A few days ago, I was driving home from my last trip of the year, relishing the thought of being home for eight weekends in a row. As I drove through South Park (yes, there really is such a place and it is well depicted in the cartoon), looking out over hundreds of thousands of acres of pasture land with thousands of cattle, horses, elk and antelope ranging, I was fantasizing about how much I will enjoy being home over the next couple months.

My day-dreams were rudely interrupted by a scene that irritates me every time I see it: horses turned out with halters on. Unfortunately, we see that a lot around here; sometimes the horses are turned out in rope halters, which is even worse since they will not break. I am not sure whether this is done out of ignorance, laziness or simple incompetence, but I am sure it is not a good idea.

In my opinion, there’s no good reason to turn a horse loose in a halter and leaving a halter on 24/7 is very poor horsemanship. It is uncomfortable, potentially dangerous to the animal and it will not resolve any training issues that the horse might have. Turned loose in a halter, the horse may potentially snag the halter on something and be stuck. Maybe he’ll panic and break free, maybe he’ll throw himself on the ground and struggle; either way the potential for hurting himself is huge.

Besides, how would you like to have that thing on your head all the time? Maybe some people think because we leave collars on dogs, it is ok to leave halters on horses, but a dog does not have the same capacity for panic and destruction that horses have.

Often I hear people say they leave a halter on because their horse is difficult to catch. But guess what? That’s not fixing the problem—it’s avoiding it. Training and good handling will fix a hard-to-catch horse; leaving a halter on 24/7 will not. I’ve worked with many wild, unhandled or traumatized horses and the temptation to leave a halter on is great. But until the horse is desensitized to your approach, your touch and the halter going on and off, your problem is not solved.

I can imagine that in some circumstances leaving the halter on might be a reasonable temporary solution, but at some point the horse has got to be trained. Leaving the halter on 24/7 does not train the horse to accept these things—only physically doing it will. Have you worked with a horse you had to leave the halter on? Why? Was it temporary or permanent?

There are some horses in my neighborhood that have their halters on 24/7 and it makes me cringe every time I drive by. I am not sure who owns them or why they leave halters on some horses and not others, but I’ve never seen anyone handling these horses or doing anything with them. My guess is that it is done from sheer ignorance.

I’ve known a lot of horse breeders through the years who like to halter break their youngsters by leaving a halter on and dragging a lead rope for weeks on end. I’ve even known people that will tie the lead rope to a big tire and even to a mule. This has always bothered me because I think it is very uncomfortable and confusing for the young horse.

There are a lot of training techniques out there that I would never use but I respect the rights of others to use them as long as they do not hurt the horse and if they have good results. But for me, it has to make sense to the horse and respect his right to be comfortable on his own time. What training techniques have you seen or heard of that don’t make sense to you? I’d love to hear about them.

Enjoy the ride,

Julie

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. No i don’t leave my horse with halter on. Exactly the horse is also a living being and also have feelings.
    Agree with you Michelle.
    Excellent read!

  2. I understand your feelings on no halters during turn out because I feel the same way. However, I have a horse that is on daily meds for the past three years and it had gotten to the point that she sees me coming whether or not it is med time, (she always thinks it is meds coming) and she will do anything possible to get away from me. I keep her halter on so I can catch her and avoid potential dangerous situations for both of us. I spend hours everyday with my horses I am not lazy at all when it comes to them. I am very willing to take any advice I can get on how to get her to love or accept med time and stand there without a halter on while I stick the syringe in her mouth and give her meds to her without her moving her head around and wasting them, they are expensive to have end up on the ground or spit back out. I have disguised the meds numerous different ways and have attempted numerous times to try and make the meds a pleasant experience rather than one she hates. I have tried grooming and massaging her first and making it pleasant before I give her meds. In the winter when they are stalled at night I will wait to give meds until she is in her stall and can’t run so then I can halter her and hold her while I give meds to her, but summer time they stay outside a lot and that is when I keep her halter on. She is not a bad horse at all, she is a well broke safe and sane type..one you would feel safe with your children around. She is a kind and gentle soul and she never used to try and get away. I always kept her halterless and my horses come when called but since the meds with her that doesn’t happen no more. I guess with all my different disguises and trickery she has lost that trust with me. I felt for both our safety that it is just safer with a halter on. I don’t feel like I am an ignorant horse person or lazy. I am always trying to learn as much as possible everyday of my life about horses. Julie I idolize and respect your horsemanship and I love your training ways and follow you on Facebook and follow your blogs and webcasts and record all of your shows on RFD-TV and own several of your training videos….HELP ME! If there is a better way for me to do this safely halterless I am more than willing to learn!

