The Fit of a Show Halter Matters

The Fit of a Show Halter Matters

Whether you’re showing in conformation or showmanship, your horse’s halter must fit correctly.

generic horse at show in showmanship or halter

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By AQHA Professional Horsewoman Jerri Harmon with Larri Jo Starkey

Halter and showmanship are two classes that rely strongly on first impressions. You don’t get a second chance at a first impression. Poor halter fit is a common halter horse showing mistake, and that’s why halter showing tips often cover the fit of the horse’s leather halter. 

There’s no way a judge can be convinced you are an experienced exhibitor if your presentation and equipment aren’t right. Judges are human, so let’s put that psychology to work in your favor. If your equipment and presentation look polished, you’ll give the impression that you know what you’re doing.

You want the judges to think that, because when it comes down to splitting hairs, when the judge has two horses that are identical and one handler exudes confidence, proper spacing in the line and doing a better job appearing to be more experienced – that person is probably going to get the nod rather than someone who doesn’t show those things.

AQHA Rule SHW370 describes showmanship as a class to evaluate the exhibitor’s ability to execute patterns in concert with a well-groomed and conditioned horse. The same judges who judge halter are going to be the officials judging showmanship. They know how a halter is supposed to look on a horse. So when the judge sees a halter nose band down on the horse’s nostrils or the crown might be unevenly buckled, those kinds of mistakes might lower the overall form and presentation score in showmanship. 

Leather loosens with age and with the body temperature of the horse. Horses’ heads can grow, but exhibitors might still be picking the halter up off the hook in the tack stall and buckling it through the same hole from the time they buy it until it falls apart. 

Good leather show halters are expensive, and it’s certainly understandable that a buyer would want to get the most use from a halter by putting it on as many horses as possible. But you can’t just put a halter on any horse the same way. Every horse is different, and the same halter needs to be fitted differently on different horses.

See for Yourself: Fitting a Show Halter

You can play a trial-and-error game at home with your horse: 

  1. Loosen your horse’s halter to the last notch. Every adjustment should be wide open. 
  2. Put the halter on your horse. 
  3. Take a photo, then tighten the halter properly. 
  4. Take another picture, then show both photos to someone who doesn’t know your horse well. 
  5. What do you think? What does your friend think? 

Sometimes, the horse will look like a completely different horse. I have seen horses overlooked because the prospective buyers didn’t think the horse had an attractive enough head to be competitive. More than once, after the horse has been clipped, groomed and has a halter that fits correctly, the buyers didn’t recognize the horse. They can’t believe they passed up that horse at auction. 

But you can use those photos to find the most attractive look for your horse’s head. If your horse has a little extra length from the eye to the muzzle, it can create a long-headed appearance. The wider nosebands on show halters create the illusion of a shorter head.