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.