PUTTING THE HALTER ON THE HORSE
Haltering your horse is an important first step to whatever it is you plan to do. Do a
bad job of haltering, and your horse will be more likely to be irritable. Place the halter
on correctly and politely, and your horse will likely start out with a better attitude.
It never ceases to amaze me the number of times I see people complain about their "high headed"
horses, yet darn near everything that they do around the horse sends the poor animal's head
up toward the sky. They often feel compelled to "fix" the problem by attaching a stud
chain and hurting the horse's nose. There REALLY IS a better way.
(The basic principles applied here work with rope, leather or nylon web halters.)
- Approach the horse at the left shoulder. (Most halters
are designed to be installed from the "on" or left hand side.)
Place the halter in your left hand and show it to the horse. You can
either lay the leadrope across your other arm or rest it across the
With your right arm, reach OVER the horse's neck and down the
"off" or right hand side. You are now more or less hugging your horse.
DO NOT stick the horse's nose in the halter and flip the poll strap
up over his head. People do this all the time and the upward motion
going past the eye naturally sends the horse's head up in the air. While
many horses learn to "tune out" this improper motion, why would you want
to send your horse ANY conflicting signals? Besides, at some point you
may need your horse to move his head up and away from you, so why would
you want to teach him to ignore this aid simply through poor haltering
practices? We always work with a DOWNWARD motion whenever possible around
the horse's head
- Once you have reached down with your right hand you can take the end of
the poll strap and bring it over the horse's neck. (Please note that I
am exaggerating the movement here for purposes of illustration.) If the
horse wants to leave, you now have material completely around the horse's
neck so that you can control him.
KEY POINT: With the poll strap in your
right hand and the left side of the noseband in your left hand, gently slip the halter up the
horse's nose and in one smooth motion and secure the poll strap. Most horses
not only don't mind this procedure, but many will actually naturally turn their
noses toward you to make the process easier.
Reach for it
Draw it up
When tying a rope halter, especially on horses that don't have bridle paths, give the halter a few seconds to "relax" after first putting it on. It may need to be taken up slightly in the event the nose band settles too close to the horse's sensitive nose capsule. Using the latch knot (below) it's a simple process to readjust the halter.
I've had a couple of ladies complain that they were too short to halter their horses.
Using this method, I have walked up to their horses on my knees (don't try that at home!), put my hand on the horses'
withers, and when they lowered their heads, easily put the halters on.
How low can
horses lower their heads? No lower than the point at which their lips touch the ground.
There is a little secret to tying the poll strap so that it can be
easily loosened if the horse pulls. Draw the poll strap down through
the halter eye. Bring it down, to the rear of and around the eye, then
across the front of the eye and tuck it through itself. This may sound
complicated, but it's really pretty easy. The idea here is NEVER to tie
the poll strap up around itself because the knot could cinch tight under
pressure and be very difficult to remove. By tying around the eye, you
can always slide the eye back up to loosen things if the horse pulls
and the knot gets tight.
Pat Fredrickson, who makes and sells high quality hand made rope halters has so
kindly provided this illustration which better shows you how to tie the
halter. This knot is known as the "latch knot." You can find Pat's
halters and leads at
Natural Horse Halters.
If you prefer Parelli halters and leads, they can be found at
Other trainers and suppliers also provide rope halters, but be sure to get soft, pliable marine grade kernmantle rope halters as they resist UV, moisture and sweat without getting stiff and nasty.
This knot ties the same way as a sheet bend, illustrated at the
Brighton (UK) Boy Scout site.
For bridle shy horses, youngsters who don't have long enough teeth to
bit, mouth sore horses, or just for fun, the rope halter can be
fashioned into an effective "side pull" by merely inserting small iron
rings in the side knots when the halter is made. Reins can then be attached to these
rings for riding. (We usually start youngsters in the side pull along
with a headstall, letting them "carry" the snaffle bit, reading the cues
from the side-pull halter. We will transition to the snaffle by
riding for a couple of days with four reins where we will gradually decrease
pressure on the side pull and increase pressure on the bit.)
Can be used with or without bit
(Shown with bit)
Rigged so halter is main contact
Rigged so bit is main contact
(Taking out the soap box...) One thing about this business really bugs me.
People often times use poor methods or equipment and when they don't work,
go about looking for something more severe. I liken this approach to the old
weatherbeaten radio speakers in my truck. They didn't do the job, especially with
engine and road noise present, and no matter how loud and irritating I turned up the radio,
I still had difficulty understanding the announcer (if I understood him at all!)
So, I went out and bought a new set of speakers which I could CLEARLY understand.
What a difference! I could pick the message out of the "background noise" and the experience
was much more pleasant.
The same thing goes for your horse handling equipment. Severity and clarity are NOT
the same. A device that sends a clear message usually gets the job done well.
Do you want to just turn up the volume, or do you want to send a clearer message? It's your call!
We have found a good selection of soft yacht rope available at