Learn to Make a Rope Halter

A girl and her horse
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Rope halters are a popular training aid. Some people feel that a rope halter provides clearer communication with the horse compared to a leather or web halter. Rope halters can be custom made in the size, color, or material you choose. Rope halters can be made of many different materials. Traditional rope halters can be made of twisted horse mane and tail hair. Some materials are more durable than others. Cotton rope can shrink and/or may stretch and break down over time. Some nylon rope can fray and get picky. Choose your material carefully, so that it is comfortable for you and your horse

Tips for Safely Using Rope Halters

  • Don't leave any halter, especially a rope halter, on your horse while in the pasture unless it is made to break away if the horse becomes tangled.
  • Don't tie your horse with a rope halter. The narrowness of the rope can cause severe rope burn if the horse pulls back.
  • Don't use a rope halter on foals. Their skin is tender, and the rope halter might be too severe if the foal pulls back.
  • Make sure your knots are properly tied, and the rope halter adjusted properly each time you use it. It shouldn’t tighten or loosen with use.
  • If you choose to use a lead line that loops through the rope halter rather than one with a snap, make sure that the loop is small enough that the horse cannot put a foot through. There have been incidents where a horse was being grazed with a rope halter and lead line, and the horse stepped into the loop of the lead line.
  • Don't yank harshly on the horse with any halter on. Anything that makes your horse throw its head up and back is counterproductive to good training. Encourage head down rather than head up and back to encourage your horse to relax and be obedient. 
  • Check your rope halter for fit after your horse has worn in a few times. Both knots and rope can relax, leaving your halter a bit bigger than expected.

Where to Find Instructions to Make Rope Halters

Rope halters are not difficult to make. They are a great gift and can be customized to coordinate with other tacks.

Natural Horse Supply has a good tutorial on making rope halters. You'll find size charts, measurements and good diagrams of the knots. The downloadable and printable PDF that is available should make it easier to take these instructions to your work area.

Front Range Frenzy provides another useful tutorial in this way. You'll find a few more caveats about rope halters here, good illustrations and the estimated time for making your first halter.

Pony Club Victoria has instructions and nice illustrations of the knots required to make a rope halter.

Cowboy Halter Tying Instructions by David J. Dill suggests going to your local department store for an inexpensive source of rope. David mentions you can use any material that is braided or plaited. Could this be a good way of using up old baler twine?

Fiador Knots

Probably, the most confusing part of making the halter is tying the fiador knot that goes under the chin. Animatedknots.com has a page of instructions for tying fiador knots.

Horse Knotting has a series of diagrams that demonstrate how to tie a fiador knot. If you're still stumped after reading and looking through the pictures, and none of your horse owning friends can help, a reader on a sailing site suggests going to a marina and getting a hands-on demonstration.