Howdy Friends! Is there a wrong way to halter a horse? I believe there is. And we don’t need to put a halter on the wrong way. So why do we do that?
Sometimes an amusing sight
I’m always amused when I’m at an equine event, trail ride, show, and I see folks standing on their tip-toes reaching way up high, struggling to put on a halter or bridle. It’s a silly struggle that need not be. The horse’s head high, the person on tip-toes, reaching and complaining. Why would some one continue to do that?
One time at a trail ride, I remember asking a friend, “Do you know why he puts his head up that high for the bridle?” My friend replied roughly, “No!” I said, “You taught him to do that.”
Think about it
Our horses can hold their heads up a lot higher than we can reach. So why do they stop at our highest reach and allow us to halter? The answer is easy. We teach them to. At our highest reach, we manage to put on the halter, and the horse learns that’s the plan. Head up, halter on.
Our horses can learn a Better way
There is no need for that struggle. If we taught them high. We can teach them low. Here’s the trick.
STEP ONE: We must teach them to lower their heads on cue. Easily done. Place our hand over their poll. Then lightly, with your fingertips, squeeze the poll. Starting with light pressure and increasing pressure until the horse responds. At the same time I say, “Head Down.”
NOTE:: WATCH FOR SLIGHTEST REACTION:: FAST AND QUICK RESPONSE from us is imperative. As soon as the horse drops its head, even a quarter of and inch, RELEASE your grip on the pole. FAST release is the key. Continued pressure will confuse the horse and defeat the lesson.
STEP TWO: Repeat step one. With a QUICK RELEASE each time the horse drops its head. Its a timing thing. Pressure, response AND quick release. Don’t forget to ask for, “Head Down.” It may take several short drops to get the desired head position. Start over after each drop. You may need two feet of lowering, which in the beginning you’ll get one inch at a time.
STEP THREE: Practice, practice, practice. In a very short time every horse will learn to drop their head for halter or bridle. I teach every horse I ever work with this, right away. And in time, not very much time, every horse I’ve worked with learned the verbal cue. “Head Down.”
Putting on the halter or bridle
When the horse learns to quickly and comfortably drop their head, to about your waist, we can begin to apply the halter. As you might expect, I believe there is a correct and wrong way to do that as well.
Wrong way is to slide it over the ears, bending ears back. (Note: whenever a horse’s ears go back they release adrenaline, as they do when raising their head. It’s involuntary defense mechanism.)
Correct way is to unbuckle the crownpiece. Then hold the halter in front of nose, and then gently slip it up into position, and buckle the crownpiece. Without ever bending the ears back. Finally snap or buckle the throatlatch. Praise and move on to whatever your plans are.
Why do it this way?
As I noted above, a raised head involuntarily releases adrenaline. As does pinning the ears. And it’s usually better to not have that happen.
Another reason this method makes the horse comfortable. Head down level with spine is always comfortable for the horse. Relaxing. Sort of the opposite of adrenaline.
And it’s always nice to begin work or a ride without a tip-toe dance!
~ Gitty Up, Dutch.