How To Halter A Horse

How To Halter A Horse or Put on a Headcollar

Knowing how to halter a horse is one of the most important tasks you will learn when being introduced to the world of horse riding.

Haltering is used to lead, train and tie your horse securely. It also helps you communicate with the animal. By haltering and leading correctly you build trust between you and your animal.

Use this guide to learn all you need to know about haltering and how to easily and correctly halter your horse. Halters are also sometimes called headcollars. We will use the terms interchangably in this article. A Rope Halter is a different piece of equipment that performs the same task. We cover them in a seperate article.

How To Properly Halter Your Horse

Properly (and safely) haltering a horse is an important step in building a relationship of trust between the rider and their animal. A correctly haltered horse will be easy to lead and communicate with.

What you’ll need:

  • Halter/Headcollar
  • Lead rope

Halters differ, but follow these general steps to properly halter your horse:

The above is a leather headcollar with a quick release throat latch. There are a few variations of headcollars, such as those without a quick release.

Step 1: Preparing the halter for fitting

It’s important to prepare the halter (and lead rope) for fitting before approaching the animal to avoid spooking the animal.

Prepare the halter as follows:

  • Holding the halter the right way up (your right hand holding the crown piece), attach the lead rope to the bottom ring of the nose band with your left hand.
  • Next, with your left hand, undo the throat latch.

Step 2: Approaching the horse

Just as when you tack up your horse, approach the animal from the front or left side – at a normal pace – to avoid spooking the animal. Allow your horse to watch you approach as this helps it relax.

Horses have blind spots (in front of their nose, under their head, and by their rear), so sudden movements in their blind spots can easily frighten them.

Allow the horse to sniff your left hand and gently stroke its neck and shoulder. Avoid making any sudden movements as this might startle it.

Blind spot in a horse's vision

Step 3: Placing the halter/headcollar

  • Make sure that both the halter and lead rope (attached to the bottom ring of the noseband) are in your left hand.
  • From the horse’s left side, guide the halter or headcollar over the horse’s ears. and its nose through the noseband at the same time
  • Staying on the horse’s left side, reach under the horse’s neck and attach the quick release throat latch.
How to put on a headcollar

Step 4: Adjusting the tightness

To ensure that the halter fits properly, you can make adjustments to ensure the horse’s comfort.

Ensure that the crownpiece sits snug enough so that it can’t slip over the horse’s ears. It should not be too tight as it can cut into your horse’s skin causing discomfort. The noseband has to fit snugly around the horse’s muzzle to avoid discomfort and allow the animal to be able to eat and drink.

  • Crown piece: If it’s too tight or too loose, adjust the tightness of the crown piece strap and halter strap, tucking in the loose ends at the buckle.
  • Noseband: Adjust for snugness by loosening or tightening the chin strap and tucking away the end into the buckle.

As a general guide:

  • The noseband should sit about 2 inches below the cheekbone and you should also be able to fit two fingers beneath the noseband.
  • There should be a two-finger width between the horse’s cheek and the noseband buckle.

Different Types Of Halters

These are the different types of halters used on horses:

Shipping halters

  • Use a shipping halter when delivering a horse to its new owner.
  • Made of burlap and is lightweight.
  • Can’t be adjusted and lacks strength and durability.
  • These are very cheap and genrally only used when the owner ships a horse and knows they won’t get their halter back.

Rope halters

  • Strong and durable and are often made of braided material.
  • Easily adjustable and inexpensive.
  • Prone to shrinking – caused by rain, dew or high humidity – which can cause the horse pain and discomfort.

Nylon halters

  • Strong, durable and easy to clean.
  • Do not shrink when subjected to wetness or high humidity.
  • Prone to stretching, which makes it necessary to often readjust.
  • Less expensive, lasts longer and requires less maintenance.

Leather halters

  • Made from real leather and comes in a variety of designs.
  • Requires more maintenance and must regularly be cleaned to check for any wear and damage.
  • Can be easily repaired when showing signs of damage.


What should I do if my horse is too agitated when I’m trying to fit a halter?

If your horse seems too nervous or agitated, rather leave the haltering for another day. Horses, though naturally curious, need time to get used to new equipment and routines.

Use the first couple of days to make the animal used to the equipment. Allow your horse to see and sniff the halter to get used to it. Limit training sessions to around 10-15 minutes per day until it is ready to have it fitted.

Why should you never wrap a lead road around your hand?

Though this may make you feel as if you have better control of the horse, wrapping or tying a lead line rope around your hand can injure you if the horse pulls against the halter or tries to bolt when it’s spooked.

Why should I not put my horse out to pasture with its halter on?

You should always ensure your horse is properly tied up when wearing a halter. The halter can slip loose and many horses have injured themselves when their legs become tangled in the halter. Loose-hanging equipment can also become stuck or tangled in a fence post or branch which can spook the animal and cause injuries.

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