If the Halter Fits

Dave Page offers his advice on proper show halter fit.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In any given halter class, each entry represents months of preparation directed at creating the perfect picture. Before a horse enters the arena, his handlers develop individual feeding programs, exercise regimens and grooming routines, knowing it’s the details that separate the champions from the contenders.

Unfortunately, something as easily changed as the halter fit can ruin that picture, especially if a halter fits poorly, hangs loose and gives an overall sloppy appearance.

“There are different styles of halters, and everyone has their preferences,” says halter horse trainer Dave Page, “but the most important thing is that the halter fits right.”

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How Should a Halter Fit?

A show halter should fit snugly, with the halter conforming to the shape of the horse’s head, particularly behind the jaw and under the throatlatch. The noseband should be positioned halfway between the eyes and nostrils. A halter shouldn’t be loose enough to slide and shift from one side to the other.

“It should look like the halter is made to fit the horse,” Dave says. “Ninety percent of the time, the halters are too big, and they fit sloppy over the nose and hang down the throat.”

To accommodate a variety of horses, Dave keeps six to eight adjustable leather and silver show halters – in weanling, yearling, mare and stallion sizes – with interchangeable top straps.

Wide or Thin?

When it comes to selecting the right headgear for your horse, even the width of the halter’s leather straps comes into play.

“For a horse that’s really pretty-headed, you can use a narrow halter,” Dave says. “When a horse isn’t as pretty in the head, or is heavy on the jaw or wide between the eyes and muzzle, you want to use a wider halter.”

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What About Chains?

While a halter chain may not always be necessary, especially on the calmer, easier-to-control horses, it’s common to see an exhibitor using a chain for added control in the ring. If you choose to use one, other aesthetic issues arise.

“A lot of times, an exhibitor will put a lead shank over a horse’s nose, but I don’t recommend that,” Dave says. “It makes the halter pop up on top, over the nose. In addition to raising the halter and creating a bump, it makes the horse put his head up higher than you want.” Instead, Dave shows his horses using a chain under the chin.

When a chain is used, there should be adequate slack in the chain, between the lead and the halter. Dave uses leads with a long length of chain, so the chain can be run under the chin and up to the right side of the halter. “If you do that with a shorter chain, it pulls the whole length of the chain into the halter, leaving no slack,” he says. “It looks a lot better with a little more chain left over.”