Horse Halter Options 101

Horse Halter Options 101

Customize your leather halter by adding a halter plate with your horse’s name. These are easy to apply to most leather halters and make your halter easy to identify.

Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Saddles, bridles, and blankets can wait, but when you buy a horse there’s one piece of equipment that’s absolutely essential: a halter. It’s so necessary that laws in some states require that a horse come with a halter when sold.

Halters strap to a horse’s head and are used for leading and tying the animal (as opposed to a bridle which has a bit and is used for riding). Think of a halter as a collar for horses. In fact, in some areas halters are referred to as "head collars."

When you're looking to purchase a new halter for your horse, you'll find a large selection in a variety of makes, models, materials, and colors. Following are a few of the different halter options you’ll have to choose from at your local tack store or in horse-wear catalogs.

Traditional Leather Halters: Flat, Padded, and Rolled

Traditional leather halters (shown above left) are constructed of cowhide, and the pieces connect via metal or brass fittings and buckles. These halters are often highly adjustable at multiple points for a customized fit. Features can include padding, adding comfort and providing a stylish look, or rolled leather for more precise pressure and extra control.

Some halters clip to fasten at the throatlatch, which can make them convenient for grooming and offer the option of slipping the halter over the head rather than opening and closing the crownpiece (the part that goes over the horse's head, behind the ears). While durable, leather halters will usually break under pressure, such as when accidentally caught on a fence or other object. This is considered a safety feature of leather halters.

Tip: Customize your leather halter by adding a halter plate with your horse’s name. These are easy to apply to most leather halters and make your halter easy to identify. Plus, they look kind of snazzy.


Flat Nylon Halters

Flat halters made of nylon are similar in structure to traditional leather halters. The webbing material is inexpensive, strong, versatile, and a popular choice for regular barn use. Their synthetic material wears well and comes in a rainbow of colors but is very difficult to break should a horse become stuck on a stationary object.

Some flat nylon halters come with leather crownpieces or tabs that are designed to break under pressure. These halters are usually sold as “breakaway” or “safety” halters.

Tip: Look for high quality hardware and thick webbing.


Grooming Halters

Grooming halters are similar to leather and nylon halters, but do not have a throatlatch. This makes for easy grooming of the face and allows the halter to easily slip over the head if a horse panics and pulls back when tied. These halters are not designed for training or in-hand work.

Tip: For added versatility, consider getting a convertible grooming halter (like the one above) that offers a detachable throatlatch.


Rope Halters

Rope halters are a training tool used by many natural horsemanship trainers. As the name implies, these halters are made from rope (most commonly braided nylon cord), and these halters are tied together rather than constructed using hardware connections. Also, instead of buckling, rope halters tie to fasten.

Many rope halters include strategically placed knots over nose and/or poll pressure points for added control of the horse. Like their flat nylon halter counterparts, rope halters are durable and come in a variety of colors. The lack of hardware at cheek pieces make them less than ideal for cross-tying horses.

Tip: The more knots on the noseband, the more serve the halter.


Show Halters

Think of show halters as horse jewelry. They are designed for competition, such as in-hand halter and showmanship classes, and different breeds have different show halter requirements, styles, traditions, and trends. A show halter for an Arabian, for example (at left), is different than what you would use on a stock horse. Show halters often feature silver, crystals, or beading.

Tip: Check with your show association or a local trainer experienced trainer to make sure you’re getting the correct type of show halter for your breed and discipline.

Take-Home Message

Halters come in a variety of materials and styles. Finding the right one depends on your horse, your day-to-day or competition needs, and, of course, your personal preference.

About the Author

Michelle N. Anderson, Digital Managing Editor

Michelle Anderson serves as The Horse's digital managing editor. In her role, she produces content for our web site and hosts our live events, including Ask the Vet Live. A lifelong horse owner, Anderson competes in dressage and enjoys trail riding. She's a Washington State University graduate (Go Cougs!) and holds a bachelor's degree in communications with a minor in business administration and extensive coursework in animal sciences. She has worked in equine publishing since 1998. She currently lives with her husband on a small horse property in Central Oregon.

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