KBR Quick Tip

Emergency Improvisations

Fashioning an Emergency Quick Sling

2004, Willis & Sharon Lamm

A horse is down and can't get up. It needs to be moved to shelter but there is no practical way to move it, or even get it to its feet. If you find yourself in this predicament you can improvise a safe and effective sling using materials from around the ranch.

In our instance we got up one winter morning to find Bill, an elderly miniature mule, cast in the pasture. He was in shock and hypothermic. He would try to get up but he could not, even with assistance. At the time we didn't know whether he was cast because he had become weak or he had become weak because he had become cast. What we did know was that we had to get him out of a chilling winter wind and to shelter. We covered Bill with a horse blanket while we gathered up supplies.

Items we had available included a John Deere tractor, some ropes, a couple of nylon cargo straps and some nylon webbing. Here is how we improvised a sling.

First we removed the ratchets from the nylon straps. We passed each strap under Bill and back through the narrow slot at the base of the strap hook. By tying an overhand knot in the strap below the hook, we could prevent the loops from tightening up on Bill.

The overhand knots could be easily adjusted so that the loops didn't get too tight, nor so large that Bill could slip through.

Close-up of the strap and hook

In this situation we had planned to assist Bill to his feet using a bucket loader. We tied the straps across the bucket arms in order to prevent him from spinning once raised.

Since the arms were farther apart than our lift points, we tied the strap hooks together with some belting to adjust the lift width. (Rope or bailing twine could also serve this purpose.)

The red webbing provides width adjustment

Since Bill was fairly light we were able to join the two straps using a flat knot or overhand follow through knot. (One strap is tied in an overhand knot and the other strap is passed through the knot from the opposite direction, following the first strap exactly. The end knot is actually a strong "double" overhand knot that can be easily loosened and adjusted.)

Note: When using a rope instead of webbing you should use a figure eight follow through knot, illustrated here.

The flat knot

By taking up one of the ends from the flat knot we could make sure that the sling stayed centered when we started to lift.

(One end hung off each side of the loader lift arms.)

Holding on to one of the ends.

Now we were ready to lift. We checked Bill and he still wanted to try to stand.

Since he was a relatively small animal we opted to remove the blanket. The extra padding wasn't needed and the bulk would make the process complicated. With a larger animal we would have likely padded the straps.

We double checked the rigging and were ready to go.

Final check

Continue to Part Two


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KBR Quick Tips, 1995 Lamm's Kickin' Back Ranch and Willis & Sharon Lamm. All rights reserved. Duplication of any of this material for commercial use is prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached.
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