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Any Possible Benefit of Rope Halters?
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Annie F
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 08:59 pm
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Dr. Deb, 

I have always used a regular nylon or leather halter, but recently I’ve seen and read a little about “rope halters.”  Instead of pieces fitted together using metal rings and buckles, they are knotted.  They are made from two strands of braided rope of small diameter, knotted together so as to create the halter.  Some companies that sell these say that the thinness of the ropes “provides better control” by giving the horse more “bite” if he pulls against the halter.  Some types are designed to tighten on the face when pressure is applied, while others don’t tighten.  Some models have extra knots over the horse’s nose, again to apply additional pressure or “bite.”   

From these descriptions they sound to me like altogether undesirable gadgets with no possible benefit.  However I realize that just because they have (or some styles have) features that can be misused, that doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t some underlying merit to the general concept.  I am wondering whether there is any reason to think that “traditional” halters are not the best tool, or any situations in which alternative types of halters, such as rope halters, might be of any benefit? 

Thanks much.

 
Annie F

Last edited on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 09:00 pm by Annie F

miriam
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 09:46 pm
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Annie,

Upon joining ESI (for a mere $25/yr), Professor Bennett provides a GREAT double CD pkg which has an explanation about the rope halter, and why she prefers them to any other halter. Included also are some wonderful lessons on horse handling which you'll surely enjoy.

Gismo
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 10:21 pm
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OK, what are the rules ...
Is this a open forum where anyone (guest) and reply ?
Or a closed forum where only members can reply ?
Or a Q & A forum where Doc has the floor ?

I've been around a little and know a little, but dont want to step on toes ....
I would like to comment on this, but.......







DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 10:23 pm
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Gismo, this is my classroom, and I sooner or later get around to commenting upon most threads. But so long as you don't flame and don't name the name of any clinician or product other than those on our recommended list, you're welcome to add comments. -- Dr. Deb

Annie F
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 10:33 pm
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Just to clarify, this question has been on my mind for several months and has nothing to do with other recent discussions on the forum, nor am I intending to refer to any specific product or person.  I am asking generally about the characteristics and uses of the rope halter, and I am interested in the answer from the perspective represented by Dr. Deb and her forum.  I've been reading the forum regularly and participating at a low level in forum discussions for some time now.

Miriam, thank you for directing me to the CD.  I have been meaning to join officially, so this is good motivation for me to do so without further delay~

Annie F

Gismo
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 Posted: Wed Oct 29th, 2008 10:50 pm
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I get the feeling that Annie F would prefer to limit responses to her fellow members so I will back out, hat in hand, Sorry to bother you.

 " I am interested in the answer from the perspective represented by Dr. Deb and her forum. "




DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 12:23 am
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Gismo, there is no reason for you to back out. I am the teacher here, but you are welcome to participate as a student -- to begin with -- and we'll go from there. Can you not be comfortable participating in someone else's classroom?

Annie, like anything else, rope halters have both plusses and drawbacks. The main plus is that when you have to handle a horse that is going to try to drag you, the rope halter has more bite and you have a better chance of preventing that situation or aborting it if he gets the jump on you. I so much prefer a rope halter for use on the unmannered and/or unstarted horses that I work with when I'm doing a clinic, that I always carry one with me.

The minus about rope halters is exactly like the plus: they have more bite. That means if you tie a horse up in one, and he pulls back, the halter will hurt him worse and sooner than a web halter. If somebody's horse pulls back, I'd advise them to get a leather breakaway until they can get him over doing it.

The other minus on rope halters has nothing, really, to do with the halter itself but with the silly, misinformed people who run the organizations I disapprove of. They tell people that a rope halter is a 'natural hackamore', which is about as far from the truth, or what you would want to do, as you can get: first, because there's nothing more natural about a rope halter than one made of leather or web, and second because a halter is not a hackamore. No one should ever ride a horse in the horsemanship class, or out on a trailride, or on an everyday basis, in a halter. Ray Hunt starts 'em in halters only because, for legal reasons, he can no longer start 'em in nothing at all. They stay in the halter a couple of days, max, and then they start putting the snaffle bits in.

Your choices, then, with a horse after the 2nd day ridden, is to either bit him in snaffle (or if he's farther along, in whatever fits him and suits you); or else use a sidepull such as the very excellent one being made by Josh Nichol. Why we want to use these items to ride in, and not a rope halter, is that the whole purpose of reins is that they are tools of communication -- and hopefully, vehicles to CLARITY. We want our communications to be CLEAR to the horse. Particularly, we want to teach him that right rein = right foot or feet, and left rein = left foot or feet. This is easy to do in a well-fitted snaffle or sidepull; very muddy indeed if you try to do it from a point under his chin, with the halter slopping loose all over his head.

