Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rope Halters vs. "Normal" halters - I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!


I do love my rope halter.  It is used with a heavy rope lead that is "wiggled" a bit,  and "grabs" the face to communicate with my horse.  This communication graduates to a very light touch on the rope and the horse responds.  A stick and string is a tool used with this halter - it is an extension of the arm and communicates to the horse to speed up, turn, etc.  Again, less "big" movement is needed as the horse learns the cues.  When these halters are not being used to train, they wear like any "normal" halter and there is no pressure.  Training with rope halters actually means that a lighter hand can be used (it isn't the halter that his harsh, it's the hands controlling it).  I also think it is an awesome tool to use for "first rides".

Many people agree with the above.  BUT what I find the "issue" to be is tying them up with one.  It is almost impossible for the horse to break a rope halter and they can get hurt if they fight the pressure.  A horse might fight until it is severely hurt or dead.

I might understand a leather halter if you are turning them out in really cold weather and you have heavy gloves on and the rope tie is hard to manage and the buckles or snaps are a bit easier to open and shut in the cold. (and I am of the mind that all halters come off when the horse is loose - I NEVER would put a horse "out" even in a break-a-way).  ...

I understand the seriousness of injury to a horse that pulls back and won't stop fighting the pressure.  But if a leather halter or break-a-way halter breaks due to a horse pulling back, hasn't possibly a bigger and more dangerous problem just been created for "down the road".  A scared, loose horse can be very dangerous ... as is one who KNOWS he can get loose by pulling back.

The trainer I use, James Cooler, uses his rope halters even in the trailers.  He says a horse must be properly trained, though, and many are NOT.

My sister actually ties twine between the leadrope and metal tie piece so if her horse pulls back in the trailer, it will get away... She does NOT use a rope halter... but I think this could work with both if this was a concern.

If a horse gets hung up in a trailer (or anywhere) I suggest a rope halter is much easier to cut through than a leather one (not ALL leather & hardwear breaks).  And as for break-a-ways... do we REALLY want to make it that easy for a horse to get away?

Now I KNOW some people vehemently disagree with this practice, but others wholeheartedly agree.  I really am on the fence, but I guess I am leaning towards ropes 100% of the time.

One last thought.  I read somewhere that an interesting "test" to compare both types of halters is this:  I call it the "grass test" now.  Can you get your horses head off the grass with one hand?  Try it in a flat halter.  Then try it with a rope halter.  I suggest the results with a rope halter will be quite rewarding and you might actually be "skiing" (I think that was the term) with a leather or flat halter.

I would LOVE to hear feedback and why you use what you use.  Is it out of "habit" or because you have researched it?  Have you had an experience with either or both halters that has made you change what you do or reaffirmed why you use the halter you do?

My favorite, though, is NO halters, because they always ruin the photo!  :)

If you want to read further:

BELOW is an excerpt I copied and pasted from BossLady.  I linked her to give her credit for her following words.  I thought it was a good example of the pros and cons of rope halters:

My mare used to be a chronic rearer when tied. like, I was buying snaps and new halters every week. It was very dangerous and very expensive. She never reared under saddle or when lead around, ONLY when she was tied and got spooked. Other than that this mare was winning WP and Trail class shows with EASE, as if nothing in the world bothered this horse. well except trailers and being tied LOL. Anyway I won a local competition and received a rope halter as the prize on her so I started using it... man oh man, my mare met her match on this one. She would pull back and pull, pull, pull, thrash around, you name it. That lead didnt break. She finally landed and braced against it just letting it sink in. Then shortly after she softened up, gave it some slack, and stood there. I was amazed.

We've had a handful of incidences since then and we now have a system since she ground ties I rarely tie her anymore, but the rope halter was a huge help. No more flying metal peices, no more worrying about anything breaking, its been great. The last incidence was a couple years ago at a trail ride where I accidently clipped the lead rope while ducking under her neck and it set her off... she flipped and thrashed and braced up on her back legs. She passed out from the halter blocking her nasal passages... I just knew she had died. She came to shortly after hitting the ground and I untied her from the trailer and walked her around to make sure she was ok. within half an hour she couldnt walk. apparently she had paralyzed her shoulder and therfor the rest of her leg by hitting a nerve on the outside of the shoulder blade. scary stuff but she was fine within a week.


Dom said...

I love rope halters for training purposes only. I use them for lunging and ground work and to resolve problems with handful horses. I DO NOT use them for daily handling, tying, and leading a well mannered horse. Cues learned in a rope halter can be transferred to a 'normal' halter and I want my horse to react to body language, not halter pressure in the long run.

Deanna said...

When I started out with horses a million years ago, the halter's were rope, but with metal hook-thingees. I found that they stretched. So when the flat halters came out - I was thrilled. I've used them for eons. When I've had horse's panic pull-back while tied, one of two things has always happened - they've let me console them and calmed down (at least enough that I could unsnap them from tied) or the lead rope clip has broken. (I use a certain clip that will break with enough pull)
Now, coming back into horses after almost a decade off, these rope halters are everywhere. However, I haven't changed since I like what I'm used to. So in the choices you gave, I guess I would have to say that I'm using what I'm using out of habit. And that has a lot to do with my horses. If I felt I needed a rope halter, I would get one. But my little herd is doing fine with what I have.
Great post Margaret!

