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"Dressage" Horse and the Rope Halter Crowd

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  • "Dressage" Horse and the Rope Halter Crowd

    Are rope halters really all that? Will using one solve/fix all my horse's ground issues? (My expectations are also different ... I don't expect her to consistently hand-walk perfectly shoulder-at-shoulder and when we trot together I expect to need to use a bridle to maintain/contain her stride.)

    I'm happy with a web halter and chain. My horse is happy with web halter and chain. It's how I "grew up" and how she grew up, as well.

    My dear friend and her group have their understanding of dressage that comes from horsey-tv and people she knows who are doing very well at intro level in schooling shows. I don't mean to sound judge-y, just describe the perspective.

    They doesn't believe in leather or web halters. The believe string halters givethem more control. One of them told me it was wrong to hand-walk a horse in a bridle because it messes with their mouths. (Again, just to share the perspective, which is not consistent with my education.)

    I think we have different ideas about what is realistic for "bombproof." I want my friend (who is currently hosting my horse as a boarder) to feel comfortable with my horse. I think my horse would be amenable to the "ground training" she wants to do with my horse ... and I don't know where, or if, I should draw a line.

    What are your thoughts, please?

  • #2
    I do know of a few upper dressage types who do feel leading with the bridle can affect contact when ridden (and point out to the SRS and such that always lead with a cavasson to and from the stables with young stock)

    I have both. I would rather use a rope halter over a chain, but really I prefer a nice leather halter and train compliance.


    • #3
      I think... for some types of ground training, a rope halter is useful. However, it provides a lot more "bite" via the knots than a leather halter does... and some horses will object.

      AFAIK, the vast majority of horses do. not. need. a rope halter for basic stuff like leading, and should not. I wonder about people who feel they need the rope halter to have enough control.

      Currently at my barn one boarder is insisting that her horse only wear a rope halter and barn workers aren't happy; with the cold coming in, wearing gloves etc. a snap on a regular halter is a lot easier to deal with than tying or untying a knot. So that is another issue.

      That said, I have used a rope halter on my horse to work through some very specific ground issues (and probably should drag it out, or at least use a chain shank, to deal with current issues.) I used it some when retraining her to load and unload from a trailer, but won't tie a horse in a trailer with one so once she was more solid about the basics, I went back to a leather one for actual hauling. She *knows* the leather has less "bite" but I've, um, incentivized the situation enough that she'll load herself now.
      You have to have experiences to gain experience.

      1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


      • #4
        My mare was started by a natural horsemanship-dressage trainer (I always thought this was an oxymoron)

        Back in spring, my mare started acting, well, Mareish. Her impeccable ground manners had turned into little battles with her pinning her ears back and swinging her butt towards me. She became dominant. (which is why her previous owner sent her to a trainer to be started vs doing it herself. she was capable of doing it, but was honestly scared of this mare) The trainer who started her told me to put the rope halter on her and see what happened.

        She has extremely respectful ground manners and leading manners with the rope halter on.

        Unfortunately, when I throw her nice leather halter on (when someone comes to see her-trainer, body work lady, etc) her manners aren't terrible, but they are definitely not as up to par as they are when she's in the rope halter.

        I'm not sure if she's just dead to the leather halter because the rope halter actually applies pressure on points of her head that tell her "excuse me, ma'am, let's listen", mostly because I don't know the first dang thing about natural horsemanship and the "rope halter" aside from how to use it, safely tie it, and that I nickname it my mare's "manners" halter.
        Working horses is a little like being married. Sometimes you need to adjust and change your plan.


        • #5
          My horse, my rules.

          My mare NEEDs a chain on her nose. She may looks well behaved and docile 99% of the time but that 1% is there and she will use it against you! Where there is a will, there is a way! My mare is a (reformed) bully and would go through any kind of rope halter.

          She's just not that into natural horsemanship... She's more of a BDSM kinda girl! Especially when I lunge her with her nice caveson!!! LoL!!!

