Wire Rope Clips: What Does “Never Saddle a Dead Horse” Mean?

“Never Saddle a Dead Horse”: Explained


It’s a familiar sounding phrase, but what does “never saddle a dead horse” mean?


The colloquialism is a rhetorical device that relates to wire rope. Wire rope is an exceptionally versatile tool for heavy hoisting and pulling applications. With its high tensile strength, light weight, and flexibility, wire rope is a desirable alternative to chain. It’s also an inexpensive and commonly used item. There’s a large market of wire rope accessories available that allow for quick eye-end fabrication. Of these, the most commonly misused accessory is the wire rope clip.

There’s a well-known saying intended to aid in remembering which way to attach a wire rope clip that reads, “never saddle a dead horse.” As our blog title reflects, that’s what we’ll be discussing today.

Wire rope: dead end and live wire

Wire rope clips are designed with a U-bolt on one end, and a saddle and nuts on the other. When installing the wire rope clip, the U-bolt should always be set on the dead end of the wire. The saddle attaches to the live wire. You can see an example of this setup in the image below.


Wire rope clips should never be staggered. Even one improperly fastened clip will reduce the capacity of your fabricated eye.

The simple explanation is that by inverting the clip and fastening the saddle on the dead end, the U-bolt crushes down on the live load and drastically reduces the wire rope’s capacity. It goes without saying that maintaining a predictable capacity is extremely important in ensuring the safety of your workers and load. Utilizing the correct wire rope clip technique is vital.

In short, just as you wouldn’t put a saddle on a dead horse and rely on it to get you where you’re going, you wouldn’t want to improperly fasten a wire rope eye and trust that it will perform without failure.

For a comprehensive guide to wire rope slings, check out What Do You Know About Wire Rope? 



*Important Note*

This topic also warrants that we mention wire rope slings should never be fabricated on-site for general, repetitive, or daily use. However, OSHA and ASME allow that on rare occasions, when the application precludes the use of prefabricated slings and where the sling is designed for the specific application by a qualified person, it may be allowed. In such cases, the designated person should check with the manufacturer of the wire rope clips and follow their recommendations precisely.

You may refer to ASME B30.9 guidelines for additional safety information and specific exceptions related to this topic.



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