Picketing Horses at an event

1. Per cavalry regulations the picket line should be 36 to 48 inches off the ground. The line should be 3/4 inch diameter. It should be supported at least every 40 feet.   A highline is another option.  A highline picket line should be 8 feet off the ground and supported along its length at intervals with poles.  Remember the closer packed your horses are the less rest they get so if there is the space, highline for your horse's comfort.

2. Horses should be spaced at 5ft intervals on the regulation picketline. If picketing on both sides, 3 ft between ties.  On a highline they should be at 9 ft intervals.   All horses should be tied with the same hold-fast/quick release knot.  Leads should not touch the ground without the horse having to pull the line down a bit.

3. The picket line should be free of debris, rocks, tangles etc, at least 12ft on each side of the line. The ground should be firm and dry. Good drainage is a plus, but you can't always pick your spot.

4. The line should be kept taut, adjust it regularly at least twice a day every day.

5. Keep the line clean. Muck every time you see a problem, we muck at least 4 times daily. Put the manure far enough away from the line to minimize the fly problem.

6. Keep the line well hayed 24 hrs a day. (That's enough to eat but not enough to waste). Feed all horses on the line grain at the same time. Same with water.  Always water and hay before grain.  Do not keep buckets of water on the line, lead them out to water.

7. Do not punish, or excessively discipline horses on the line. Do not use whip, crops or bats on the line. (excessive, is any discipline that would disturb another horse on the line).

8. Move the horses around on the line until some harmony is reached. Many mares will go into season on the line so keep moving them if harmony changes.  In ideal conditions mares should be separated from geldings.   No stallions should be allowed on the line. (They shouldn't be cavalry horses, anyway)

9. Set up a separate line for jugheads. You can't fix a problem in a week end so don't fight it. The rest of the line should not suffer for a knothead horse's foolishness.

10. Inspect every horse while on the line each morning for cuts, scrapes, bites, kicks and illness symptoms. Inspect more often if necessary, but each rider should do that anyway. Check for saddle and work related sores and injuries before and after every ride. Set up a separate line for the sick and injured if necessary.

11. Assign a picket line guard 24hrs. Have a good vet first aid kit close by. All troopers assigned to the guard should be aware of special problems with any horse on the line and they should know the symptoms of colic and other picket line maladies. (especially the night guard). Flash lights may not be authentic, but a powerful one needs to be available for the night guard if necessary. Do not use candles or oil lamps on the line if there is a problem.

12. Hoofs should be kept extra clean and feet and shoes should be inspected several times each day. Know how to correctly remove or re-set a shoe. Everyone should know, but if not, make sure at least someone in the group has the skill.

13. Do not mount or dismount at the picket line, lead out first.

14. Keep the horses calm and content with praise and small treats, especially in less than ideal conditions.

15. Do not discharge firearms at or near the line.

16. Keep the public and children away from the horses.

The picket line at a reenactment event should serve as a sanctuary for the horses. Let them rest, eat and be well cared for. That is the best training experience they can have.

Article written by Jim Ottevaere and with additions by Linneus Ahearn