor. One time I loaded a less than friendly bull using a butt rope - it was just the safest way to get it done.

Years ago when I ran a large public stables one of the boarders was trying to load a horse to take to a roping. He kept at it for an hour or so, until my wife who was looking on for the sake of the horse couldn't stand it anymore, took over and got the horse to step in and load in about 2 minutes. Which in hindsight was probably not the thing to do as the next morning someone told me that I should look at the horse that was took to rope off of. I found that horse in his pen with rope burns on his back legs as these boys tried to use a butt rope to get the horse to re-load after roping. This is an example of someone who had no business trying to use a butt rope to load a horse.

The basic technique of using a buttrope is to secure one end of the rope on side or end of the trailer with the handler holding the free running end, then leading the horse over the butt rope, then picking it up off the ground and uses the rope laying across the horse's butt to provide some pressure to get the horse to move forward into the trailer. This takes awareness and can be dangerous as the handler has the lead rope in one hand and the buttrope in the other hand. It's easy to get the rope underneath the horse's tail. If this happens the horse will clamp down on the rope and back up quickly and it cause some rope burns. In fact, some trailer's don't really allow a butt rope to be used very well and others may force the handler to be leading the horse on the off side. The bottom line on using a buttrope to load a horse is that it is a technique for your toolbag, but not one that most people will ever use and should never use. Your timing on pressure, and releasing that pressure has to be accurate. I would caution people not to try this method unless they are trained by an experienced hand in person, and then only when they will likely have a specific need such as wildlands fire evacuations of livestock. Please don't do this just to do it. It's like laying a horse down. Don't do it just to do it. You have to have a good reason, some skill and the purpose to help the horse.

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