Rope halters have become very popular, especially in the “natural horsemanship” kinds of training. The “training” ones are usually a thinner variety of rope, logic being the thinner rope creates a little more attention-getting pressure than the thicker rope. I like rope halters, but would not want to have to use them exclusively. The thicker or thinner variety makes no difference to me. I just do NOT want one of those with a 30′ lead!!! I realize they have their purpose and if it works for you, go for it. For me, give me a lunge line OR a lead line. I do NOT want a combo.
I guess my favorite thing about rope halters is the NO HARDWARE benefit. I’m sure your horses have always been the epitome of good behavior, and have never damaged any kind of halter. Well, not mine. Yosemite Sam, especially, has always had a penchant for breaking headgear, usually but not limited to the hardware. Once I found headgear with no hardware, and was consistent about what I tied him TO, he mostly resigned himself to being tied. Still to this day, he will test you if you are new to him and he thinks you may not know better. The hardware is always the first thing to give, and since rope halters have no hardware they don’t “pop” when the horse sets back on them.
They are infinitely adjustable. By properly positioning the knots the halters can be adjusted to fit just right. With a traditional halter, we are limited to the pre-set holes. Yes, you can make your own holes in between, but really? Not worth it to me. Please see the video tip below on fitting a rope halter.
This may just be my imagination, but it seems to me they are lightweight compared to traditional halters. Never weighed any for comparison, but just seems that when I’m carrying a halter or two with leads attached, the rope halters are lighter. I’ll take all the help I can get, and I assume the horse appreciates the lightness as well. Doubt they ever consider it actually!
Number one negative is that I see so many that are NOT properly fitted. I don’t mean show-ring-proper; I mean SAFE proper. As in, asking for trouble. Granted, they are a little difficult to adjust, well not really difficult, just takes some time. Especially when using the same halter for several different horses, it’s just easier to risk it than to adjust it. The fact that there is no hardware to give makes it even worse in case something does go wrong. Again, please see the very quick tip video from Julie Goodnight on the fit.
They do require, at least for me, a little bit more time to get on the horse, even if no adjustment is needed. I can slide a regular halter up the nose and over the poll lickety split, then snap the throatlatch and we’re good to go. Even if the horse is completely cooperative, it takes me a minute to get the rope halter pulled up to a good fit and get the knot tied. I’m just sayin’, sometimes it may make a difference. If I happen to know there’s a whole herd of hellion horses fixin to come around the hill any minute, I want the halter on as fast as I can get it!
The only other thing that comes to mind that I’m not crazy about, is the fact that the lead is not easily detached. Most of the time this is not a concern. Principally I’m thinking of trailering. Generally, I prefer to leave my horse’s head free while hauling. No earth shattering reason, just my preference. With a rope halter, I have to either leave the lead dangling on the floor, or tie it up around his neck. Neither is absolutely unacceptable, but neither makes me real comfortable. So, I prefer a readily detachable lead when trailering.
I would be interested in your horror or success stories using rope halters, or even regular halters if you’d like to share what you learned that works or doesn’t, with a comment.