Tying Up Loose Ends

Published in the August, 1998 issue of The Trail Less Traveled
Copyright © 1998 Leslie Desmond, Diamond Lu Productions. All rights reserved. Photos by Richard F. Levine


In certain situations it can be handy to know how to shorten your reins and lengthen the lead on your mecate. If you need to pony your horse some place without a halter and rope or if you want to work with your horse from the fence, or on the ground in a snaffle, this simple adjustment can make a big difference in how effective you are.

Remember, do not tie your horse with the tail end of your mecate when your reins are looped over the saddle horn, or buckled through your throat latch. This can damage your horse and tear up your gear. Photos and text that describe how to do this appeared in the September, 1995 issue of The Trail Less Traveled.

Adjusting your mecate in this way helps to eliminate the possibility that your horse will get a foot, or a stirrup, through your reins when they’re looped over the horn. It allows you the flexibility to feed him out quite a bit of extra line if the situation calls for it.

082755006bBridle your horse and leave the throat latch undone.
374b7b0293 08ebcee9f3
Start with your reins as far over towards the left side of your horse’s neck as possible, with the offside (right) slobber strap running up alongside the cheek piece of your bridle. Keep the tail of your mecate well-organized and out of the way, and bring the slack out of the reins, over the top of his head. This will cause the rein that is attached to the right slobber strap to snug up.
8e7a9105f0Buckle the throat latch around both reins.         
51d13635c0You will have a lot of slack now between the throat latch and the near-side slobber strap that needs to be taken up.    
04708aba6fLoosen the half hitch and pull the slack through. No more than the very tips of your fingers should reach through the half hitch to get hold of the rein you are pulling through. It’s safest to push the rein through the loop of the loosened knot--from your right hand to your left hand.         
0a64c0e72cSo that you don’t tug on your horse’s mouth while you thread the rein through the hole in the strap, hold on to the slobber strap as you pull. Your half hitch is still in place, so just work the slack out of it and snug it up the way it was before.       
tie08When it’s adjusted to the proper length, there should still be enough slack in the rein coming over the head to allow the near-side slobber strap to hang as if your reins hadn’t been shortened up. This is so the feel of your hand on the horse’s mouth is still the same, and does not get transferred to a pull that he feels on the poll.    
tie09tie10After some experimentation and practice, most horses can understand what you’re asking them to do with their bodies from either side. Bill Dorrance works here to build feel into a green horse from the ground at his Pebble Beach clinic in February 1997.
tie11tie12When there is a need to work your horse up close on the right side, it can help a horse to understand what he feels from your hand if you run the end of your mecate under his chin and back through the snaffle ring on the right.
tie13tie14Before the slack comes all the way out and pulls the left-side slobber strap up toward the bit, simply double the mecate over the right-hand snaffle bit ring.
tie15tie16Before the slack comes all the way out and pulls the left-side slobber strap up toward the bit, simply double the mecate over the right-hand snaffle bit ring.