Question: I ride English. I use nylon halters, but my horse does not respond as well as he should. He can take me half way down the road sometimes, especially when he wants to eat grass. Do you think I should be using a rope halter? What is the difference? How do you put one on the horse? How do you tie them?
Answer from April Reeves: Traditional halters have a nice elegant look to them and are easy to put on a horse. Unfortunately, some horses tend to pull against them and drag their handlers around, as the wide bands of leather (or nylon) are almost comfortable for a horse.
Rope halters are generally made of soft round rope, all neatly tied into a halter that you tie up instead of buckling. Done up properly, they are easy to untie should the horse pull back in one, and there are no buckles to rust out or break. They come in another variety that has several knots in the nose, and a bit stiffer rope, for the really ‘bad boys’. They don’t need oiling to keep them soft, and can be washed.
Their function is to create pressure and ask a horse to pay attention and listen. They take the place of having to resort to nose chains, lip chains and other various ways to dress up a traditional halter to maintain control. They are very difficult to break should a horse get hung up in it, so never put a horse out with one on. They are NOT to be used when teaching a horse to tie for the first time, or to be used when trailering.
Rope halters work on the horse through pressure around the poll area and the nose. The thinner strand of rope is soft enough to not burn a horse, but small enough to allow more direct pressure points. When in use, it asks the horse to “pay attention and listen” without causing anxiety or abuse, as opposed to painful methods such as lip chains. Pressure teaches; pain builds resentment.
You may want to try one on your horse and see what you think. Rope halters are used by English and Western trainers, and many disciplines are finding the value in their simple design.
Let’s look at how to tie the ‘knot’.
First, there is the long length that goes through a loop. I call this loop a ‘post’, and you are going to tie the long length to the ‘post’ by following these directions:
Draw the long end through the post and snug the halter up where you want it to fit on your horse’s head.
Bring the length around the back of the post towards the front, then come back through the loop you just created.
The end of the length will be facing the back, and not sticking in the horse’s eye.
Snug the knot up so that it doesn’t slide. Should your horse pull on the halter, this knot can be undone easily. If you tied the knot above the post you will have to cut the halter off if it tightens.