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"Dressage" Horse and the Rope Halter Crowd

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  • #41
    I'm a dressage trainer, and I use rope halters for specific things. They are very easy to fit a bridle over, and I don't like to longe from the bit, so I will sometimes longe using a rope halter as an alternative to a halter/chain combo if the horse is a rough customer.

    I think they are useful for some groundwork, and for horses who want to lean/drag you around. I either use leather halters for general leading/tying/hauling, or rope halters for specific purposes.

    I NEVER tie with one. I saw a horrible wreck when a horse got his halter stuck on a tiny bolt sticking a half inch out of a steel beam. He sat back and hung himself on that halter with sparks flying from his shoes scrambling on the concrete. A quick release would have done nothing in that situation.


    • #42
      Originally posted by arlosmine View Post
      I'm a dressage trainer, and I use rope halters for specific things. They are very easy to fit a bridle over, and I don't like to longe from the bit, so I will sometimes longe using a rope halter as an alternative to a halter/chain combo if the horse is a rough customer.
      I have never seen a professional trainer, (dressage or otherwise) longe a horse in a "rope" halter OR in a "halter/chain combo", whether the horse is a "tough customer" or not.


      Leading a horse, is completely different than longeing a horse, and requires different equipment.

      ETA; I have only seen dressage trainers (the professional types) longeing horses in a longeing caveson. The amateurs, that I know, do this as well.

      I have seen amateurs longe horses in a leather halter. Not an effective training method, though I suppose they were not really "training" but only attempting to get the bucks out.
      Last edited by skydy; Nov. 7, 2014, 02:21 AM. Reason: To Add..


      • #43
        You can quite easily longe a horse in a rope halter. Why would that be a problem?


        • #44
          Originally posted by ellevt View Post
          You can quite easily longe a horse in a rope halter. Why would that be a problem?
          It could be a problem, depending upon what you were trying to accomplish by longeing the horse. If you are trying to get the" bucks" out, then no, it would not be a problem at all.

          If you are a dressage trainer, schooling a young dressage horse on the longe, then you have a "problem" if you have to use a chain or a rope halter to school the horse on the longe.

          Of course I may be wrong in assuming that dressage trainers still use a longeing caveson and/or a surcingle and side reins. It's quite possible that I am hopelessly outdated and that new "chain" and/or "rope" techniques have replaced the old school method of teaching a young horse to carry the bit.


          • #45
            Originally posted by taharah View Post

            (also, i have heard the argument from rope-halter-people(parelli followers) that chains are abusive and "can break a horse's nose bones." which is BS because if you're using them properly, that is obvious never going to happen.)
            Yep, this horse's neck was broken

            Of course you might argue that the chain was used incorrectly, but it was used in the same manner that I've also observed in barns


            • #46
              The chain was used incorrectly. That's like arguing that all rope halters are bad because some moron tied a horse with one and it flipped and died.

              For anyone using a chain shank and not putting the chain into effect, clip directly onto the halter so you have no loop of chain. Not rocket surgery.
              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.


              • #47
                A rope halter is a training tool. They are as good, mediocre, or bad as the person using them, same as a bridle, whip or spurs.

                They do serve a specific purpose beyond that of a web or nylon halter, as they offer more control. Though some people tie in them, they are not designed for the turn out in pasture tie for grooming purpose the regular web or leather halter is. And horses can take on bad manners in a regular halter as they can pull against it and feel nothing, so unless person corrects them, becomes barging, ignoring the handler etc. Learn how to tie a rope halter, it is interesting and easy to do wrong so learn to do it right in case you decide to use on! You might enjoy working your horse in a rope halter. It is easy to learn basic groundwork online or from a book or a few sessions with an NH based trainer. Fun for teaching tof etc . Dressage and a bit of NH groundwork actually go together well and there are some upper level riders who do it.


                • #48
                  >>>the ground training she wants to do with my horse>>>>>>

                  No, no and no. It is your horse. No one trains your horse without your permission.

                  If you are working with her horse then you handle the horse the way she wants.

                  If she handles your horse then she must handle it the way you want.

                  If she is not happy with that then she doesn't touch your horse.
                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                  • #49
                    Lots of pros use them for various reasons.
                    I've seen a long list of professionals use them (including Bettina. Drummond, Gene Lewis, and more west coast pros than I can count)
                    Many people start their young horses in them before putting reins on the bit. Actual, real trainers who do a good job with young dressage horses.

                    Cavesons are useful as well. Strangely, though, My most sensitive mare hated my well fitted and padded caveson and did well in a leather or rope halter for lunging. (Studious longing with bend, stretch and relaxation) They are all tools.
                    The use of a Rope halter does not imply that the use of the halter is violent or rough, or just used to "get the bucks out". I have not seen them used that way.


