Every horse person I know (including me) has picked up a carabiner or more. They’re quick and easy to use for a lot of things-hanging a hay net, replacing the clip on a lead, putting a bucket up for feeding, fastening a gate, and on and on. That’s the problem-they’re TOO EASY. So we don’t think about them as much as we should. DANGER ALERT.
The danger is in HOW we use them and which ones we choose to use. As in all things, you get what you pay for-and cheaper usually means what? You are asking for trouble.
Now I am not an expert in carabiners-you’d have to go to the people who do mountain climbing, rappelling, emergency rescue, caving, etc. for that expertise. I’m just interested in what works for what we want to do with it. Now I will say this-what they do requires extreme strength and extreme safety. Their gear MUST work. If something fails, somebody stands a really good chance of dying. So yes-if I’m going to buy carabiners that I think will take the strain of working with horses, here’s where I’m looking first. Home Depot or Lowe’s isn’t on the list-except maybe for keys.
The one to the right is one that I would reserve for key rings, latching gates on the OUTSIDE where horses cannot reach them, hanging hay nets and having the ‘biner up where they won’t bother them, etc. It is too lightweight to withstand much pulling, the spring gate will allow for accidental opening, and if you run a finger over the part where it closes-it is sharp. Now why do I point this out? Because-as we all know-horses will rub on dang near anything. If they have a itch, they scratch.
Now this photo is of a dog-I couldn’t find the one I have seen of horses wearing carabiners like nose rings or lip rings. (That’s not funny, by the way.) The article with this said that the leash was still attached to the carabiner when the dog was brought to the vet. As you can see, the ‘biner was all the way through and had reclosed the gate. How exactly this happened is something that was not explained, but the photo should be enough to make you never want to use an unprotected gate carabiner close to any animal again.
There ARE carabiners that can be used, however, and I am happy to say they are easily available. You pay a little more for them, but, hey, safety is worth the money.
First up-this is what Home Depot, Farmer’s Supply, and Lowe’s call the Quick Link. It’s really a type of carabiner. It is meant to replace the link in a chain. (If you are going to use it outside, put a teeny smear of grease on the threads or you will have the thing rust shut on you. Then if you have used it, as we did, to fasten a gate shut and it is winter and raining, and the thing won’t open, you will use all the curse words you know. These things come in quite a few sizes-I’ve used great big ones to picket my stallions.
Next are the ‘double gate’ carabiners. These have TWO pieces that you have to get through to thread the ‘biner. Once threaded, the ‘biner is unlikely to allow for accidental unloading as both gates have to be opened before the line can be removed. I don’t think I would use these in any application where you might want to disengage in a hurry, but for some things, they could be useful-the far end of an overhead picket tie, the far end of a crosstie, maybe a lead line or lunge line, etc.
The ones that I really like are the ‘locking’ carabiners. These are similar to the Quick Links in that they open by spinning a knurled nut down, then reclose the same way. That means that the ‘biner cannot be accidently opened or closed. It does somewhat limit the size of the line as the nut takes up a bit of room, but I’ll take the trade-off. These are a bit more expensive. As with the Quick Link, a quick smear of vaseline or grease (or even your lip balm) will keep the threads turning.
Finally, make sure you do not load your carabiner incorrectly or it will fail and cause you and your horse all kinds of problems. You cannot just do what you want to with these things. They must be used properly or, once again, you are begging for trouble. ALWAYS LOAD SO THAT THE STRAIN GOES THE SAME WAY AS THE LONG PART OF THE ‘BINER. Here’s a picture for those that need it:
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