  3. I understand your feelings on no halters during turn out because I feel the same way. However, I have a horse that is on daily meds for the past three years and it had gotten to the point that she sees me coming whether or not it is med time, (she always thinks it is meds coming) and she will do anything possible to get away from me. I keep her halter on so I can catch her and avoid potential dangerous situations for both of us. I spend hours everyday with my horses I am not lazy at all when it comes to them. I am very willing to take any advice I can get on how to get her to love or accept med time and stand there without a halter on while I stick the syringe in her mouth and give her meds to her without her moving her head around and wasting them, they are expensive to have end up on the ground or spit back out. I have disguised the meds numerous different ways and have attempted numerous times to try and make the meds a pleasant experience rather than one she hates. I have tried grooming and massaging her first and making it pleasant before I give her meds. In the winter when they are stalled at night I will wait to give meds until she is in her stall and can’t run so then I can halter her and hold her while I give meds to her, but summer time they stay outside a lot and that is when I keep her halter on. She is not a bad horse at all, she is a well broke safe and sane type..one you would feel safe with your children around. She is a kind and gentle soul and she never used to try and get away. I always kept her halterless and my horses come when called but since the meds with her that doesn’t happen no more. I guess with all my different disguises and trickery she has lost that trust with me. I felt for both our safety that it is just safer with a halter on. I don’t feel like I am an ignorant horse person or lazy. I am always trying to learn as much as possible everyday of my life about horses. Julie I idolize and respect your horsemanship and I love your training ways and follow you on Facebook and follow your blogs and webcasts and record all of your shows on RFD-TV and own several of your training videos….HELP ME! If there is a better way for me to do this safely halterless I am more than willing to learn!

  4. I hate seeing horses turned out with halters too. I always see it as a sign of poor horsemanship. I am a veterinarian and I have seen several horses with broken jaws after getting a halter caught and struggling to escape.

  5. Even the wild BLM mustangs I’ve adopted, I don’t have them haltered with drag rope…they come home naked…no excuse to leave a halter on a horse, even a wild one.

  6. My frustration is that I board at a facility that leaves halters on. The boarding agreement I signed asks if we want halter on or off and I indicated that I would like the halter off, but that has not happened. I agree with all the reasons to not leave the halter on. Any suggestions as how to approach the stable owner relative to this issue?

  7. Good day! In your blog article did you base on some researches or here are totally your personal conclusions? Can’t wait to see your reply.

  8. Why do you think it’s not good to leave a small rope on the foal’s headcollar.
    I know people who do it because they want the foal to learn to release as soon as they step on it. What do you think about that?

    • A foal should only have a halter on when you are working with them. Leaving the halter on does nothing to teach the foal to accept having the halter put on & removed & teaching the foal to accept pressure can be taught in a much safer way. I’ve seen more than 1 foal put a leg through the halter by scratching their throat with a hind leg, resulting in a broken leg & a broken neck.

  9. We were brand new to horses about 3 1/2 years ago and the lady that I boarded my horses with in TX before we moved here to CO would always leave halters on all the horses. After seeing how one horse of hers hurt itself by it getting it’s halter caught I would never let her leave a halter on any of my horses. I kept the same policy when we moved here to CO I never leave a halter on any of my horses.

  10. Well said Michelle! I actually had that inthe blog and took it out to be PC. Thanks for saying it!
    Julie

  11. I have the same frustration when I see horses pastured with halters on. There used to be a horse down the road from me, no halter on but with white hair in the perfect shadow of a halter (obviously left on so long at one point in it’s young life that it grew too large for the halter).
    A training technique I despise is the tying of the horse’s head around to the saddle and leaving them for hours.

  12. It’s one of those things that annoys me too. I always imagine it like a bra – helpful when you have it on but a relief when you take it off.

  13. NO, never, unless I am working with my horse. Bad news at boarding barn: my first day there and a horse hung itself the night before. Scratching it’s head and foot got caught in halter. So sad, I hate to see halters on horses that are out to pasture!! If you need a halter to catch your horse, you are lacking somewhere!


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