          I've tried numerous time, my trainers tried, good experienced grooms tried... she just needs a chain over her nose to be safe. She's actually more quiet and confident when she knows she has no choice but to obey. She needs precise rules.
          Otherwise she is well trained, lunged perfectly and works in-hand (with the bridle) walk/trot/a bit of canter and started the half steps.

          I wouldn't let your friend training your horse in a way you don't agree. Would you pay her to do so? If not, don't allow it. Your horse is not there for her to experiment her training skills and techniques. You are there to board, not to get training. If your horse has behavior problems, fix them or pay someone you trust to do so.
          ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

          Originally posted by LauraKY
          I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


          • #6
            Originally posted by alibi_18 View Post
            My horse, my rules.
            Working horses is a little like being married. Sometimes you need to adjust and change your plan.


            • #7
              I don't like leading with bridles, so I know where you're coming from. I don't really have any rational reasoning behind that though, I just don't like it!!

              All of mine are in padded leather headcollars and are respectful of them. Not gonna lie, they are delightful on the ground You school a horse to be polite, I don't think you need more on the head to achieve that, or at least not after a very short period of time when basic manners are established.


              • #8
                I made the switch to rope halters quite a few years ago. I feel they fit better than most nylon halters, and they aren't going to break if a horse pulls back.

                With that said, I make my own leadropes with quick release snaps. Can't remember the last time I needed to use one, but I want it available in an emergency.

                Rarely do I ever need to use the fact that a rope halter has more "bite" but I want it available to me instantly, if my horse needs a correction.

                Just my personal preference.
                I like rope halters.
                It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.


                • #9
                  Some rope halters are too soft and flexible to be a good training tool. I was introduced many years back to a Clinton Anderson "Be Nice" stiff rope halter for an exuberant young, hot horse. Immediate change in ground manners. No pushing the envelope anymore. They are a good reminder for some horses that they need to pay attention and respect their handler.

                  I'd much rather use a good stiff rope halter than a chain over the nose.
                  "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                  • #10
                    We have all three and use them based on activities.

                    Flat halter/web/nylon use:

                    Being tied, trailering, photos.

                    Leather halter (with or without chain):

                    Shows, Showmanship training, photos.

                    Rope halter:

                    Beginning training, young kids leading, ground work, some trick training, refresher courses.

                    The tweens like taking their horses on walks around the neighborhood and we have them use the rope halters for that as well.
                    My herd for life:
                    King: 21 year old Foxtrotter gelding
                    Ruais: 8 year old Friesian/Arabian mare


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by AllWeatherGal View Post
                      My expectations are also different ... I don't expect her to consistently hand-walk perfectly shoulder-at-shoulder and when we trot together I expect to need to use a bridle to maintain/contain her stride.
                      Why not? And, why? Why wouldn't you want your horse to behave like a safe and amenable creature at all times?

                      I don't think your problem is with rope halters versus leather/web halters, I think it's with you allowing your horse to do whatever the hell she wants.

                      I don't subscribe to rope halters (they are fine for cowz because they fit everyone in the barn, but even then, for rowdy/crazy ones they get leather and a chain shank), but I do subscribe to good ground manners for safety's sake.
                      Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.


                      • #12
                        FP is educated in "natural horsemanship", he was backed by a very knowledgeable dressage trainer - I have no idea why this would be considered an oxymoron.

                        Most barn staff are not trained in rope halters, so he has a leather halter for everyone else to use, trailers in that etc.

                        I suspect that much of the response you read here is from people that have never used/trained with rope halters - and you can't judge by what is sold commercially by tack shops, frequently, management has no thoughts other than they brought in the selection with great colors (& available through their usual suppliers).

                        That whole "rope halter thing" can be a lot of fun to do with your horse, but if you hate it, have no interest in it ...

                        If you have a particular horse, I don't see why you'd put her into any sort of training with novice trainers - which seems to be what you're describing, though perhaps I'm reading your words wrong. If you do think your friend is accomplished, then why not organise a session and watch her work with your mare: then decide.

