Monday, March 5, 2012

Tack 'Em Up: How to Halter a Horse

A halter and lead rope are two of the most crucial and basic tools a horse owner can ever use.  The halter, which is a device worn by the horse and allows the handler to command and communicate cues, can either principally be leather, nylon, or rope. Note: These instructions are for halters containing a buckle.  I myself prefer the leather and nylon combination otherwise known as the breakaway halter as it promotes safety and security to both horse and handler.

There are many different sizes of halters and choosing the wrong type can be a detriment to the safety of the handler, horse, and pretty much everyone else in the vicinity.  The standard sizes are as follows:

Mini: obviously made to fit miniature horses
Foal, Weanling, or Yearling
Pony: made to fit ponies, although the foal, weanling or yearling sizes may also fit a pony
Small, Arab or Cob: full sized horse with a smaller head such as the Arabians or Cobs
Horse, Average or Medium: full sized horse with an average head such as the Quarter Horse
Large Horse or Warmblood: full sized horse with a large head such as the Warmblood
Draft or Extra Large

Some halters come with an adjustable chin piece and/ or throatlatch, making the halter customizable to the horse.  But even then, the halter must be of the appropriate size for the horse.

If at all possible, have a horse knowledgable friend, horse professional, or store associate help you with sizing if you are still not sure on what size you should buy.

1. Before even beginning to halter the horse, look over the halter. Make sure that there aren't any tears, ripping/ripped seams, or broken pieces. Do the same for the lead rope. You will want the halter and lead rope in good working order before ever putting it on your horse. If you look at the image above, please note the part names and the overall look of the halter.

2. After you have looked over the halter and lead rope, and have affirmed that it is good, unbuckle the crown piece and walk over to your horse. Make sure that the horse knows that you are coming. If the horse is in a stall, make a clucking or kissing noise before and after opening the door. Now this is important, watch the ears and make sure that the horse acknowledges you. If you do not see the acknowledgment, you could scare the horse and you might get kicked! If the horse acknowledges you and turns toward/ faces you...Yay! one less step. If the horse ackowledges you, looks at you and then turns back to where he/she was are going to have to move toward the horse, preferably on the horse's left side (as that is where you will re-attach the crownpiece to the rest of the halter at end) to get toward the head. Always, always, always make sure the horse knows where you are. Always!! Safety comes first, so if at all possible, have a horse knowledgable friend or horse professional there until you become confident in doing this task yourself.

3. So now you are near the head (and preferrably the horse hasn't moved away). Make sure you are on the left side of the horse and facing in the same direction as the horse With the unclasped halter in one hand, slip the lead rope around the horse's neck with the other hand. This is to ensure that the horse does not move away from you when you put the halter on.

4. The nose and chin pieces on the halter form a circle, and therefore go around the horse's nose. Still facing forward, with the lead rope looped (once) loosely around the neck, grasp the halter in both hands, tie ring at bottom, and fit the halter over the horse's nose.

5. You are almost there! Once you have the halter over the nose, reach under the horse's neck in order to grasp the crownpiece. With the crownpiece in hand, gently guide the crownpiece over the horse's neck, right behind the ears. Re-buckle the buckle and un loop the lead rope from the horses neck. Hold the lead rope in hand. Do not hold the lead rop in a circle around your hand if you want to keep your fingers. You can now lead your horse around at leisure!!

This is what it should look like when you are done...

Image property of State Line Tack
  • The nose band should sit approximately 2/3 of the way down or 1/2 way between the horse's eyes and nostrils.
  • The cheek piece should be parallel to the cheekbone of the horse, not too high, but not too low.
  • The crown strap should fit closely behind the horse's ears, but not too tight so as to pinch.

Your horse should not look like this when all is said and done:


  1. Huh! It's a lot easier to halter a horse (assuming nothing goes wrong) than I thought. Very informative!

    Is that even a real halter in the second image? It looks like something that got stolen out of the back of a distribution semi.

    1. Hah, yes assuming nothing goes wrong...

      That is in fact a real halter (the red nylon, too large for the horse's head, halter) in the second image.