Kim said...

We switched to rope halters and love them. I can't imagine going back to the others. As for the tie up issue, we exclusively use the "Aussie Tie Ring" or "Blocker Tie Ring". They can be put on in three stages to meet the horses needs. The funny thing is the less the horse is trained, the easier the setting should be. Our yearling Cowboy is getting used to his and is now on the intermediate setting. At first you want them to be able to put back and get some slack. When they realize they can do that, they stop pulling themselves. Of course, they have to be watched when they are beginners.
Now ours stand for hours happily and never test it. If something did happen and they were in danger, they could break away and not hurt themselves.
Bottome line, we love them!
And I agree with you on turned out with a halter. It seems to me that people only do that if they have a hard time catching their horse. If that's the case they need some natural horsemanship anyway. I say that because we have been there and are now past that!

Shirley said...

I have used both, and now use only rope halters. I would rather the horse not be able to break a rope or halter and escape being tied; it's dangerous to the horse-like falling over backwards when the halter breaks, or getting hit with the broken rope end or snap- but it's all about training. If you have a horse that you know is a puller, there are several options to teach them not to pull, and I would sure like to try the Blocker tie ring. If you teach your horse to give to pressure, when they pull back, they should step forward to get release. Depending on the amount of claustrophobia/panic in the horse, this can take quite a bit of work. If you know your horse pulls, I suggest not tying it solid no matter what kind of halter you use, until the horse is trained to step forward instead of pulling until something breaks.

allhorsestuff said...

Good Post, you covered almost everythig involved. I love my rope halter and rope I bought 4 years ago at a Parelli show. It was useful in coming to a comunication point with my mare.

I would NEVER trailer with it again. Had a pull back incident that would have resolved had my senitive mare not been HIT WITH ALL THE NERVES at once upon backing up before I asked..then she almost broke her neck!
Had the clasp not broken on the lead..could have been the end.

I have had many reservations over people "True lunging" with them. The point of True lunging is contact..the point of natural horemanship is pressure when asserting a lesson- non pressure responces for the release, when the horse has "gotten it". After seeing people use rope halters in ways they should not and having horse chiros come out and soft tissue experts..the ones that were lunged with rope halters always had issues with abnormal neck developement...they have to twist in such a way, as to avoid the "pressure of the knots" from the contact on the circle.

Rope halters have a real purpose..and I love mine...but I think they have replaced some common sence in some folks.
Like,small ropes under bridles may be a bit biting . But, I do have a tell all senative TB mare and I pretty much make it so rides and work are times she has no pain- to be able to focus!

You'll definately get all sorts of answers to this quarry!

Oh and to answer your question...I don't even need a halter to get my mares face off the grass! But with a halter, rope or my nice Stubben leather too -I can get her head up.. she's a smart one having learned her disengage lesson 4 years ago..I just tap my leg(pressure) and she'll lift her head and move her haunches away- then re evaluate what I want from her.

I love your photography and the vivid colors in this post Margaret.

Cedar View Paint Horses said...

Rope halters are training tools and should be only used under supervision. The excerpt from BossLady is not exactly a glowing recommendation for the use of a rope halter for tying. Tying a horse is not simply a matter of hitching it up to a fixed object and hoping it holds - the horse needs to have been taught to give to pressure before one can assume a horse is "safe" to tie, regardless of what it is tied with.

Regarding your test: again, it all comes to giving to pressure, regardless of what "tool" is being used.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it matters a whole lot. I think it does matter if/how your horse is trained to give to pressure, regardless of the equipment you use - it's rarely really about the equipment. I rarely use rope halters, since I want my horses trained to give to the slightest bit of pressure and with most horses I can communicate that, and train them to respond, just fine with a flat halter. I think it's too easy to overdo the cues with a rope halter. And I would never trailer in one and wouldn't hard tie a horse in one that I thought could ever pull back - too much risk of injury to the horse. I would tie a horse that was trained to tie in one so long as I was nearby in case of a problem.

I do use a rope halter in specific circumstances - handling a difficult/fractious horse on the ground where personal safety can be an issue, and working with a horse who has learned to push through pressure - the extra "bite" of the rope halter avoids getting in a wrestling match and can very quickly communicate what you want - but most horses just don't need that much.

But ultimately, as with many things involving horses, it's a matter of personal preference.

Val said...

What a great question.

I learned of rope halters after many years of traditional leather or nylon halters with a chain lead shank. My initial response was "why?", but after some training and years working in a job where the horse must be absolutely obedient (therapeutic riding), I appreciate the value of a rope halter and the training associated with this halter. That being said, the horse must be trained to respond to the halter correctly. This is true for any piece of equipment, which we ask our horses to wear.

