By Judy Van Put
SULLIVAN COUNTY September 3, 2002 While awaiting the final results of Sullivan Countys horse shows and the New York State Fair, we will continue with a discussion of halter types and designs.
A recent question-and-answer article put together by Joanne Meszoly in Equus magazine provided a sampling of the many halters that are available, and described their specialty use:
Combination Halter/Bridles These dual-purpose items are popular with trail riders. These are commonly made of easy-care synthetic material. The halter converts to a bridle simply by snapping on cheek pieces and attaching a bit and reins. This piece of tack is very convenient during overnight trail rides, or rides where horses will be tied for a length of time.
Foal Halters Obviously named for use in young horses, these halters are very adjustable, with buckles on the noseband as well as both sides of the crown piece to allow for a custom-fit as well as for the rapid growth of the foal. A popular style for foals is the figure-eight suckling halter that tightens on the nose when pressure is applied to the crown piece. Training halters are also available to encourage good leading behavior.
Grooming Halters These simple halters are basically just a noseband supported by a crown piece, to enable you to access more of your horses face while grooming. Because of its simplicity, with a single buckle for adjustment on the left side of the head, these are recommended for use only with well-mannered horses under close supervision, as they provide little control of a strong-willed horse. Without a throatlatch, a grooming halter can be easily slipped over the ears and off the horses head.
Similar in use to a grooming halter, a collar is used in place of a regular halter during grooming or bridling. It is a loosely-fitted collar which goes around the neck just behind the throatlatch, and may have side or center rings for attachment of cross ties or a lead. Again, due to its lack of control, a collar should only be used under direct supervision of well-mannered horses.
Shipping Halters These leather or web halters are covered with fleece or sheepskin tubing, to protect the horses head from rubbing while being restrained for long periods of time on short leads, and to protect from bumps while traveling on the road. The rubs usually develop along the bridge of the nose, below the cheekbones and behind the ears as the horse leans on the ties for balance. As sheepskin is difficult to keep clean and fleece can retain body heat during summer travel, these halters should only be used while trailering or traveling.
Show Halters Show halters are used mainly for two reasons for appearance as well as for control. These are the most expensive halters because of the quality of the materials and decorations used, and will vary according to breed and class. Tennessee Walking Horses, Morgans, Paso Finos and other gaited breeds will show in thinner leather halters, with silver details or colorful patent-leather cavessons and brow bands.
Quarter Horses wear thick leather halters with elaborate silver fittings, while Hunters compete in fine if not understated leather.
Arabians are outfitted with delicate leather or plastic halters constructed over light cable cores with a thin brass chin chain for control. These halters are for show only, and are not designed to tie or cross-tie.
Training Halters There are many types of training halters, all of which are designed to put pressure on the horses head to provide clear reinforcement of desirable behavior. Some apply pressure to the horses poll to discourage rearing or halter pulling. Others are designed with a second noseband to tighten if the horse resists lead-line pressure. The horse learns not to fight the halter, and learns how to release the pressure and provide the good behavior that is sought.
And finally, the turnout debate. For those who feel that a horse should be turned out with a halter, whether for purposes of insurance (many insurance companies refuse to insure horses that break out of their pasture if the horse isnt wearing a halter) or if the horse is difficult to catch, a Breakaway Halter might be a good choice.
This is a halter that will break and release the horse should it become entangled or snagged. These are generally constructed of nylon with a thin leather crownpiece or a simple leather tab that is designed to break under pressure. Replacement crown pieces as well as tabs are sold separately.
You can also construct your own breakaway halter by using an old halter and an old leather belt preferably one that has seen a lot of wear.
Measure the halter to your horse and replace the crown piece with the leather belt, cut to fit and punch a few holes in either end to attach.
Other horse owners will never turn out a horse in a halter, and will relate gruesome stories of horses whose breakaway halters didnt break, horses that were panicked in their struggle to free themselves and caused themselves serious injury and even death. In any event, any horse that is turned out with a halter should be monitored, and make sure to use a halter that will break should the horse become caught or tangled. Let safety be your guide.
Editors Note: Horse Talk will cover the results of the Sullivan County Youth Fair Horse Show and also report on New York State Fair participants next week. At the time of this printing, results are still being compiled.