                        Will using one solve/fix all my horse's ground issues?
                        Training will affect ground issues

                        My horse is happy with web halter and chain. It's how I "grew up" and how she grew up, as well.
                        I doubt your horse will think this while she's learning fun, new things; rope halter training should be no different than any other sort of training you might do with your horse.

                        I would find hand walking in a bridle to be odd (but it's unlikely I'd ever mention it)


                        • #13
                          As a groom on the track, I grew up using chains in various ways. Now I generally use rope halters of varying types.

                          If your "feel" & timing are really good, the correct type of rope halter can be almost as effective as a chain. People like Buck Brannaman can handle even a "bronc" type horse with them effectively.

                          However most of use are not BB. I had one young stud come to me with terrible manners and use to rear, bolt and pull away from his handlers. They had only used a rope halter on a flat halter he was a total terror.

                          The first time he did that w/me (using a rope halter) and just about ripped the skin on my hands off doing so, I put my one flat halter on him w/a chain and a long rope (I use a chain that can attach to any sort of lead rope).

                          When he tried his bolt move, I set back and yanked the holy crap o/o of that shank! Spun his butt around big time!! He couldn't believe someone else could control him.

                          I used a chain on him for several years when going out in public and when he was breeding a mare. Meanwhile I schooled him in ground manners using a rope halter.

                          Eventually he was fine with a rope halter, even when breeding.

                          Saying one type of halter is "better" than another is silly. It's like saying one type of bit is better. It's just another tool in a horseman's tool box. And like any tool, it takes some practice to use one effectively.


                          • #14
                            I think you and your friends just have different ideas about horsemanship. Welcome to the horseworld . I once boarded in a barn that required breakaway web halters. I boarded in another that highly recommends rope halters. Oh well.

                            I'm currently using a rope halter on my horse and I think it is "all that" *for this horse* who learned he could break the breakaways if he pulled hard enough. It gives me control when I need it, which is maybe 1% of the time these days. Otherwise, it just sits on his head like any other halter. In that respect, it's no different from a chain with a halter - can create issues if used poorly, but most of the time just sits on the head.

                            If your friend wants to do some groundwork with your horse and you want to let her, just let her use the rope halter. The advantage of the rope over the web halter and chain is that the handler can easily work from all sides of the horse without having to switch over the lead chain. Also,the pressure releases quickly because the rope is light. Lastly, the rope leads that come with the halter tend to be longer than typical lead rope because alot of the ground training involves the horse not being right next to you - it involves the horse walking and standing several feet from you. The idea is that the horse has to pay attention to you even when he's not right next to you. I guess, if you want your friend to work with your horse, let her use the tools she knows how to use (the rope and not the chain) and watch what she does. If she really knows what she's doing, maybe you'll learn something. You can probably also show her how she can use a regular halter and a chain properly, and maybe she'll learn something, too.
                            Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                            • #15
                              I look at it as a training aid. Less is more, in my opinion.

                              Rope halters do have more bite, and I feel they should only be used if and when absolutely needed. If you can get the job done and be safe without needing more bite, why use it?

                              I feel the same way about bits - less is more. If you can do what you need to do safely and effectively in a very mild bit, there's no need to bit up to whatever the current trend is.

                              It's your horse, do what's best for your horse and you comfort level. If the horse doesn't need it, will there be a benefit or a detriment by introducing it?


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by alto View Post
                                That whole "rope halter thing" can be a lot of fun to do with your horse
                                It took me a month or so to learn how to tie the thing. I've been learning how to do all of that NH groundwork with my horse (he was a bit of a problem child) and I have to agree: it's fun! My horse really enjoys it now that he's learned it (especially certain exercises), he enjoys working *with me* while doing these things, and it really translates to everything else we do (riding, trailer loading, etc.).
                                Proud member of the Colbert Dressage Nation


                                • #17
                                  My gelding went through some space testing issues such as crowding, trying to wrestle himself away being lead, etc and I used the lariat type rope halter which tightened up on him 'surruptitiously' if he stepped out of line to instill a healthy respect of personal space and leading well, etc at one point. He got it fast, and got over his acting out right quick, and made him safe for all to handle with a regular halter. Only rarely do I ever have to 'hint' to him via a regular halter/shank kind of movement to remind him of his earlier lesson, should he begin to test boundaries again, which he does about yearly once or twice. Its just his way. Who he is.

