Doc Hammill Horsemanship

Securing Lines on the “Jake Staff” for Safety

Team lines tied in clove hitch to the "Jake Staff"
Team lines tied in a clove hitch around the “Jake Staff”

My students know how much emphasis I put on safety when we work with our horses. Line control is a very important piece of the safety picture. In my article, “Ten Common Driving Wrecks with Horses”, I state:

“It’s easier to drop a line than you might think. A horse can stumble or root with his nose pretty hard, and it’s not uncommon for us to simply fumble a line and drop it. If you don’t have the lines secured as a backup one or both can be lost and you can easily lose control. My preferred safety net is to sit on the lines.”

Sometimes it just isn’t practical to sit on the lines. I encountered that situation a few winters ago while driving Dolly and Molly on a bob-sled; I always drove them from a standing position.

The photos show a safe alternative to sitting on the lines — when tied on a “Jake Staff”, the lines are secured and retrievable if they are dropped or pulled from our hands. I prefer to use a clove hitch  to fasten the lines, rather than simply wrapping the lines around the staff or tying another kind of knot. Here are my reasons:

  • very secure
  • quick and easy to tie and untie
  • quick and easy to tighten, loosen, and adjust
  • doesn’t tangle”
  • easy to remove — slide it up and off the “Jake Staff” and drop the part of the lines with the clove hitch in it. The knot falls apart, leaving the lines tangle free.

Want to learn to tie a clove hitch or know its strengths and weaknesses? Find answers here:

Wikipedia: Clove Hitch
Animated Knots by Grog: Clove Hitch

Clove Hitch in John Sharp’s Book, Knots and Hitches

Lines running from the horses to Doc's hands, and then to the Jake Staff
Lines running from the horses to Doc’s hands, and then to the Jake Staff