Does your equipment help your horse's education?

This is what happened to me last year: I led the frisian and one of his buddies through the village to the pasture. The frisian wasn‘t too keen on it and dragging along, the other one excited to finally get access to gras. Still, he looked right and left along the way hoping for some snacks. He was walking freshly next to me on a loose rope but within seconds he turned away from me and dragged me along some steps to an apple tree and some rotten fruits on the ground. 

Not only was I surprised, I was helpless. And that was not only because I hadn‘t been attentive. It was also because of the gear. The horse going for the apples wears a nice webhalter, with the parts over his neck and nose comfortably cushioned with some fleece. Additionally, the rope - that matches the color perfectly - is around 6 feet long and out of cotton. It stretches a lot - especially if the horse pulls hard enough (which he did aiming for the apples). I actually had bought the same rope (because of the color) but I don't use it anymore because it is useless.

being with horses, equipment, rope halter, education
Halter tree. Photo: Nadja
The problem with equipment made of soft broad fabric that seems to be very horse friendly at first glance: It takes options out of your hands. Even if I‘d push with all my strength, stem all my bodyweight against the fluffy halter and even if I shake the cuddly rope till my shoulders hurt: The horse won‘t be overly impressed as there is not a lot impact on it. 

If the horse wore a rope halter, the outcome would be different: The ropes are thin and make leaning against it not a particular comfortable endeavour. The lead rope is heavier and doesn‘t stretch which allows me to deliver a very precise feel. If the horse chasing the apples would have worn a rope halter, it wouldn‘t have stopped him from pulling. But I would have been able to convince him quickly that this wasn‘t his best idea of the day. Not by pulling or yanking, just by holding against the pressure. 

This is one of the if not the big advantage of a rope halter: When the horse stops pulling against it, the pressure on his head diminishes. The halter makes the wrong thing hard - going into pressure - and the right thing easy - yielding to pressure. A normal web halter makes it easier for the horse to pull against it and it doesn‘t offer an adequate release if the horse behaves as it is per se quite heavy and clumsy. 
I‘ve learned that this is why the rope halter is a perfect tool for horsemanship - it sort of empodies its philosophy. 

Sometimes it‘s our equipment that gives us trouble training our horses: That‘s the case when it makes a behavior that we don‘t want easy for the horse. 
Of course, you can still use fluffy halters and cuddly ropes. I personally use them when the horse has learnt not to pull against pressure and is good to lead. 

Have you experienced something similar?

PS: In this video Warwick Schiller explains how a rope halter is supposed to sit and how you tie it. 


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