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The Great Debate: Rope Halters vs Flat Halters
 By ImaCoolCowgirl   •   8th Apr 2012   •   3,386 views   •   31 comments
Rope Halters vs Flat HaltersI love writing articles on controversial methods in the horse world, not to start arguments, but to make people think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. To start my series I wrote an article on Slant Load vs. Straight Load trailers quite a few months ago; the second installment is a two part article on Rope Halters.

In this article I will compare and contrast rope halters with flat halters. When I say flat I refer to flat 1in to 2in thick made of either leather or nylon. To start us off take the poll strap of a flat halter an pull it across the back of your neck, then take the poll strap of a rope halter and do the same. Can you feel the difference? Keep in mind that the poll is a sensitive part of the horse and that they feel everything much differently than we do.


Flat Halter
Pressure applied to a horse’s head with a nylon or leather halter is rather dull and annoying to the horse but not really effective, but also safe and less likely to do physical damage to a horse.

Rope Halter
Pressure applied to a horse’s head with a rope halter can be severe in the wrong hands or effective in the right hands. The rope halter can localize pressure in different places on a horse’s face giving a clearer more distinct signal to the horse or a harsh painful signal causing fear and discomfort.

Looks & Style

Flat Halter
Nylon can be made in so many different colors and styles, and leather can be blinged out and spiffed up.

Rope Halter
Although rope comes in many different colors there are few ways to add bling or decoration without compromising the usefulness and effectiveness of a rope halter. Perhaps that is why people do like the look of them so much, because of their simplicity.

Ease of Use

Flat Halter
Often times flat halters are secured with a simple buckle or snap, making them easy to get on a fussy horse. However, you have to be conscious of the size of your horses head to get one that isn’t uncomfortable for your horse.

Rope Halter
With rope halters you have to learn how to tie a correct knot and learn how to do it quickly if you have a fussy horse. You can add snaps to make it easier but it then compromises both the look and the effectiveness of the halter.


Flat Halter
Tying a horse in a flat halter is comfortable for the horse. There is relatively no pressure placed on horse’s head unless the horse pulls relatively hard and puts pressure on it. Even then it’s still dull and relatively un harmful.

Rope Halter
Tying a horse in a rope halter is not ideal, because even with just a slight amount of pressure on the rope the horse feels a great deal of pressure on its head. Also any constant pressure on a horse can cause the horse to become desensitized, making the rope halter a very ineffective tool for the very reason people say it works so well. Short sessions tied in a rope halter can improve and retrain what people call “pullers”, horses that pull on their halter or tie until something snaps. Tying a “puller” long term in a rope halter simply masks the symptoms instead of fixing the problems. Never leave a horse unattended and tied in a rope halter. Should a predator or something spook the horse it could freak out past the point of any pressure on the halter calming it down, more than likely the pressure will cause the horse to freak out more until either the halter breaks or the horse does.


Flat Halter
You can leave a horse tied long term in a flat halter with little to no side effects. It is also quite easy to add padding and head protection for trailering. Also they come in quick release form in case of an accident.

Rope Halter
Any time the horse moves its head pressure is applied, and the constant vibration of the knots on the horse’s face can desensitize the horse to the pressure. They rarely, if ever, break; your horse or trailer is likely to break first.


Flat Halter
Depending on how you lunge you may need to stop and re attach your lunge line as you switch directions. Often times horses will pull, brace, or balance themselves off you as you hold the other end of the lunge.

Rope Halter
As long as you clip to the single loop under the chin you never have to stop as you switch directions. Horse will be less likely to pull, brace or balance themselves off you in a rope halter because the more they pull the more uncomfortable it is for them. I lunged my one gelding in a rope halter twice then switched back to flat and he hasn’t pulled since.

Remember, what is best for your horse is not always what is “cool” in the horse world. Don’t get caught up in the new trends or temporary fads. Do research and make your own decisions about things. Just because your trainer tells you so, doesn’t mean it is. In my next article we will get more in depth on what a rope halter is, how it works, how to use it, and my own opinion on rope halters. If you know of any other controversial horse topics that you’d like to see written about drop me a line and I’ll see what kind of research I can find and if it’s enough to put together an article.

If your interested in more info message me and I can share the sites where I got a lot of my information.

Happy Trails!
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