© Rob Edwards
published in ANVIL Magazine, August 1996
The last time I used a rope on a horse was in an attempt to teach some farrier students how to do it "safely." It was on a field trip to a Belgian breeding farm in the Rocky Mountains. A 15-hand two-year-old resisted any attempt to trim the back feet, but otherwise seemed like a sensible-enough horse. The apparatus I used consisted of two lengths of 1" cotton rope and an iron ring. One end of the rope was tied around the horse's neck and held the ring at the shoulder. The other length of rope went through the ring and back around the horse's fetlock. The idea was that the foot could be held securely in a raised position and if the horse threw itself or otherwise got into trouble, the rope could be quickly released through the ring.
All was going well with the hoof in the raised position when the student holding the lead rope stepped back. The horse followed, discovered that its hind leg was immobilized, panicked, kicked the rope, displacing it up around the hock, ran after the now-running student and headed for the lower 40. In this configuration, the horse had the iron ring beating on the side of its rib cage and any number of rope ends slapping it from every direction.
Taking the most experienced cowboy of the group with me, I headed out after the horse into the sagebrush hoping not to find it tangled up in the barbed wire range fence. We found it behind a small shed shaking like an aspen leaf; it took us some time to approach, attempting to calm the horse as well as catch it. We had just gotten our hands on the halter when one of my more enthusiastic students jumped from behind the shed with tools in hand and farrier apron flapping in the wind. It was probably a good thing for the student that the horse stepped on my chest as it left. Had I been able to get up, who knows what I would have done?
As I gazed up through tear-filled eyes into the big Colorado sky, wondering if my lungs would ever fill again, I realized two things were not for me . . . ropes and students. It took about the same amount of time for me to get my resignation papers in order as it did for that student to get the cockleburrs out of my ropes, which thereafter were used to pull other pickups out of snow banks.
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