Halter Hangups

Halter Hangups

Halter Hang-Ups

By Ruthann Smith
© 2007, Ruthann Smith, All rights reserved.
Originally Published in Equine Journal

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This halter needs the head- stall loosened a hole or two. You want a fist to fit inside the noseband. Watch those cheek bones. This is a bit too close for comfort.

Do you know your horse can break his neck when tied? Or, that a halter can be a recipe for death? I have known several horses that died instantly during halter related accidents.

Tragedies ensue because halters are ill-fitted and won’t break. Picture a horse grazing: it rubs its face on its legs and stomps at flies. If it puts its foot down through a noseband too big, it will die. Dead: to free itself, it’ll thrash and break a neck and/or leg. If the horse is tied and can’t break loose when it: spooks, gets its foot over the lead, hooks the lead over its neck or lies down when tied too short, it is all over. There is no opportunity to intercept such an accident. We need to avoid them.


This halter is too big, but it could be fine if holes were punched in the noseband and the headstall were shortened.

So, here are some rules to live by:

1. No tickling. You want the halter to be comfortable but not dangerous. If the noseband is touching the nostril it tickles. Consequently, the horse will snort and try to rub off the halter. You don’t want it to hook it on something. So, raise the noseband to let the horse relax.

2. Fist the noseband. To measure the noseband, be sure a fist fits between the face and halter. If the noseband is too big, shorten the headstall. Some halters have adjustable nosebands. However, they usually don’t have enough holes to fit an average horse. So, you may need to use a hole punch for a comfortable and safe halter fit.

3. Fist the throatlatch. The horse needs space between the halter and his throat. This allows him to turn his head comfortably and breathe well. Yes, a tight halter can hinder his wind capacity. I know tight fitting halters are fashionable in some circles. But, fashion should follow function. Make sure a full fist can fit between the halter and throat.

4. Leather is best. You want the halter to break if the horse gets caught. Otherwise, he’ll panic and break his neck. It happens in a second. Nylon won’t break when it should. So, choose leather. If you use a nylon halter, make sure it has a leather headstall for safety. Even, if you only use it for bathing.

5. Break away easily. If the horse panics, it is better to break loose than break his neck. I don’t tie horses to trailers because I don’t want a loose horse where it can access a road. In the barn, a horse should break free at the halter rather than the wall. Baling twine won’t break. And, if the tie lets go at the wall, it will whip around and hurt. A better option is to use a cable or zip tie on the halter. A small or medium size one will break readily. The other option is to fold 3 strands of yarn in half, loop it around the halter ring and make three knots. Then, snap to the yarn or cable tie. These reliable releases avoid a spook snowballing into a crisis that injures. Usually, if the horse breaks one cross-tie. He’ll relax.

6. Go naked. In stalls, horses should not wear halters. Depending on where you live, turning horses out without halters can minimize risk. Of course, if your horse is into jumping out or may get loose, consider the options carefully.

Knowledge is power. And, it is yours. Be consistently mindful to avoid heartache. Make good choices and enjoy your happy horses!

Bio Pic

Ruthann Smith has spent a lifetime studying sound horsemanship- both as a groom for top international horses and as a renowned braider. Quietly twisting manes atop a ladder, she watched and learned in some of the best stables in the world.

As her passion for great grooming grew, Ruthann became focused on researching, collecting and sharing the best practices of the world’s keenest horsemen. Ultimately, Ruthann used her vast experience to develop exceptional equine grooming products to help raise the bar of horsemanship.

The knowledge she dispenses and the products Ruthann developed solve age-old grooming issues. Making quality horse care easier, they have received the highest honors in the equine industry*. Her Lucky Braids for Top Turnout coat care and braiding products are the best, most versatile, cost-effective and easiest solutions available on the market today.

Now Ruthann offers her LOVE, LOVE Guarantee. If not totally thrilled with a product she developed, Ruthann will refund you in full, regardless of where you purchased it.

It’s her life’s mission to empower horses by educating, motivating and equipping their people to be true horsemen. You can access Ruthann’s tips at: The Grooming Resource on LuckyBraids.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and her Horsemanship Clinics.

*After testing 350 products, Lucky Braids All-In-One Horse Shampoo was named product of the year by Horse Journal, the “Consumer Reports” of the industry. They also named Lucky Braids Shampoo and Top Pick for greys and whites. Lucky Braids specialized braiding yarn also got stellar reviews.