As a general rule, I still use the traditional nylon halter with my horse for daily handling and trailering (with an emergency-release clip). I do not lunge in the rope halter, for the same reasons described by allhorsestuff. I lunge in the traditional halter with the line clipped to the inside ring so that I can be connected to my horse. Occasionally we lunge with a loopy line, but that is usually halfway to liberty.

I have the same round black lead line as pictured in your beautiful photos. I use this line when I handgraze my horse. He knows that if he does not pick up his head when I ask with a cluck or by gently circling the line that he will receive a "tap" from the popper at the end of the line. Since I am always consistent, it only takes a finger's pressure to get him to raise his head even though he is in a nylon halter. However, if I use the short cotton lead to graze him, he knows that the popper is not on the line, so his obedience diminishes. Smarty pants. ;)

Thanks for following my blog. Yours is very interesting! Lovely photography and art. Halters do ruin photos!

in2paints said...

I have both nylon halters and rope halters. I think each has a purpose and I only use the rope halter when I'm going out to do specific training that requires the use of one. I always free longe Lilly in the round pen, so I don't use a halter at all to longe. The nylon halter is used for everyday tying and leading and it works out really well.

Anonymous said...

I use both rope and ordinary halters, I think the training you give them matters more than the equipment you use, but I wouldn't ever tie a horse in a rope halter. Also, if improperly used a rope halter can be very severe and the knots can do serious damage. Cassie likes the rope halter because it is light, but I use a lead rope without clip, I just tie the rope on with a halter knot. For lunging I use a lunging cavesson, most halters tend to twist and can end up in the horse's eye on the off side. I never tie my horses in the trailer, the partition keeps them straight and prevents them turning around, but in an accident they have a better chance of survival if they are not tied.

Margaret said...

Truly, truly I appreciate these comments! It has given me a LOT to think about. Anyone who has anything to say on this subject, please feel free to comment here. Thank you all.

Andrea -Mustang Saga said...

When I was new to horses I hated rope halters. I felt I needed a snug halter and a firm grip on a short lead to keep my horse under control. Poor horse. Dumb me, thinking I had the muscle to make a horse stay with me.

Now I prefer rope halters and a loose lead with a good mental connection with my horse. I don't want any flying metal hardware when a halter or lead breaks (my husband got a good welt from a flying snap once). I don't expect any of my horses to pull back, but it happens sometimes, and when it does they don't get free, and they don't do it again.

Before I ever even think of tying them to something they learn to give to pressure to where it's totally automatic. They don't brace against it. Then when I start "tying" they're not really tied, just wrapped around a rail or I use a Blocker ring. Even after I've starting tying them fast, I always use a Blocker ring in the trailer and in other situations where I'd rather have them get loose if they get into a pickle. I had a narcoleptic horse and I was worried about her going down in the trailer, and that caution carried on after she was gone. I think it's a good practice.

I do think it's very important to pay attention to how you have the rope halter fitted. I don't like to see them way down on the horse's nose, especially when tying. That's too dangerous. That would be the same with a web halter too though.

I never have used leather halters. With my tendency to leave things out they wouldn't last long, and they're so expensive.

Which brings me to another great point about rope halters. I can make my own for just a few dollars. :)

Story said...

First I need to mention how beautiful your photography is! Your horses always look gorgeous!

I have both a rope halter and a regular halter. I use the rope halter if I'm going to be working on specific ground work, otherwise I use the regular halter. My rope halter has no hardware, not even to attach the leadrope, so I really don't like it for tying. As far as tying in trailers (with any halter), I use The Clip which lets the rope slide if enough pressure is put on it. When I had Dee shipped from MN I sent a breakaway halter for her to wear (but it turned out it wasn't necessary because the horses were not tied in the trailer) but I have mixed feelings about them. Sometimes they really can break too easily, and as a result, my breakaway halter has been out of commission for a long time broke!

Margaret said...

Story - thank you for the compliment!

And I thank everyone for sharing here there experiences. I am still mulling this over ... but I really feel blessed to have had all this input.

Edward said...

I use head collars I don’t like the rope halters because they have the pressure points on them. I don’t see any need for quick release halter as I always thought if a horse was tied it should be tied to a bit of thin rope rather than the tie ring itself so if the horse was ever to pull so hard that it would hurt itself the rope would snap instead. With regards to getting the horses head up and away from the grass I use voice command and they normally get the idea and I don’t have any trouble. Very interesting post.

Dennis Canfield said...

Rope halters are meant to be used as training aids - not as a halter for regular, every day use. In fact, rope halters can become instruments of torture if used incorrectly.
Good read!
Red Horse Halters

Margaret said...

I do use mine for everyday - but he rarely has them on… so everyday means, what? I only really use mine if I am doing groundwork or leading him in from the barn. I have graduated a bit to "freedom work" - no halter or rope at all! I do use a blocker ring which I adore. Thanks for commenting, Dennis.

I had a nice time re-reading all these comments.