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The Great Debate: Rope Halters vs Flat Halters Part 2
 By ImaCoolCowgirl   •   30th Apr 2012   •   5,378 views   •   9 comments
Rope Halters vs Flat HaltersRope Halters
As the term “Natural Horsemanship” explodes into the horse industry, so do rope halters. Many people choose to blindly use them not knowing the effects or proper usage of one. In this article I hope to briefly give you an idea of what they are, how they work, how to use one properly and my opinion on them.

What is it?
First off, rope halters consist of one long rope ranging from 18ft to 28ft depending on the size. Knots are placed around to hold the halter in shape but also to supposedly hit “pressure points” across the horse’s nose. Many people believe this but it is however untrue. There are usually no buckles or snaps on a rope halter which makes them virtually impossible to break. It is said your horse is likely to break before a rope halter will.

How does it work?
The stimulation of pressure points is an exact science and unless the halter is tied on obscenely tight that it hits the correct pressure points any time there is pressure on the halter it doesn’t work. The knots do however create sore spots and/or bruising if the halters are left on continuously. While working on ground work, the knots do help give specific signals. People often add more knots across the nose piece; this is like putting a stronger bit into a horse’s mouth. The more knots the more severe it is. Another thing that contributes to the severity of the halter is the diameter of the rope. The thinner the rope the more severe because only a small amount of area is affected when the pressure is applied. Have you ever wondered why a rope halter was double stranded across the poll and the nose? That’s because with two strands across it applies pressure more evenly across the poll and nose. Take a thin piece of string and use it to apply pressure across your nose. Then take a piece of cloth and do the same. Can you feel the difference in pressure? I’ll bet you can.

How to use it?
First it needs to be tied on correctly. If it is tied too low and too loose and the horse would freak out it could snap the nasal bone. If tied to tightly and the horse is always feeling pressure it completely defeats the point of a rope halter.

Rope halters should be thought of as training aids, just like tie downs, draw reins, side reins and martingales. Training aids are supposed to be helpful to your horse and make it clearer to him what you're asking for – not cause confusion or, worse yet, discomfort. It is an excellent way to apply the right amount of pressure to get a horses attention and/or to gain control, but it is only good if you know how to use it. If you have a horse that you must use a stud chain on, consider trying a rope halter. With a stud chain once it is yanked tight it is impossible to totally relieve the pressure unless you physically loosen the chain. With rope halters a simple tug and release applies pressure but quickly releases it once the horse performs the expected action.

It is never a good idea to tie a horse with a rope halter. As stated above, they rarely break and should something spook your horse to the point it tries to run it would probably keep pulling until something broke. If you have a horse that is a chronic panic puller, using a rope halter for tie up will more likely make it worse. If you are trying to teach a horse to stand still while tied, rope halters are sometimes good. But always have someone present to keep an eye on the horse in case something should happen and never leave the horse tied long term. Horses have some self-preservation instincts but between standing still and waiting for help or running, more often than not they will choose the running. No matter how much your horse “trusts” you they will most likely try to flee from danger.

Rope Halters vs Flat Halters

You need to use the tug and release method when using a rope halter. Never jerk or yank on a rope halter. A simple tug, then adding more pressure if the horse does not respond, will work better. As soon as the horse complies with your instruction release the pressure immediately. This will teach the horse that the sooner it does as you ask the sooner the pressure will be released. You will end up with a more responsive, alert, horse. As with all training aids they should not be used on permanent bases. Horses can become either desensitized to the pressure or totally dependent on it and un able to function without one.

You also need to keep in mind the horse you are using it on. What is best for the horse may not be what the “cool thing” but your horse will love you more for sacrificing your “coolness” for its happiness. My 16 year old barrel racer is extremely sensitive. He gets nervous and anxious in a rope halter. The pressure it gives is just too intense and overwhelming for him even with little to no pressure on the lead. On the other hand my 20 year old, is extremely good with one. He is relaxed and able to understand what I am asking of him. Sometimes I need a lot of pressure other times a simple touch is enough for him.

My Opinion
I treat my rope halters much like bitted bridles. They both apply varying amounts of pressure to sensitive parts of the horse, all be it different parts. I will never tie or cross tie my horse long term in a rope halter. My horses are very good at ground tying so if they are in a rope halter and l need to tie them, I ground tie them or put the lead line across their neck. I will never, ever tie my horse in a trailer with a rope halter. I will never turn my horse loose on purpose, whether it is in a stall or in a pasture, with a rope halter or any other type of halter for that matter. There are nylon halters or leather for all above uses. I will however use my rope halters to reinforce ground work, for lunging, leading, and photo-shoots. My nylon halters are rewards for my horses; if they behave and listen in a rope halter then I praise them by making them more comfortable in a nylon halter. If they act up they go back to a rope halter, simple as that.

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. 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.

Madeirey  
Fantastic article! :D
  Apr 30, 2012  •  4,898 views
 
Emmurr  
Loved the article, I'm actually quite enjoying these debate articles.
And thank you for the video. Somehow I've managed to teach myself to tie the knot with the end pointing upwards instead of downwards, silly me xD
  May 1, 2012  •  4,858 views
 
Sapphire Flames  
great article! :)
  May 2, 2012  •  4,842 views
 
Makaela Marie  
Lolvey article! I am much fonder of the flat halter, mainly because they are simpler to use.
  May 2, 2012  •  4,869 views
 
Double Spur Ranch  
Great article!
  May 4, 2012  •  4,858 views
 
BarrelRacer1300  
This was great
  May 11, 2012  •  4,890 views
 
Ghost  
Love your horsey models! And very informative article!
  May 12, 2012  •  5,133 views
 
MySweetButterfly  
Amazing Article! :)
  May 16, 2012  •  4,886 views
 
TBMareRhody  
This is a great arcticle, I got a rope halter for my birthday, have never used it because i didn't know how safe it was, meaning if it was safe or not, anything can be unsafe in the wrong hands.
  May 19, 2012  •  4,866 views
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