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Bird-Caging, Never Saddle a Dead Horse and Singing: huh?

rigging terms, jargon by hercules slr

Rigging Slang

Spoiler alert—”never saddle a dead horse” has nothing to do with horseback riding!  

In the rigging and lifting industry, you’ll probably hear a lot of rigging slang thrown around – “don’t saddle a dead horse!”, bird-caging, cabling, diving, drum-crushing, end-for-ended, singing and more – but what do they all mean? Here’s a hint – saddling a dead horse has nothing to do with a rodeo!

In the rigging industry, equipment, hardware or the methods used to rig a load are known by different slang terms – it’s just as important to know these slang terms as it its to know the “proper” terms. Communication on a work site is essential to complete the job safely and efficiently, and using slang on the job is part of that.

Read on to find out common rigging slang terms used on the worksite and exactly what they mean.

Battening Down

Battening-down happens when a sling in a choke hitch is hit, which is done to force the slack, looped part of the sling in closer contact with the load. This is a dangerous practice and should not be done – allow slings to assume their natural angle.


Bird-caging happens when wire rope becomes twisted, or when it’s released suddenly from an load. It’s called this as it resembles – you guess it, a bird cage. Essentially, the wire rope strands become untwisted (often due to mis-use or abuse) from the core, and puff-out forming a ‘cage’.

Wire rope with multiple strands can bird-cage due to torsional vibration (the angular vibration of an object, often a shaft along its axis of rotation), sudden release of tension or being forced through a sheave. 


Another name for a pulley or beam-trolley.


Another term for a shackle – ‘clevis’ is a term that was used by the agricultural industry and was typically used to describe a shackle used with machinery operated by farm animals.


Refers to the wire rope’s drum, when it becomes displaced from the way it lays in the spool.


Drum-crushing happens when wire rope is winded too loosely on the drum, and is then pulled from strands underneath and is crushed, which alters the shape.


End-for-ended rope is rope that’s been spliced using a specific technique where rope tails are tucked into each side.

Saddle a dead horse

To “saddle a dead horse” means to place u-bolts in the wrong spot. The cable has two parts – it’s end (called a dead-end) and the part that is attached to the load. The cable that attaches to the load should be on the bottom. Therefore, you shouldn’t add u-bolts to the ‘dead-end’ of the cable – add them to the end attached to the load, or you are ‘saddling a dead horse’.

Wire rope “singing”

When wire rope needs lubrication, it will make a high-pitched noise, which resembles a high-note being sung.