Rope Halter Tying and Sizing Tips

 Rope Halter Typing & Fitting Tips

Most people using this type of halter are not tying the knot correctly. If incorrectly tied, the halter can slip and loosen after a short while or if there is resistance with the horse "leaning" on the lead rope. 

It can become dangerous if the bottom section where the knot under the jaw slips over the lower jaw bone. It can cause the underside of the nose piece to slide over the bottom lip, creating potential panic in the resistant horse.

Another common issue with "standard" size store-bought rope halters is if the pressure points on the horse's face and where the knots on the halter are do not align. If the halter cheek length is too short, it causes the knot on the nose piece to rest above the lower end of the horse's cheekbone. If the cheek strap length is too long, the knot and nose piece will sit too low and be in the sensitive soft tissue pocket above the horse's nostril.

If the circumference of the nose piece is too small, it can affect the rest of the halter fit, often causing the knot below the jaw to sit low.

Notice if the lead rope "connector" section is a massive knot under the horse's jaw. Sometimes, there can be as long as 12-13cm in length between it and the loop to attach the lead rope. Depending on the lead rope snap size, length, or connection style, add the two lengths together, and there can be as much as 20cm+ length of "dead space" under the horse's jaw. This distance can affect the timing, specificity, and quality of communication.

The halter becomes ineffective for the initial purpose if the ill-fit creates imbalanced, ongoing pressure that may contribute to "teaching" unwanted horse behaviors because of developed defensiveness towards the halter use.

Do I ever not use a rope halter? Yes! I have many horses that arrive annually for re-education and rehabilitation after experiencing trauma with humans. With the horses that have learned to “shut down” against human-created pressure, there needs to be re-sensitizing, and I will switch to a traditional halter. As with most things, “it” is not about the equipment but the skill set of the human using it. The potential to weaponize horse gear easily occurs if in aggressive, critical, abrasive hands.

Do you prefer to use a rope halter? No. I have a frequent turnover of horses passing through, each horse comes with their halter. After I assess the individual equine, I decide what halter will fit best and is appropriate for his current mental state.

Do I prefer a certain style of rope halter? The softer the rope with fewer knots. The knots should not be doing the educating; the handler’s specificity and clarity of communication with the lead rope should create the learning experience for the horse.

I also do not use rope halters when I am trailering horses. Especially if hauling long distances, such as my semi-annual 1,400-mile haul, the pressure of the knots can cause chaffing, raw spots, and discomfort when on for prolonged periods.

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