                                  But no, there is no reason even with a smart, alpha type of horse who is pretty much always looking to test folks why he needs a rope type halter all the time. He's a saint and very careful around children and people he doesn't know and my decision, my horse, no rope halter.

                                  If you don't need one, if you don't want one, you don't have to use one. This person should learn (be taught) how to handle a horse correctly no matter the equipment and circumstances she finds herself and himself in. That's just good horsemanship and if I was going to let her handle my horse I would be pretty emphatic about how THIS horse is managed, not how she imagines horses in general should be managed.

                                  That's just my take.
                                  Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by mjs8 View Post
                                    I look at it as a training aid. Less is more, in my opinion.

                                    Rope halters do have more bite, and I feel they should only be used if and when absolutely needed. If you can get the job done and be safe without needing more bite, why use it?

                                    I feel the same way about bits - less is more. If you can do what you need to do safely and effectively in a very mild bit, there's no need to bit up to whatever the current trend is.

                                    It's your horse, do what's best for your horse and you comfort level. If the horse doesn't need it, will there be a benefit or a detriment by introducing it?
                                    These are the questions I think need to be asked, and the above posts are all good thoughts on the considerations to make.

                                    If I needed, I would use a rope halter on my filly. She has had a chain a couple times in specific situations where she needed it and so she would learn how to react to one - which was helpful, so when she was getting stitches out of her face after she injured herself we didn't have to sedate her. She had learned what a chain means despite rarely ever using one, so we put a chain on and she stood perfectly still because she knew it was expected of her. Neat trick, and the value I find in chains or rope halters - I dislike them for every day use, but think they are excellent tools to teach a horse to respect for the out of the ordinary situations.

                                    My gelding learned about lip chains at the track, and I have had to use a stud chain on him out in public because after he had ulcer issues he associated new places with pain, so would flip out. A couple outings, and he now doesn't care. He also decided at one point he didn't want to load into the trailer out of stubborness, not fear, so a lip chain and no pulling, and he instantly loaded.

                                    They aren't things I typically use, and I want my horses to behave and respect my space, adjust to my movement, etc., without them. But I want them to be an option in unusual situations. The filly now doesn't need it pretty much ever - when the neighbors had a large party going on including live band, pony rides, kids in a bounce house and a weird kid-launching swing setup which looked fun to me but like a monster attacking humans to her, she piaffed next to me without pulling while she looked. Her desire was to bolt, but she knew better, so with just leadrope on a halter she behaved and contained her energy in the way which came naturally to her. My gelding loves when the neighbors have parties so wouldn't have been a problem, but for some situation which was similarly worrisome to him a chain might have become necessary, though his general reaction is to keep slack in the leadrop and swing his haunches away from me back and forth to let out his energy.

                                    I basically just can't stand a horse pulling on me at all - I won a lot of showmanship classes as a kid, and I expect a horse to line up with me properly and behave. This also means I'm NOT a good handler for Dressage-type in-hand as I want a horse to take a longer stride than I have at the trot!
                                    If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                    • #19
                                      I want my halter to break to avoid injuring my horse.

                                      I'm not a fan of rope halters, never used one and prefer to see horses tied in breakaway nylon/leather halters.


                                      • #20
                                        I don't tie with a rope halter any more than I tie with a chain over the nose.

                                        Caveat -I did ONCE kinda tie a confirmed halter breaker (she would just decide she no longer wanted to be tied and pitch a fit till it broke) by wrapping the rope around a post and holding the end. She pitched a fit it didn't break and she was shocked. Only took a couple of times to end a lifetime of halter breaking.