Intro: How to Make a 15' Lead Rope W/ Leather Popper
These, days, the tools required for breaking your yearling can also break your bank account! Instead of buying a $25+ training lead rope, make your own using an old longe line and some lightweight leather.
Step 1: Materials
-1 longe line (whatever material you prefer for a lead rope - i used a thick braided cotton line)
-very sharp knife or heavy duty scissors
-matches and candle or lighter
-leather hole punch
-crochet or yarn hook
-sewing machine (or your hands)
Step 2: Cutting and Sealing Your Rope
First measure out 15' (or whatever length is desired) on your rope. Using a very sharp knife or scissors, carefully cut the rope at the proper length. Then, (again, carefully), seal the end of the rope using a lit candle or lighter. Sometimes tying off the end with a twist tie helps to make the seal closer together.
Step 3: Cutting Out the Leather Strips
I happened to have some leather scraps in a closet in my house, but leather can be found at most fabric stores. I used a relatively thin, non-stretch leather. The stiffer the better, as this adds to the "pop" sound. Also, if real tanned leather is available, this is much better than man-made.
You can draw your design onto the leather, or do as I did and just cut it out using an X-ACTO knife and cutting board. The shape should be long and thin with the loose end coming to a point, doubling each strip for strength. I recommend cutting on the fold to save sewing time. *After playing around, I figured out that the best way to cut was draw the outline of one strip on either side of the fold, then laying it out flat to cut. Cutting through one layer at a time was easier and it was still possible to cut it on the fold.
Continue cutting out a total of four strips. Remember, these don't have to be pretty! No one's going to know if your edges aren't straight unless you tell them.
Step 4: Sewing the Leather Strips
If you have access to a sewing machine, it makes this step much easier. Assuming you are using a sewing machine, make sure a leather needle is in and you are using good thread. The cheaper you buy, the sooner your popper will fall apart.
SEWING BY MACHINE
Start on the right side of the fold (as long as you cut on the fold, there is no need to sew back over it) and fix the stich before you move down the strip. Sew within 1/8 inch for best results. When you come to the slant, leave the needle in the leather, lift the presser foot, and turn the leather to continue sewing along the edge. Do this again as you need to turn the leather. When you get to the other end, fix the stitch again and cut the threads. Do this for all four strips.
SEWING BY HAND
Start on the right side of the fold, tying the end of the stitch down before continuing down the rest of the strip. Try to keep a straight line of small, close stitches that are within 1/8 inch from the edge of the fabric. Do this for the entire strip, then fix when you get to the folded end of the other side. Repeat for all four strips.
If using a sewing machine, it helps to keep your finger just along the left-side edge of the strip to keep it from slipping out of place. (shown in the close-up)
Don't worry if these don't look perfect..again, who is going to know? :)
Step 5: Attaching the Strips to the Rope
If possible, slide the outer covering of your rope down off of the edge of the inside and cut that inside cotton section's first inch or so out. This makes it easier to attach the leather.
Use a leather hole punch on the smallest setting to cut a hole on the un-sewn edge of each strip. Next, cut a long, thin strand at least as long as the strip out of the leather - this will anchor it into the rope. Run that strand through the hole on your first leather strip.
Now, using a crochet or yarn hook, reach through one side of the rope from the middle and grab the strand of leather. Pull back through the rope so it reaches into the middle. (If using a crochet hook, it helps to twist the hook down after hooking the leather so it can't slip out.) Then, reach into the middle from the opposite side and pull the strand out the other side in the same way. Run the strand through the hole of another strip and tie the end off. Do the same on the first side, tightening to keep it in place.
Repeat this on the two opposite sides for the other two strips and cut the excess leather string off.
You're almost there!
Step 6: Covering the Popper Ends
Cut a leather strip about twice as wide as the popper strips. For my rope, I cut it about 3.75 inches long. Cut holes on one end as shown in the picture, then wrap it onto the rope and measure where halfway around the rope is. Cut another two holes in the same way. Make one long thin string ( at least 14 inches long) and thread it through the first set of holes. Do this so the ends are sticking out of the rough side, or whichever side will be your inside. Thread the ends through the rope in the same way that you did for the popper strips and through the other set of holes. Pull the ends tight and wrap the cover around the rest of the way. Wrap the ends tightly around the cover in opposite directions, tie on together one side, then finish by tying a double-knot on the other side.
Step 7: C'est Fini!
And there you have it! Your very own training lead for a fraction of the cost. Remember, the more effort you put into it, the longer it will last! I just tried mine out on my somewhat disrespectful four-year-old Appendix gelding doing a few ground exercises and he responded very well! Good luck with the project, have fun with it, and feel free to ask any questions!