The most common horse halter that has been in use for a long time is a one-inch by quarter-inch nylon material with eight pieces of metal hardware.
I use a hand-tied halter made of quarter-inch double-braided nylon rope. There is no metal hardware so it is much lighter than the conventional halter. Although it is lighter, it can bite into a horse more if the horse leans on it or disrespects it. This goes along with the main theme of good horsemanship. We want to work with horses very softly and light, offering them a politeness as a good example to them. At the same time, we need to be able to apply discomfort when a horse disregards or ignores our polite signals.
So the hand-tied rope halter is much less noticeable to a horse until they resist the direction offered to them through this halter. This halter helps give a horse a clearer black and white picture of where the comfort zone is. Since our goal is to help convince a horse to partner with us in all our endeavors together, it is nice to have equipment that will help communicate clearer.
In all of life, Jesus is a great example of politeness and concern for those around him, yet at the same time he draws a very specific line between right and wrong. The horse appreciates the same thing we offer them as we offer those around us we care about or learn to care about. Although the rope halter can make it easier to communicate, it is the human hand behind it that is the most important. The hand that is slow to put pressure on and quick to take it off will encourage the horse to do the right thing more than anything else. In fact, good hands on the conventional halter is better than bad hands on the rope halter.
The quarter inch hand tied halter and the 12-foot double braided half-inch lead rope is my main underwear for the horse. I use it to do ground work, tie and ride bareback. When I ride bareback, I double the twelve foot lead rope to make it six foot, although I can draw out more rope if I need it.
When I saddle and/or bridle, I leave the rope halter and lead rope underneath. I do this so I can be ready for nearly anything that the horse and I encounter. The longer lead rope and thin diameter halter helps me keep control on the ground if the horse gets worried about something. I can tie the horse to a tree or ground-tie it with this arrangement also. I either loop the lead rope in my belt when I am riding or tie it to the saddle horn for quick retrieval.
Everything we do needs to point toward more responsibility for the horse. The lightness helps to point all of us toward liberty work with the goal of weaning all of us from equipment eventually.
That is the picture of heaven I like to think about!
Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: email@example.com.