                    • #50
                      This is the rope halter I have I don't use it often and I bought it for a specific horse I no longer have (the confirmed halter breaker who was a pain to handle on the ground period when I got her) I liked this better than a chain. One it won't tighten, releases instantly and the knobblies over the nose are like a chain but not as sharp. This halter doesn't have the 'painful knots' some on here have talked about.

                      I wouldn't really be interested in a trainer of any sort who completely dismissed something like this but was fine with chains over horse's noses.

                      As I said in my first post in this thread, my preferred method is leather halter no chain. And that is how pretty much all of my horses even when I have had stallions get handled once they understand. Most never see more than a flat halter their entire lives that they spend with me. My yearling certainly has never had more than a soft leather halter on him!

                      For the OP I would watch, I would also inspect the rope halter to see if it has those big knots or is more plain. If you don't like the halter ask if they can do it in your regular halter. (if you are interested)


                      • #51
                        When my new young mare arrived she was a bit snort-and-blowy. She didn't know me, and she didn't know the farm. One of her first official acts as my new trail horse was to spook out to the end of the lead rope and slide out from under herself in the mud, to the tune of a puffy fetlock and a $700 vet bill. The injury only made her more fearful.

                        Well, maybe Buck Brannaman could've managed this spooking situation with raw animal magnetism and a wisp of silk thread, but I know my limitations. I'm no flippin' horse-whisperer -- more's the pity -- so I dug around in the trunk and found an old rope halter. I used it to hand-walk this scared horse around the trails the first week or two while she recovered. It steadied her during her initial acclimation from sheltered showhorse-land to sudden herds of deer and feral hogs and turkeys. I preferred it to the chain shank option for the reason others have mentioned, that there are no moving parts and the release is instantaneous. It allowed me to handle the horse more confidently, which in turn made her feel more secure.

                        Mare now rides out alone, happy as a clam, on the buckle, not giving a flip about the deer. New, improved trail horse, brought to you by Rope Halter.

                        I am fairly certain the rope halter doesn't torture her too much; whenever I break it out she practically swan-dives into it because it means we're going for a nice walk in the woods.
                        Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks everyone for the varied and thoughtful responses ... none of the trainers I've had over the years have used rope halters when I was at their barns.

                          I'm interested in the vehemence against leading a horse in a bridle based on my experiences at jogs. I would put CDI competitors in the "experienced dressage rider/trainer" group.

                          Basically, my take-away is that either type of halter can be used well or used improperly and if used well, doesn't matter what it is, results will be successful and if used poorly or incorrectly, results will not be good.

                          In the last couple of days I've seen that my horse is not any less well-behaved than the others. In fact, she responds to voice commands and is more consistently respectful of verbal instructions from me than the other horses are from their people.

                          I would like the presence of a halter of any kind to say "you're on my time now" and am okay with having a chain, although I do understand about the release being a bit slower. She seems to like the weight/connection (she's like that under tack, too ... likes to know her rider is there).

                          Small circles and whirling ropes are not in her future. I tried to impart the importance of not stressing her legs/joints in that way. But there's lots and lots of room for other stuff, and I'm looking forward to it all.


                          • #53
                            There are plain rope halters and ones with little knots, I'd imagine either is effective, I have the Parelli halter and the rope itself is smooth and not rough, so may be gentler than some others. Recommend a higher end brand name rather than one sold cheap generic (imo)

                            I agree many horses can do fine in a plain leather halter. So much depends on the handler. I have seen top riders, soon as they dismount, act so casual or silly on the ground it is amazing their horses don't have worse manners. Talking on cell phones while leading, letting horse get way in front or way behind, rolling while on lead line, pushing, barging, etc. Ignore and tune out the horse unless the horse does something really horrible ( and by then it is usually too late). Would you ride with totally loose reins chatting on a cell phone and letting horse go here and there and barge around through your aids? Why do people lead that way, or let horse lean on them when grooming etc, and then are surprised when an issue develops.

                            By the time a horse needs a rope halter ( unless it is not broke, which is a different topic), by the time a horse needs a rope halter, there is an ingrained behavior that is the handlers fault. We always blame the horse but it usually is due to poor handling, t's just some horses won't take advantage of poor handling but others will, or will do it to an extent it causes a problem.

                            So unless the handler takes time to understand the behavior, studies how to correct it, how to continually handle on the ground from now on in a more attentive manner that encourages good behavior , sticking a rope halter on for a few sessions won't accomplish much.


                            • #54
                              I have used rope halters. I have done some of the natural type horsemanship training. I have also used bridles and bits while leading, as it is the way we show in hand. I have also used flat halters, and chain leads if needed. Realistically, they are all tools. Most issues cannot be fixed with a tool, it takes training to fix issues. Any tool can be humane or abusive, it boils down to how it is being used. As a barn owner, and someone that has trained and boards outside horses....I expect my horses to treat me like fine china. Stay out of my space, respect me, listen and follow my lead. It takes consistency, and very clear rules so they know what is acceptable behavior. I no longer use rope halters as I can usually acheive similar results in a flat halter. Also a well trained horse will usually be able to respond in any halter set up, that would be an ideal.


