The halter. It’s probably the most overlooked, underappreciated tool in your tack room. In fact, it’s probably not in your tack room at all. It’s on the ground, somewhere in the barn aisle, or slung haphazardly over a hook on your horse’s stall. It’s crusty and muddy – an afterthought. Sound familiar?
It could be doing a lot more than just leading your horse from the barn to the pasture. Your halter could really help you lead your horse in every sense – on every level. Your halter could be the means to articulate your horsemanship – to explain your body language, your gestures, and your intention. But you need to choose the right one. And even with all the halters in tack stores and catalogs, finding a good one is not as easy as you think.
With the right horseman’s halter and lead rope, and a good horseman’s education your halter could be your ticket to herd leadership (not just leading to the pasture). Your halter could be a powerful teaching and refining tool.
At Reis Ranch we make our own halters because we know how indispensable this tool is for our horsemanship. And as common as this tool is for every horse lover, we’ve never found one in any store or catalog that is made for the Universal Horsemanship standard of articulate horsemanship we speak and teach at Reis Ranch.
A horseman’s halter should be constructed of sturdy rope. We use marine line made for boats. We use 9/16- inch thickness for the lead rope and ¼- inch thickness for the halter. There are no metal parts which could bruise the sensitive areas of the head, and the lead rope is 12 feet long with a leather “popper” at the end. All our halters are hand made with correctly tied bowline and fiador knots placed properly for the delicate anatomy of a horse’s face. They are hand spliced for smooth, even edges.
We use marine line for its weight and strength – it’s designed to hold a boat in its berth during a storm. If a horse pulls back against a lead rope, it should not break. Otherwise the horse will learn that he gets a release of pressure from this dangerous behavior. A horseman’s halter should be used to teach the horse gently and permanently to give to pressure.
The weight of a halter and lead rope is critical for an accurate, articulate “feel.” If the halter and lead is used properly to correct the horse, he should feel the correction immediately. Most important, the horse should feel his release immediately when he responds to the correction. Horses learn when pressure is released so a flimsy lead rope with metal hardware will give an imprecise feel. When you use a nylon halter and cotton lead with metal parts with your horse you might as well speak Swahili to him.
The narrow rope we use for our halters is so that only a minimal amount of pressure is necessary if the horse does get corrected. When pressure is applied over a small surface area it is more easily felt. If the same amount of pressure is applied over a wide area like the nylon webbing common in most store-bought halters, much more pressure will be necessary to make an impression. Articulate horsemanship is known as horse whispering, not horse shouting.
Reis Ranch horseman’s lead ropes are 12 feet long so we can be clear about our personal space or “bubble” with our horses. We have found that 12 feet is the perfect distance – close enough to use an accurate feel with the rope if necessary, and far enough away so the horse can see his leader easily. (Because horses have eyes on the side of their heads, a leader who stands too close will not be easily seen.)
Of course any tool can only be as good as the person using it. But a poor tool even in expert hands is mediocre at best. If it’s a tool you use for your horse every day, make sure it’s the best. And make sure you strive to be articulate in your horsemanship.
Find Reis Ranch’s horseman’s halter at http://reisranch.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?store.
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