The other minus you can see with many rope halters today is that they are made wrong -- either out of materials that are too stiff so that they chafe, or they are made with metal rings, buckles, or snaps. The leadrope, though it may be long and itself of the correct material, attaches by a bullsnap. The useful rope halter has no metal parts at all, and the leadrope is attached by running it through the eyelet under the chin to form a lanyard knot. We want no metal parts because these are the parts that break the easiest; and we want no bullsnap because part of the technique with rope halters involves swinging the rope under the horse's chin, which will hurt him rather than merely signal him if a big ol' bullsnap is constantly whacking him in the bar of the underjaw. -- Dr. Deb

christie
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 03:47 am
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DrDeb wrote:  No one should ever ride a horse in the horsemanship class, or out on a trailride, or on an everyday basis, in a halter.
I can admit to riding in a halter(rope) on the trail. That is the only time that I do.

The reason why is that my friend and I go out to trot and canter, be wild...controllably! (she rides in the halter too, me on an Arab, her on a TWH)...and so I see no reason to have something in her mouth, as I would think my horse would be more comfortable without anything there.

I'm willing to change my ways..however my mind is pretty much stuck in the mud with what I'm doing now unless you can convince me? :-)

 

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 04:56 am
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Christie, just change the halter for a good sidepull. A sidepull is a noseband device that fits more snugly around the head, and that puts the reins where they should be, which is at the level of the mouth or above that level, rather than below the chin.

If your horse is safe on trailrides with the use of a bitless device, fine; but do please remember, that the fence that surrounds the arena or indoor riding area is 80% of the "inhibiting" effect on a horse taking off with you. In many cases, when on trailrides that would be when you need the bit in the mouth. There is nothing at all wrong with putting something in the horse's mouth, so long as the bit fits well and is adjusted correctly. Then when you're on the ride, you just have the horse on the slack most of the time, and that will be plenty of joy and freedom for both of you, without sacrificing safety.

Christie, what I am telling you here is that you have a moral and legal responsibility to maintain control of your horse when he is not in a pen. You are responsible if he bucks you off, shies you off, or bolts with you, goes in front of a car, and kills the people in the car. -- Dr. Deb

christie
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 05:20 am
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I will consider changing to my snaffle.

I have to say that one opposite belief I have from what you are saying is that I could somehow stop or control my horse easier if I got into trouble, with a bit. I happen to not believe this to be true. However I will happily listen to you tell me why I would be wrong.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 09:14 am
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Christie, you need to have whatever on your horse's head is necessary to get his attention and engender his respect. While it is true that a horse that is determined to bolt will do so, even with blood running out of his mouth, you will find that you still have a greater chance of stopping a horse with a bit than without one.

When a horse has already taken off bolting -- even after only one jump -- you have almost zero chance of stopping him if you pull square back. The neck of a horse is stronger than your entire body, Christie, and you need to think about this.

If the horse bolts, the only likely route to success is to pull on one rein, so as to force him to bend his neck. If you go out on a horse that is known to bolt, and you ride him in a snaffle bit, you will want a bit-hobble on there so that if you have to pull hard on one rein, the bit-hobble will prevent the rings from simply being pulled through his mouth. For this type of horse, a browband should also be used, as it will prevent the bridlehanger from turning.

Should the horse bolt, the best strategy is to allow the animal to proceed to some relatively wide, flat area and, through the use of one rein, to bend him in a large circle. The reason you start with a large circle is that if you bend him more sharply, he'll be likely to run through his outside shoulder. A bolt comes primarily from the animal's inability to shut the drive off that's coming from the hindquarters.

Once on the larger circle, you gradually wind him down until he's on a circle so small that it inhibits the hindlimb drive, untracks him to a greater or lesser extent, and he loses the desire to bolt.

This plan is most likely to succeed with a bit in the mouth; can still work in a sidepull; and, as you can see, is almost impossible in any type of halter.

Your questions in this area reflect to me that you have never experienced, or even witnessed, a horse running off with someone. Believe me, Christie, it's very scary, not only for the rider and witnesses, but also for the horse. This, then, is the main point: you are confused about what is kind. You think not putting a bit in is kind. But not using a bit is merely a silly and false idea that is currently fashionable. Putting a bit in is highly kind, because it engenders CLARITY. The presence of a bit does not imply roughness, or even an undue imposition.

