High­lines & Picket Lines


When you ven­ture into the back­coun­try with horses, keep them se­cure in camp by learn­ing to tie a high­line or picket line.

VVen­tur­ing into the back­coun­try on horse­back is a great way to cover ground and see as­tound­ing sights and wildlife. But when it comes time to build camp, you have more than just your­self to worry about. You also need to cre­ate a home away from home for your horse.

Un­less you’re at a de­vel­oped horse camp, you’re prob­a­bly not go­ing to find a cor­ral to pen your horse in. In­stead, you’ll need to tie a high­line or picket line.

Both lines are safe meth­ods to se­cure your horse and min­i­mize dam­age to the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment, says Bo Winslow, past-pres­i­dent of the Cer­ti­fied Horse­man­ship As­so­ci­a­tion. Dur­ing his 25 years work­ing for Che­ley Colorado Camp in Estes Park, he set up more high­lines and picket lines than he can count.

Be­fore You Go

You first need to train your horse to stand for hours tied to a line at home in a com­fort­able set­ting. Make sure he’s hal­ter trained, easy to lead, and un­likely to pull back when tied. If he isn’t re­li­able at the hitch­ing post, he prob­a­bly isn’t ready for ty­ing to a line.

Prac­tice set­ting up your line at home, away from the pres­sures of ac­tu­ally need­ing the line. This will give you a chance to work through the knots and fig­ure out how to prop­erly ten­sion the line tight. It’ll also give you a chance to tie your horse to a high­line in a safe and su­per­vised place, which will help keep him com­fort­able and con­fi­dent.

Here’s what you need to get started: • Two strong trees, about 10 inches in di­am­e­ter and at least 15 feet apart. Make sure there are no low-ly­ing limbs that could poke or in­jure your horse. That dis­tance should hold one horse. Add 5 to 10 feet for each ad­di­tional horse you’re ty­ing to your line. • A half-inch di­am­e­ter hemp or polypropy­lene rope long enough to span the trees and tie in knots, and then have some ex­tra length. High­lines and picket lines work off ten­sion, so you need a rope that won’t stretch. Avoid ny­lon. • Two rope sad­dle cinches to wrap around

the trees to pro­tect their bark. A rope alone would cut into the trees and dam­age them. • A guide to knot-ty­ing with a

di­a­gram of a Dutch­man’s knot. • Bal­ing twine, to cre­ate spots to

tie each of the horses.

The Right Setup

Be­fore you get started with Winslow’s process for set­ting up your picket line (as de­scribed in the photo guide, op­po­site), here are some points to keep in mind: • A picket line is like a hitch­ing rail and set at chest height — high enough that the horses can’t climb over it, but low enough that they can’t go un­der it, ei­ther. Horses must stay on one side of the line. • A high­line is at least seven feet high and al­lows horses to move around un­derneath it. • Never tie your sad­dled horse to a picket line or high­line. The sad­dle could get caught on the rope, caus­ing him to panic. Take the time to un­tack him be­fore ty­ing. • Tie your horse so his head can reach about two feet off the ground. This will give him enough slack to lie down, but not enough to get him­self tan­gled in the rope. • Se­lect an area for your high­line that has good foot­ing and is free of veg­e­ta­tion. Wet ar­eas are es­pe­cially vul­ner­a­ble to hoof dam­age. • Leave your camp area as you found it. Avoid dam­ag­ing trees with your high­line or picket line, and clean up af­ter your­self and your horses.

When you ven­ture into the back­coun­try with horses, keep them se­cure in camp by learn­ing to tie a high­line or picket line. STORY AND PHO­TOS BY MICHELLE AN­DER­SON

Se­lect a safe lo­ca­tion for your high­line or picket line. Make sure the area is free of ob­struc­tions that could in­jure your horse, es­pe­cially if he likes to lie down when tied to the line. Here, Bo Winslow is mov­ing logs and de­bris out of the way.

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