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The Leader Offers A Safer Way For Handling Horses



by Sadie K. Fowler

It's not your average lead rope.

Several years ago farrier Tom Ferguson had an idea to invent a lead rope that he believed would provide a profound breakthrough on horse behavior by cushioning the effects of a horse pulling back.

"It's the first stretch lead on the market," said Ferguson. “It was issued a patent not only for its unique design, but also for the fact that if it should fail, it does so safely. The pull back was related to most injuries in the horse industry and this rope has really solved that problem."

Ferguson's idea for The Leader came about one day about 14 years ago when he was working on a filly that had never been trimmed before.

"I put the lead rope on her, patted her down and before I even got started she pulled back and broke the lead rope," said Ferguson, who had considered getting out of the farrier business for this very reason. "I continued the job because it was one of those cases where it had to be done that day...I tied a knot in the rope and began scraping her foot. She broke the rope again.”

This process was repeated once again, however this time after the rope broke the filly ran away. After catching her, and desperate to finish the job, Ferguson went to his truck to see if he could round up another lead for one last attempt. What Ferguson found became the first version of The Leader. Ferguson attached a piece of rubber (three feet long) to the filly's halter. He clipped the other end to the fence.

"This time, she blew back about five feet and just stared," said Ferguson. "Then she walked back into it and gave it some slack...she let out this huge sigh of relief. Not only did she let me pick up her foot this time, but I scraped it and ended up trimming all four...I hugged the filly. It was truly and amazing moment."

After that breakthrough, Ferguson continued to use the rubber strap and began working on the product that is used today by equine professionals across the country, including Monty Roberts, better known as the "horse whisperer." He said The Leader has gone through constant upgrading and it took years to perfect the product.

Today, The Leader is made out of an inner core consisting of a special blend of solid extruded rod neoprene. The outer sleeve is spun Dacron yachting rope and the clamps are stamped, hardened steel that will not spread under high tension. Furthermore, the snaps are die-cast (not sand cast) and have thicker than normal pins connecting the swivel to the body of the snap.

The Leader, which Horse Illustrated called "one of the greatest products in the equestrian industry in the last 20 years," is used by Queen Elizabeth on all of her horses at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and Balmoral. The Leader is also used on the Queen's race horses including The Royal Stallion. Ferguson said Queen Elizabeth has invited him to Windsor three times to educate audiences about the product.

"They used to break 'armloads' of very expensive leather halters at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace," said Ferguson. "Since they started using The Leader we've been told that they haven't broken a single one."

The Royal Canadian Mounted police, after a two-year evaluation, also use The Leader.

Ferguson said he believes The Leader is the only rope that offers a one-year unconditional guarantee. More information about The Leader is available at www.designleader.org.

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