                              • #55
                                A rope halter has a higher purpose than just a tool for correction, the more sophisticated use of it is as a training tool, leading toward horse working at liberty off the line, needing no halter at all ( I never got to that level but it is beautiful to watch). The purpose as a training tool vs correction tool of a rope halter is that a handler can give light signals and horse learns to instantly responds . The flat halters are too dull and thick to transmit a light touch on the lead line or a touch from a far off 20 ft line to a horse and thus are suitable for leading to and from paddock every day handling.


                                • #56
                                  Originally posted by One Two Three View Post
                                  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.
                                  Well, since you don't know a thang about NH and are not making an effort to learn, the mare's better response to rope halter vs flat halter is due to the pressure points, as well as associated memory. If you were interested, you could learn to transmit the manners she has in the rope halter to plain leather halter, and could have the trainer who started her come out and explain your goals to him , for example and work with him a few sessions, or learn on your own and apply it.

                                  Otherwise, things will stay as they are. She is not going to make the connection herself, as you are using the rope halter to correct or avert bad behavior, rather than teach good behavior, it is the teaching of good behavior in a rope halter which can then be carried over to the flat halter because now the horse has cognitively learned .


                                  • #57
                                    Originally posted by AllWeatherGal View Post
                                    I'm interested in the vehemence against leading a horse in a bridle based on my experiences at jogs. I would put CDI competitors in the "experienced dressage rider/trainer" group.
                                    I would not let my mom lead my horse by a bridle because she's the type to clamp onto the horse's head. On the other hand she can "hold him" as I tell him woah when he's next to her and walk away - basically ground tying him, but leaving a human next to him so he thinks he's being held. Because the reins still over his neck and human not touching reins is all he needs to be "held" whereas if you pull on his mouth unnecessarily he'll flip out about it.

                                    Originally posted by Countrywood View Post
                                    We always blame the horse but it usually is due to poor handling, t's just some horses won't take advantage of poor handling but others will, or will do it to an extent it causes a problem.
                                    Who is this "we"? I have little respect for someone who always blames the horse, and actually RARELY see that on this forum.
                                    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.


                                    • #58
                                      I was a long time leather-halter-and-chain girl for certain situations. Had reason to spend time with a student of Buck Brannaman's and learned the purpose and usefulness of groundwork, and of using a rope halter. Now, I will use a rope halter when working with a horse--I like that the release is immediate and total, because the halter is light. I also like that, with a rope halter and a properly tied rope of a particular type, there is a consistent feel from my hand to the horse's face--no flopping heavy snaps, no metal fittings, no rope-to-chain-to-halter-ring transitions in the material to interfere, magnify, or dampen the feel between me and the horse.

                                      I do still use a leather halter for tying and shipping, and even occasionally for turnout. I make sure it fits well, and I use a 3/4" instead of a 1" for lighter weight.

                                      I have a good friend who is a far better horsewoman than I, but who feels that her dressage horses are just more horse than my QHs, and that, regardless of what's on their heads, they will be more up and more uppity. And so they are. Yet I've seen my "cowboy" mentor handle her horses and they are quiet and know to stay on their end of the leadrope with him.

                                      It doesn't matter so much what is on their head, what matters is the person standing at the other end of the leadrope. I find a well-fitted rope halter to be a very useful tool. I also find that a leather halter has it's place. And I consider it my responsibility to make sure a horse is never put in a situation where they can be injured by pulling back.
                                      "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                                      Spay and neuter. Please.


                                      • #59
                                        Originally posted by sascha View Post
                                        The chain was used incorrectly. That's like arguing that all rope halters are bad because some moron tied a horse with one and it flipped and died.

                                        For anyone using a chain shank and not putting the chain into effect, clip directly onto the halter so you have no loop of chain. Not rocket surgery.
                                        Did you read the article
                                        - the person whose horse died was the author, she never implied any different ... she shared her tragedy because it is not uncommon to see people using the chain incorrectly.

                                        Her article is not intended as any sort of "argument"


                                        • #60
                                          The person at the end of the lead matters more than the halter that's being used.

                                          I use rope halters with a tied-on 12' lead when I work with my horses (Double Diamond is my preferred brand). The barn uses the regular turnout halters and lead ropes that I provide. The horses are well behaved in both.

                                          I do lead my mare with the bridle, but because she follows *my* lead there isn't any pressure on her mouth. I walk - she walks. I stop - she stops. I turn - she turns. I back up - she backs up. I point her at the trailer - she walks on. She didn't come this way, and it's been day after day of consistent work to get her there. If ever she made the choice to not follow me we would do some remedial ground work in a halter.

                                          My instructor worked with Ray Hunt but does not call what she does "natural horsemanship". Her horses are impeccably behaved, including the breeding stallion that she occasionally rides during my lessons.