The halter provides valuable services in daily use around the horse. However, it is usually only selected according to price and color. More important – in an emergency even vital – are the fit, quality, and workmanship.
There is hardly any piece of equipment that is used more frequently in everyday horse stable life than the halter. It is needed for catching, restraining, tying up, leading the horse out to pasture, for transport, for walking, or for groundwork. Accordingly, the halter is the first thing that the horse gets used to when it is a foal.
But in contrast to the expensive saddle or bridle, most horse owners do not think too much about buying a halter. As a wearing part for use on the muddy pasture, it should be as cheap as possible, as a chic accessory for the trip to a training course or tournament, it is an expression of personal taste. The specialist trade serves each of these requirements. The useful helpers are available in all colors of the rainbow, with matching lead ropes, lined with soft teddy fleece, with patterns, glitter, and other fashionable applications.
Quality for the horse’s well-being
The choice of material is a question of budget, area of application, and individual preferences. Synthetic halters such as nylon, polyester, or polypropylene are inexpensive. Simple models are available for less than ten francs, they are lightweight, washable, and therefore easy to clean. A halter made of high-quality leather looks classy but quickly costs 100 francs and more. In addition, the leather must be well cared for so that it nestles softly against the horse’s head and does not become brittle and tear.
All designs should attach particular importance to quality and good workmanship, as these have a direct influence on the comfort of the horse. The components of the halter, i.e. the headpiece, the cheek pieces, and the noseband, should be made of stable, not too narrow bands with smooth, high-quality seams. Cheaper synthetic fiber halters are less dimensionally stable, often twist and fray over time. The cheap models often only have one buckle to adjust the cheekpiece. This pulls the halter to the side and sits asymmetrically on the horse’s head, which can lead to pressure points. The same applies to nosebands that are too tight and cannot be adjusted, as well as missing padding or padding that is too hard, especially in the sensitive poll area.
In addition to the design, the right size and fit are crucial. A halter must not be too tight, otherwise, it will pinch or even cut into the skin. However, it must not sit so loosely and loosely that the nose or the entire horse’s head slips out. There are three standard sizes available on the market: pony, thoroughbred, and warmblood. These are based on the average head size of the respective breeds.
Rules for the right fit
Horse owners should consider the individual constitution of their horse when buying: a full-size pony or small horse probably needs the medium-size “thoroughbred”. Also a warmblood with a fine head. Good halters are adjustable in size for fine adjustment. For the right length, the cheekpieces should be adjusted so that the noseband does not dangle over the nostrils and at the same time lies at least one, better two-finger width below the cheekbone.
The width of the noseband is optimally adjusted when the horse’s chewing movement is not restricted and it can eat without any problems. The noseband must not be too loose, otherwise, the horse could get caught, for example, if it scratches its head with its hind hoof. The same goes for throat lash. There should be two to three finger widths between the two straps and the fur. For grazing, where there is also a risk of getting caught on a bridle or a branch, the halter tends to be buckled a little tighter. Again and again, it can be seen that the snap-hook at the end of the throat lash is twisted and closed incorrectly. If the hook’s closure is on the inside, it presses on the horse’s sensitive cheek.
Particular caution is required with so-called knot halters, which consist of artfully knotted ropes. This variation is popular with Western riders, as well as trainers and owners who often work their horses on the ground. However, if the “knot” is too tight or if a rough, jerky pull is applied, the knots press on the highly sensitive nerve tracts on the animal’s button and cause pain. According to the Animal Welfare Ordinance, rope and knot halters are prohibited for transporting horses.
In terms of tear strength, the requirements for a halter are paradoxical. On the one hand, it should be able to withstand a lot, for example when the flight animal horse suddenly rushes off because it is frightened. If the halter or rope breaks and the horse can free itself, dangerous situations can arise. These also occur when the horse “hangs” in the halter.
Safety clip or panic loop
If a tethered horse panics and is prevented from escaping by the halter and rope, it leans with all its strength against the direction of pull, i.e. backward. Sometimes the owner or rider is able to calm the horse down so that it steps forward again and the situation relaxes. Often, however, the halter stretched to the extreme, tears and the rope or carabiner gives way. The horse can fall backward with the force of its weight, fall, and seriously injure itself or a bystander.
To prevent this, there are halters with predetermined breaking points or Velcro fasteners that give way prematurely when the horse pulls backward. However, it is not advisable to use them, since these halters sometimes unintentionally open when being led. For horses that are reluctant to be tied, that is easily frightened, or tend to buck, it is better to attach a safety clip or a panic loop made of straw cord to the grooming area, which releases the rope with a slight pull.