Using Rope Halters on Your Horse
Horse Rope Halters
By William Savage
Does a rope halter make a great gift? It might for someone who uses them exclusively. For someone whose preference in halters is nylon or leather the gift of a rope halter might rank right up there with the gift of a bad necktie.
But if you offer a 20' length of rope and a set of instructions on how to fashion a halter from that piece of rope there's a group of horse people out there, admittedly a minority, for whom such a gift might not be a bad idea. Such people either (a) love a challenge, (b) like to use things they've made themselves, (c) are adept with tying knots and handling rope, (d) have time on their hands, or (e) all of the above.
We've done some research on the subject of rope halters, adding to our own experience to the mix. There are those who swear by the rope halter and would use nothing else (not surprisingly this group includes that "minority" who likes to make their own). There are those, most horse owners and horse lovers, who primarily rely on nylon or leather halters but use a rope halter for specific tasks. And there are also those who feel that rope halters are generally a strange idea and see little use for them.
We fall into the middle group, using the rope halter for specific tasks. Now the significant feature of the rope halter is that it exerts greater pressure when the horse resists being led, thereby providing greater control. It is in that sense a device that belongs in your arsenal of training tools.
We've used rope halters when ground training a foal - There is far less tendency of the little guy to lean on the halter and fight the lead rope than when a nylon halter is used. When you think about it, with a nylon halter the bands tend to spread pressure over a wider area instead of focusing it on a smaller area as a thin section of rope or a knot will do. When wearing a nylon halter it is easier for the foal to fight the lead rope.
We've used rope halters when a grown horse develops an outbreak of bad manners while being led - Our oldest Fjord gelding Nessi, though a rather smallish horse, is like others of his breed incredibly strong. Under saddle or while driving, Nessi's manners are impeccable but for some strange reason he occasionally suffers a bout of Norwegian stubbornness while being led. If you are leading a Norwegian Fjord in a northerly direction and he (or she) suddenly decides to head to the east, you will either drop the rope or head in that direction as well. While this does not happen very often, the remedy is to use a rope halter for a few days and the problem goes away.
In either case, especially the latter, I should emphasize that the rope halter is not used as a device for punishment, but as a tool to establish better control when needed. Like bits and spurs, when used correctly the rope halter produces needed pressure at a specific point and nothing more. It sends the needed message without harm or undue discomfort to the horse.
At our place we rarely leave nylon halters on our horses when we are not around them. Insofar as rope halters are concerned we don't leave them on an unattended horse or a loose horse at all - even if the horse is in its stall.
In short, the rope halter is a useful tool when training a horse or dealing with behavioral problems. When tied properly (normally not a problem if store-bought, potentially a problem if I tied it) the rope halter is durable and reliable, lightweight and pliable, and easily kept clean, especially if made from synthetic material.
There are some informative websites you can visit for information on purchasing, tying, fitting, or using the rope halter including:
- http://www.kbrhorse.net/tra/halter01.html - The KBR Horse Net site has a good introduction to the use of the rope halter, especially in a training environment.
- http://www.goddijn.com/halter/ - Connie Nygard's diagram for the Rope Halter with Fiador Knot is a how-to-make a rope halter page offered for free (not to be resold). This page gives a good illustration of what is involved in tying the halter.