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How to Tie and Use a Get Down Rope

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The get down rope is for just that: mounting, dismounting and leading your bridle horse or ponying him. It is for control, direction and safety.

Never, but never, should it be used for tying.

To find out why, click here.


The get down rope is traditionally made of mane hair or other animal fibers. Today, some are fashioned with man made materials.

NOTE: It doesn’t matter what type of leverage or signal bit you use, a get down rope is an essential safety tool for horse and rider. This is also true for those using snaffles, even though it is not often seen. 

Alamar at neck

A get down rope can be positioned in two locations on the horse's neck.

The preferred, but not seen as much except in the CA vaquero tradition, is positioning at the base of the neck. The 22 foot, 3/8"  mecate is doubled around the neck like a necklace. The old Pacific Slope families do this. An alamar knot is tied loosely and sits on the horse’s chest. Some riders only loop the mecate around the horse's neck once. This allows more lead rope and lessened opportunities for the alamar to catch in brush. 

A “badge of honor” with a spade bit horse or, at the very least, a horse packing a bridle, the alamar is a symbol signifying graduation from the two rein phase to straight up. Serving to protect the horse’s mouth, the rider and his equipment, the mecate get down rope is a safety device in several ways.

CAUTION: DO NOT EMBARRASS YOUR HORSE OR YOURSELF BY TYING AN ALAMAR KNOT ON YOUR HORSE. If your horse has not earned it, you look foolish and it makes a mockery of the tradition to do so. 


Using the alamar getdown

A 3/8" bosalita is positioned on the horse’s face. The rider’s romal is on the off (his right) side of the horse. The romal reins are wrapped around the horn and secured by a half hitch (twisting the reins so that the romal is underneath on the final wrap).

Before the rider dismounts, he takes hold of the mecate lead which is across his body through his belt if on his right side or just on his left side, if he prefers. When dismounted, the alamar knot is slid forward to the throat latch. The remaining length of rope is run through the bosalita as a lead. Reverse the alamar to the chest position and remove the lead from the bosalita for mounting.

The other way is helpful if mounting and dismounting often. This is also common in areas where there is a plentiful brush or when you know that the job that day will leave you “picking ticks.”

Bowline get down

A bowline or other non-slip knot is tied around the horse’s throat latch in a 16 foot get down rope. This has a popper end opposite to a hair tassel secured with a braided rawhide or hair knot hitched over it. The knot should not slip and tighten around the throat latch (leave plenty of room for expansion for air, etc.). The tassel hangs perpendicular to the ground. This is not only stylish, but helps discourage flies from biting.

As the rider prepares to dismount, he should take hold of the get down rope rather than the reins. With the romal on the off side of the horse (right) and secured under a half hitch, the reins are wrapped around the horn. If the horse is spooked or side steps, the rider has more control with the get down and protects the horse’s mouth as well as the rider’s gear. He might not have to walk home, either.


When mounting or dismounting, place your romal reins around the saddle horn in a neutral position secured by a half hitch or use the mecate loop in a hackamore. Take hold of your get down or mecate lead and use that instead of hanging on your reins. Should you fall, or the horse spooks, you can potentially regain control. If you are holding mecate or romal reins when trouble happens, you can end up pulling your horse off balance on top of you, scaring him into a bolt or causing pain/damage to his mouth with even more repercussions.


The rider may have elected to ride with the lead threaded through the bosalita. The lead end can be tied to the saddle with the mature horse or tucked in the rider’s chap belt. Or, he may wish to avoid potential pulls on the nose by the bosalita by quickly running the lead end through it only when standing on the ground. The balance of the get down rope becomes the lead (just as with the first method).

The popper end is put through the chap belt (if on the rider’s right side, it lies across him in the saddle, but this frees him on the ground, but some prefer on the left). It may also be tied to the saddle (personal preference, work of the day, the situation and degree of advancement of your horse).


CAUTION: If run through the belt, make certain that there isn’t so much rope that if you as the rider are thrown, the loop makes a half hitch and potentially ties you to a moving horse.


Those following the “preferred” way say that the "dairy farmers" used the second style (they loved milk and cheese, but this was a slight dig to set themselves apart as riders).

Tying the Get Down Rope to the Saddle

Here's a pictorial that shows one way of tying the get down rope to your saddle, instead of fastening it to your body:

(Click a picture to enlarge)

tying to saddle step 1tying to saddle step 2tying to saddle step 3

tying to saddle step 4tying to saddle step 5tying to saddle step 6

Note that the oversized gear on this little mare was her predecessor's
and was used here to illustrate some concepts. 

As vaquero artist Ernest Morris says about the valuable get down rope, “Don’t leave home without it.”

Purchase Get Down Ropes



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