Introducing the halter

Horses need to be comfortable with our presence before we put a halter on. I spend quiet time with my horses. I let them come up to me to check me out before I attempt putting a halter on. I do this with any new horse as well. I’ll find a spot to sit down and just watch the horse interact. I’ll learn if he’s curious, fearful, uninterested or naughty. This is not recommended for dangerous or aggressive horses.

I’ll start to pet them after they are comfortable with my presence. I’ll start with just letting them sniff my hand, once they sniff my hand and keep their head near my hand, that’s a sign that I can attempt to give them a soft rub or scratch. Eventually I can rub their neck then their withers. Once they allow me to rub them from the withers forward, including all over their head, I will introduce the halter.

I’ll let them smell the halter. If they are accepting, (by “accepting” I also mean if they are not shying away or if they seem uninterested) I will attempt to rub their neck or withers with the halter. Approach and retreat if they are shy about the halter. I’ll try to remove the halter before they feel the need to leave me. Once I can rub them all over their neck and withers, I’ll slowly rub their nose with the halter. I spend a lot of time just letting them enjoy getting scratches and rubbed down. Approach and retreat is so important. If they have been accepting of me rubbing them down with the halter, I will pull the halter away and sometimes even walk away for a little bit. The retreat is also a release of pressure, it gives the horse time to think about what happened. Once I can rub their face, neck and withers without them showing much concern (some concern is okay as long as they don’t leave), I will put the halter on.

Here is an article about properly putting on and adjusting halters:

I choose to start with a rope halter because it has pressure points (the knots on the nose) and it releases pressure immediately when the horse gives or when I give slack to the rope. Horses can learn to push against thick nylon or leather halters, thus they get heavy in the face and can even learn naughty habits.  I believe with the rope halter, we can teach them to give and be soft without ever needing use any harsh equipment. I will switch to using a nylon or leather halter once I have established a very light and willing horse.

If the horses is too nervous or has not been handled before I will start training in the round pen before I put a halter on. Round pen training to come in future posts.

Video 1: How to put on a rope halter.

(Quick note about video one: I would prefer to use a rope halter without a metal end to the crown piece. Even though the crown piece – the top part that goes behind the horses ears – is facing back towards the horses tail, it can be long enough to still flop forward and potentially hurt the horse.)

Video 2: How to put on a nylon halter.

(Quick note about video 2: I would like to see this halter fit a little higher on the horses nose and be a little tighter fitting. Having a nylon or leather halter that is too loose will not send correct signals to the horse when you ask the horse to move.)

Please stayed tuned for the next phase in groundwork!



Kate Thomas OCHS



Introduction to Groundwork

Hey Folks,

Have you heard about ground work? What is it and why do we do it?

I believe ground work is very important for all aspects of working with horses. You are able to gain the horses trust and respect through perfecting different exercises from the ground. Maybe we should call these exercises “games” instead. Working with horses is suppose to be fun right?!.  Well, in order to gain the horses trust, you have to prove to the horse that you are worthy of his trust by being calm, fair, and providing steady leadership while also listening to what your horse is trying to tell you. There’s a fine line between when to apply “trusting” type of games and when to apply “respecting” type of games.

So where do we start in gaining a horses trust and respect? Lets start by figuring out the horses personality in a herd, by himself in a pen, and lastly with a human present (but without physical contact).

1. Within the Herd:

  • What ranking is the horse within the group?
  • Is he playful?
  • Is he interested in his surroundings?
  • Is he the first to spook at a something?
  • When he spooks, will he stop shortly after or does he just leave?
  • What does his body language say?
  • How does the herd interact with him and how does he interact with the herd?

2. By himself:

  • Does he stand around or just mosey around?
  • Does he start habits such as cribbing?
  • Does he become mischievous or more playful?

3.  With people:

  • Is he curious or timid around people?
  • Does he walk right up to any person or just one person in particular?
  • Does he crowd space?
  • Is he mouthy with people?
  • Does he ignore people and do his own thing?
  • Is the horse aggressive towards people?

Determining how the horse behaves in these different environments will help determine how we go about ground work with this horse.

With each horse we have to teach them how to give to pressure. For some horses we have to overcome the fear they may have and others we have to work through their resistance. Going slow and taking your time will gain more progress than pushing a horse too hard, especially in the beginning.

Stay tuned as we get started with the “Ground Work From the Beginning” booklet. We will cover how-to’s, trouble shoot problems, and give you new idea’s for playing with your horse.


Kate with OCHS

Joe trusting and following his leader.

Joe trusting and following his leader.