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Let's Talk Horses

By Judy Van Put
SULLIVAN COUNTY — August 27, 2002 – One of the most frequently used pieces of tack in your stable is the halter. Choosing the “right” halter for the right job can be daunting at times, with all the selections available on the market today. There are leather halters, nylon, rope, fleece, shipping, grooming, training and turnout halters.
Here are some tips to consider when choosing a halter, to prevent your having to spend a small fortune in the process!
• Nylon – Nylon halters are a very popular choice, as they are very durable and require little care. Nylon halters come in a variety of colors and styles, and are economical. As with any piece of tack, however, the more you spend on a halter, in most cases, the better the materials are. Things to consider in a nylon halter are the “ply” and the fittings, both of which are an indication of quality and cost.
Cheaper halters are single ply – which is one layer of nylon folded over the hardware and sewn. Double ply uses one layer folded over the buckle and another piece sewn in between – and there is even triple ply, which is a piece of nylon folded in threes.
The double-and triple-ply halters are stiffer and keep their shape, making it easier to slide them over your horse’s nose. With fittings, more snaps, buckles and latches will add to the cost. In addition, quality metals, such as solid brass and nickel- or chrome-plated hardware will last longer without corrosion or rust. Brass eyelets reduce the chances of the nylon fraying or ripping around the holes.
• Leather – Leather halters with brass nameplates and fittings evoke a certain style of “class.” They are popular with most breeding farms and large show stables. You will pay more for a leather halter made of English bridle leather than one made from cowhide or buffalo hide made overseas.
Triple stitching, padding and contoured fit will add to the cost of a leather halter, as will silver fittings – depending on the amount of decoration and engraving a leather halter can cost several hundred dollars!
Like its nylon counterpart, the “ply” is an indication of quality and cost.
Many horse owners use leather halters for show and “special occasions” and rely on less expensive nylon or rope for everyday use. Leather halters, like other leather tack, require regular care – such as soaping and oiling – in order to preserve them and keep the leather strong and supple.
• Polypropylene web – This material looks like nylon, but is not as strong and is much cheaper. A good use for polypropylene halters is for breakaway halters or turnout halters. A horse will break free from a polypropylene halter much easier than from nylon. In addition, poly halters do not absorb as much water as nylon.
• Rope – These simple halters are constructed from a length of rope which is knotted to take shape. Rope halters do not have “hardware” and are more custom fitted. Rope halters are made from cotton as well as polypropylene, which is more rot-resistant and durable. The rope used is from one-quarter to seven-eighths of an inch in diameter – the thinner rope will have more constriction on the horse when pressure is applied to the lead.
Some handlers believe that rope halters have an advantage in their adjustability, custom-fit, and control of the horse. There is no hardware to rust, no stitching to rip. However, because there are no breakable parts, rope halters should NOT be used for turnout halters, nor for use in cross-tying.
Next week – Fitting halters, specialty halters and the turnout controversy.

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