Master the Log Drag—Safely

Learn this skill to prepare for a ranch trail class, or just to increase your horse’s ‘broke quotient.’
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Learn this skill to prepare for a ranch trail class, or just to increase your horse’s ‘broke quotient.’

Can you drag a log behind your horse? Ranch riding and ranch trail classes may call for this skill. But even if you don’t compete, the ability to drag an object from the saddle can be handy around the barn. Moreover, teaching it to your horse can be a rewarding exercise that strengthens the bond of trust between the two of you. Game to give it a try? Here’s how to do it safely.

Before you begin. Find a 15-foot-long, ¾-inch-diameter cotton rope (easy to handle and won’t rub/burn). Tie one end securely to the end of a log or pole that’s about 4 or 5 feet long and 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Tack your horse up. As you hold your horse, have a friend drag the log around, gradually closer, until your horse is comfortable with the movement of the log around his space (but not touching him). Reward him with your hand and voice at each positive response. Take the time necessary for your horse to fully absorb the learning at this step—and at all following steps—before proceeding.

Pull, facing the log. Mount up, then take the rope (from your helper, or from a fence rail) with your right hand. Hold the tail end of the rope in your left, with the reins. (You want to be able to play the rope out if need be, without dropping it, as you’re schooling your horse. Drop the rope and your horse “wins.”) Don’t wrap the rope around your hand or the horn.

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Credit: Photos by Barry Denton TOP: After groundwork with the log, mount up and—holding the rope in your right hand—ask your horse to drag the log as he slowly backs up. BOTTOM: Then, with the log still to your right side, ride forward and in a circle to the right, always rewarding your horse as he complies.

Credit: Photos by Barry Denton TOP: After groundwork with the log, mount up and—holding the rope in your right hand—ask your horse to drag the log as he slowly backs up. BOTTOM: Then, with the log still to your right side, ride forward and in a circle to the right, always rewarding your horse as he complies.

With your horse facing the log, pull the log a little bit toward you. If he accepts this, try backing him up a step or two while dragging the log (see main photo). If he hurries backward, stop his backing and ride forward toward the log (don’t drop the rope!), rewarding him as he moves toward it. Then try again. All backward motion must be your idea, not his. Continue until your horse is at ease calmly dragging the log backwards.

Pull to the right. Now, ride forward and in a small circle to the right, keeping the log to your right side as you pull it in a circle (see inset photo). Proceed slowly, rewarding your horse as he accepts this new task. If you want, you can take half a dally around the horn, so that the horn is taking the pull, but the rope is not wrapped around the horn.

Pull straight, then change sides. Move on to walking straight ahead, dragging the log behind you. Make sure the log is far enough behind that it doesn’t bump your horse’s hind leg. You can take one full dally—but no more—at this point, so the horn fully takes the weight but you can easily get the rope undone if need be.

Now reverse all instructions to repeat these tasks with the rope in your left hand, pulling in a circle to the left, then straight ahead.

Finally, once your horse is completely confident with all the above, proceed to pulling to the left with the log on your right, and to the right with the log on your left. For this, he’ll need to tolerate the pull of the rope across his butt and stifle. (Make sure the rope can’t go up under his tail.)

Laurel Walker Denton, Skull Valley, Arizona, grew up on the Bar U Bar Ranch where she and her husband, Barry, reside. An AQHA and NRCHA judge, Laurel has trained and shown horses in working cow horse, reining, and ranch riding (barubar.com).