Hold your horses – Highline Revamp

The highline  – Way back in 2009 I created a highline how to video. It’s been  pretty popular and I hope it’s been helpful. But that was over a decade ago and lots of things have changed in that time. Not only do I have less hair, and a rocking beard, I set up my highline differently now.

It’s time to refresh, revamp, and revise this piece. Please join me as we discover the joy of “A Better Way to Hold Your Horses”.

The highline. At its heart it’s just a stout rope stretched between two sturdy objects. But like many things that seem simple at first blush there’s a little more to it.

Done well a highline is a safe and effective tool to help keep our ponies out of trouble. Done poorly there’s few easier ways to heartbreak.

The Ingredients:

The Software

  • I’m a fan of 3/8 poly 3 strand rope. It’s strong with a tensile strength of over 33 hundred pounds
  • How long should it be? – How far apart are your trees? I like having 100 feet of highline. I’d rather have and not need than need and not have.
  • The 3 strand construction creates a rough surface that holds a prussic well. More on that in a bit!
  • Why Polyester? It doesn’t stretch like nylon. A highline rope shouldn’t stretch or stretch as little as possible.
  • A few yards of 7mm climbing cord – We’ll use this to make our prussiks.
  • You’ll need one prusik for the highline and one for each animal.
  • Here’s the rope we use – https://amzn.to/3g2U6cW
  • Here’s the climbing cord we use – https://amzn.to/3ihivNC

Treesaver Straps –

  • Technically not necessary but still essential. Tree savers protect the trees that we’re tying to and prevent damage to them. Use them.
  • I like tree savers that are brightly colored ( so I don’t lose them), long and without hardware. I sew mine out of seat belt webbing.
  • You’ll need at least two straps.
  • Here’s what I use – https://amzn.to/31oHjNU

The Hardware

Carabiners – climbing grade if you please.

  • I use locking carabiners anyplace where my ponies may be able to get to them.
  • Despite being very lightweight these are incredibly strong at 24 kilo newtons which foots out to over 5,000 pounds – I could lift all my ponies with these.
  • You’ll need 2 carabiners for the highline plus 1 for each horse.
  • Here’s the carabiners that I use – https://amzn.to/2BetFSZ

Swivels –

Once you’ve got your bits and bobs together it’s time to assemble!

Highline Location

  • Don’t keep stock too close to camp. Setting up your highline away from your immediate campsite will help you get a better night’s sleep as well as keep your camp site much cleaner for you and future campers. There’s not much worse than trying to camp amongst manure piles.
  • Pick a location where the damage from trampling hooves will be minimized such as on hard packed dirt or rocky soils.
  • Your highline should be at least 100 feet away from water sources such as streams or lakes (some areas require a longer distance).
  • Don’t tie to a dead tree – Look up for widow makers

Highline Assembly

I start my highline  by placing my first treesaver strap as high as I can get it up the selected tree. I try to get these as high as I can, which works out to about 7 feet off the ground. A highline should be high enough that your horses can walk under it.

Then attach your main rope to the tree saver with a bowline. I used to add a carabiner here but there’s no reason because there’s no movement and therefore no friction between the rope and fabric of the tree saver.

For the bowline just remember a tree, a hole, and a rabbit and you’re set! Here’s a link to a video on how to tie it.

Bowline Video  – https://www.trailmeister.com/how-to-tie-a-bowline/

Once the rope is tied on get the remaining rope to the next tree. I generally just toss it because it makes me feel good.

Wrap the second treesaver strap around the tree and to this treesaver attach a carabiner. The carabiner reduces friction and acts as a pulley.

  • Yes, a pulley system. We’re going to tap into ancient Greece and use Archimedes invention to make our lives much easier and keep our ponies safer.
  • We’re going to create a 2 to 1 mechanical advantage system
  • Without a pulley system the highline wouldn’t be tight and above the ponies heads. That would create an opportunity for trouble that we don’t want.

Next we’ll move back to the rope between the trees and create an anchor point for our pulley.

At this point I used to tie an inline loop in the rope. That worked fine. BUT there’s an easier way to create an anchor point.

The Prusik

The prusik is a friction hitch that grabs tight when pulled on. You can find them used by search & rescue teams and mountain climbers.

I like them because they ‘re easy to move if needed without dropping the line. They’re also cheap. I make my own. Here’s a video with more info.

Prusik Video – https://www.trailmeister.com/how-to-tie-a-prusik-knot-2/

Take your second carabiner and clip it on the prusik to reduce friction. And pull.  Secure the line with a few half hitches and you’re ready to park your ponies.