I'll tell you a little story about this. Back when my beautiful old Painty was alive, I had a couple of friends who own a pair of dogs. They are really horrible dogs. Whenever you go over to their house and ring the doorbell, they can't open the door until they first catch the dogs and hold them down. From the other side of the door, you hear all this scrambling, scratching, and wrestling. Then, when the husband, panting from exertion, finally opens the door, the bigger of the two dogs stands there bristling and growling. As he holds the dog back by the collar, the husband profusely apologizes and elaborately explains that you just have to give that dog "time" and "maybe" he'll get to where he won't snap your hand off.

As I got to know these folks, we had several conversations in which they expressed to me that they were simply horrified that I might ride my horse in a bit -- they couldn't understand how such a nice person as they thought me, could do such a thing to any animal.

Well, the day inevitably came when I invited them out to the place where I kept Painty, so that they could meet my best friend. When they arrived at the ranch, I put Painty's saddle and bridle on, and the husband asked to look at the bit. He was surprised. "Aren't these things supposed to have spikes on them?" he said. "No," I replied, surprised in my turn.

Then I put the bit into Painty's mouth, and they were again surprised. "Why," said the wife, "there's no teeth there where the bit goes. I thought if there were a bit that the horse would take it between his teeth." "Well, no," I replied, "some horses do sometimes take the bit between their teeth, but I don't think Painty is going to do that."

Then we went out into the arena, and I rode Painty through a High School routine for them, including flying changes, pirouettes, passage, and various figures. By the time they met Painty he had become able to carry himself in a high degree of collection for many minutes at a time. For this reason, at no time during that ride did I have anything but draping reins. To their eyes, all of my aids, whether of the hand, the small of the back, or the leg, were invisible. This makes it look like the horse does the rider's will "of his own will", and I will tell you that not only does it LOOK like this is the case, it is the case.

Finally, we finished the demonstration by mounting the drum. Painty "waved goodbye" by raising one front hoof, then shifted and raised the other hoof. He used to enjoy doing this so the feet came very high. Then he stood square on the drum and I slipped off his back while he was up there. Still while he was up there, I unbridled and unsaddled him, scratched his belly, walked around him and scratched the dock of his tail, and then sent him off the drum to do some liberty work at canter. When I called him in at last, I asked him to plie-bow.

Then I invited them down to pet him. I showed the husband how to call Painty up onto the drum with no physical tack. I showed the wife how to ask Painty to bow.

And you know what, Christie? In all the years after that, I have never heard one single peep more from these people about how bits are "always bad", "cruel" or "inhumane". You see that their problems had two roots: one, surface ignorance; they had been told lies about what bits are like, how they're used, how they're fitted, and their purpose. And two, deeper ignorance; for they did not know that riding a horse, whether in or out of a bit, could be beautiful in the way that Painty was beautiful. For this kind of beauty is not mechanical; it is unearthly, and whether a bit or a sidepull or nothing at all is used, when it is possible -- when circumstances are right -- it will be expressed.

This is not the end of the story, Christie. Do you want to know how Painty and I got it that way? One time about five years prior to this, I had been with my teacher Ray Hunt at a clinic. And Painty was showing signs of running away with me (this is how I got Painty cheap: he used to run off with people quite frequently). And Ray said to me: "Debbie, you need to do something to get that horse to where he'll pay a little more attention to you. Sometimes you need some spurs in their mouth."

Now, this was not an order from Ray to me to put in a more severe bit. It was a wake-up call for me to firm up. So I did, and that was the end of the problem.

How can you "firm up"? You can do it inside -- through increased commitment to catch the horse between the idea and the act -- which amounts to perfecting your timing. Or you can do it outside -- through putting in enough bit that the horse will pay attention to it and respect it. Either one or both may be needed for a given horse-rider combination in differing circumstances, and, given Painty's history, I would never have considered taking him outside a fenced enclosure in anything other than a bit. -- Dr. Deb

Brenton Ross Matthews
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 10:23 am
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With all the comical posts about Clinician XXX  etc lately what a classical--educated reply from Dr Deb

You Know what you are talking about

 Thanks again Dr Deb

  Brenton

Helen
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 Posted: Thu Oct 30th, 2008 11:38 am
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Great post Dr Deb.

Just as a side note, I never realised that it actually is possible for a horse to take the bit between its teeth. Can a horse do that with a well-fitted bit? Does it happen often, or is it a sign of serious internal conflict or a horse that is sure its rider has no clue?


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