Buck Ropes with the Rope and Pulley Hitch

A Possible Way to use Buck Ropes with the Rope and Pulley Hitch

by William Castle of Shropshire, UK

Although the rope and pulley hitch for multiple hitches is elegant in its simplicity, it has always seemed to me to be a great disadvantage that both leaders and wheelers need to be driven, rather than using buck ropes on the wheelers. Besides having to manipulate four lines in your hands, there are often levers to be moved at the same time. That is quite a handful, and if the horses are occasionally a handful as well, you can’t rely on the hitch to hold back half the horses, as when using eveners for the leaders and buck ropes on the wheelers.

When thinking about how it might be possible to use buck ropes on the pulley system, my first thought was simply to clip the wheeler’s buck rope into the rope from the leader ahead of him, but if that leader was to slow right down, the buck rope acting on the wheeler would probably make him stop. Putting the buck rope onto the rope from the leader diagonally ahead has the same problem, as these two horses would then tend to stop together.

The neat part about the system which uses eveners on the leaders, allowing you to drive with just two reins, is that the wheelers are responding via their buck ropes on the lead chain, to the average pull of the leaders, not just to one individual horse, because the different movements of the leaders have all been evened out by their eveners.

The problem in applying this principle to the rope and pulley hitch is that the leaders are not evened out against each other, but instead are equalised against the horse immediately behind them. What is needed is to find a point to attach the buck ropes against the average forward movement of the leaders. Using a four up as an example, my first thought was to fix a rod between the ropes from the leaders in the middle of the hitch, level with wheelers flanks, between the off side trace extension of the near leader, and the near side trace extension of the off side leader. The buck ropes could then by clipped into the centre of this rod, which would be in the average position. The problem is that for the rod to be long enough to allow movement forwards and backwards it would interfere with the wheelers on either side, unless a very wide double tree was used.

The elusive but obvious solution to averaging out any movement in a rope and pulley hitch is to use another pulley or two!

Buck Ropes with the Rope and Pulley Hitch

The diagram shows how this might work. The outside ropes are rigged as for a normal rope and pulley hitch. A single rope joins the inside traces of the wheelers, going round pulleys in the end of their own single trees and round an extra pulley which is a couple of feet further forward. This pulley is connected to another pulley, round which passes a rope from the inside leaders’ traces. This second pulley equalises the forward motion of the leaders, so the position of this pulley block does reflect the average forward position of the leaders, so the buck ropes can be clipped on to this additional double pulley block. Each horse still pulls its share of the load, the leaders are driven with long team lines, and the wheelers are tied in to the leaders’ traces.

Buck Ropes with the Rope and Pulley Hitch

If there was a single ring on the additional pulley block for the buck ropes to clip onto, the buck ropes themselves would need to be adjustable in length. Alternatively, a number of rings, or a chain could be welded along the length of this block for easy adjustment.

With six horses hitched three and three, the third wheeler would be bucked back to its neighbour’s trace. In an eight horse hitch, either the two outside wheelers could be bucked back to their neighbours’ traces, or two sets of the four up rigging could be used side by side.

I must add that I have not tried this hitch, as I only have one horse. This is still only an idea, but I can’t think why it wouldn’t work. Maybe someone else has already thought of it and tried it. If anyone does try it please let me know how it works.