The Right Fit
Is your horse’s halter too snug or too loose? Does it hang down around his nose or squeeze his face, rubbing the hair away? Do you fit a rope halter the same as a webbed halter? How do you know if you horse’s halter fits or what size halter he should wear? These are all legitimate questions and it is important to have a halter that fits your horse just right—for his comfort and his safety.
Whether you use a rope halter, nylon or leather halter, the fit should be the same. The cheek rings of the webbed halter and the cheek knots of the rope halter should sit about one finger’s width below the bottom of the cheek bone. If the noseband gets much lower, it could cause damage to the sensitive cartilage of the nose. The noseband should not fit snugly, but should not be so loose that he could get a hoof stuck in there when he scratches his face with his foot. You should have at least two finger’s width between the noseband and your horse’s jaw.
Usually halters come in basic sizes: yearling, small horse (cob size), regular horse (most horses fit into this category), large horse (Warmblood or draft crosses), draft and mule. The average horse typically wears a regular horse size; if your horse’s head is very small and dished, he may need a small horse size, but keep in mind that you do not want the halter to be tight and uncomfortable for your horse.
Rope halters can be a little trickier to fit correctly on the horse. When you put the rope halter on, be sure to pull the throat knot all the way up to the horse’s throat, then tie it off. This should place the cheek knots just below the cheek bones and keep the upper piece above his jowl—not going across it. If there is too much room in the noseband because your horse has a very refined head, you can loosen the fiador knot under the chin and work it up to tighten the noseband. Or you can use electrical tape to tape around the fiador knot to make the noseband smaller.
Turning out horse in halters is not recommended because of the chance of your horse getting hung up on something. Horses should never be turned loose with a rope halter on because it is easier for them to get hung up and they will not break. If a horse must be turned out with a halter on, make sure that is has a leather breakaway strap at the top so your horse can break safely away if he gets snagged.
Finally, when you trailer your horse, make sure he is in a breakaway halter and never trailer a horse in a rope halter. If your horse falls and or you are in a wreck, you want him to break free. Most halters made for trailering are made of leather because they are more breakable. Most rope halters are made with climbing rope which is not breakable for the horse. Also, you want your horse to be as comfortable as possible in the trailer and not pulling against the rope halter when he gets off balance.
For more information on this and many other important topics, please check out the archived articles on my website.
–Julie Goodnight, juliegoodnight.com