Tie-up bobbins

These things sit in my office & intrigue all who see them. I have heard them described as “Tie Up Bobbins”, “Manger Balls”, “Tying up blocks” and “Manger blocks”.
They date back to a time when there were many working horses, particularly in towns and cities. Many of these horses would have been housed in stalls, there simply wasn’t enough space for individual loose boxes or stables, let alone anywhere to turn the horse out.

So, a horse is to rest, tied up, in a stall. The animal should be able to lie down and stand up comfortably. I don’t know about other people’s experiences but I have met an awful lot of horses & ponies for whom the term “accident prone” simply doesn’t go far enough. Faced with a looping rope that would allow them to lie or stand easily these individuals would inevitably put a leg over the rope & get into an awful mess. With a shorter rope they will merely throttle themselves while trying to lie down.

The solution to this problem? The Tie Up Bobbin. These heavy wooden balls have a central hole. The rope passes from the halter or headcollar, through a tying up ring or bar on the stall wall and then through the tie-up bobbin. A quick release knot is tied on the other side of the bobbin. The block now acts as a counterweight, eliminating any looping in the rope. Cunning eh?

The ones shown are made of a very heavy wood, sometimes called lignum vitae. They have a marvellous patina , they do have some of the scars you would expect from use. A chain joins the three together, with a loop for hanging.

Dimensions: the larger two measure 3½” (9cm) x 4″ (10cm) x 4″ (10cm), the smaller one measures 3¼” (8.5cm) x 3½” (9cm) x 3½” (9cm). They are understandably heavy (2.5kg) and will have to be shipped by courier.


This blog entry is about lawn boots. Partly because they are interesting but largely because they contain no letter “D”.

kitten damage to laptop

Note the missing key

This isn’t an intellectual exercise, I’m no Georges Perec (he wrote “La Disparation”, a novel without the letter “e”) – an entire work omitting a given letter is beyond me (note the “d” in beyond). It is simply that one of my kittens removed the relevant key from my laptop & it now requires a special poking action to use it.

Back to lawn boots… these are leather boots that would be strapped onto a pony’s (or horse’s, or donkey’s) hooves.

Lawn boots for a pony

Why were they used? Well, if you have ever stamped down divots on a polo field (or accidentally let a horse stray onto a golf course – which has never happened to me, really…), you will know what hooves can do to a lawn.
Before motorised vehicles were common, horse (or pony, or donkey) drawn lawnmowers and grass rollers were used on any large expanses of grass. Obviously, there’s no point in carefully mowing and rolling a lawn if at the same time it is being churned up by hooves.

Lawn boots for a pony

They are made of thick leather and have a strap that would fasten around the pastern, and a lower strap that fastened behind the heel. The soles are generally leather, they are sometimes sewn on & sometimes riveted. The soles often have small studs – wet grass can be pretty slippery. I have seen a set with large studs on the sole, I was told that they were “ice shoes”, but I am not sure how accurate that description was.

Lawn boots for a pony

Most that turn up are probably Victorian. They do show up in old gardener’s catalogues (Ruth Brennan uses the title “Lawn Boots for Donkeys” in her 1991 paper on nurserymen’s catalogues. Ultimately I think they are a fascinating bit of equestrian history & an ingenious piece of problem solving.