I come at the rope halter very much the way that Karen does.
Stardust has one (also with knots on the side, not on the top of the nose) with doubled up rope.
I tie it really loosely around his head, and don't ever pull on it -- it is simply a gentle reminder that we're connected and or we're going to do something focused. He likes this much better than a flat nylon halter.
I don't yank on it, and often at this point don't even have the lead rope in my hands. I haven't tied he or Circe off to anything in several months (they both don't like it, and I can't blame them!). When I bathe him or clean his hooves, I toss the lead rope over his neck. Sometimes I'll toss the lead over my shoulder when we walk, and increasingly I'll toss it over his. But in any event, it's always slack.
Circe currently has a flat nylon halter and it irritates her -- I think it feels too tight and itches.
I actually am planning to get a rope halter for her as well eventually, but I want to make sure that we're at a point where she isn't likely to get pingy and take off with the halter on -- she's still figuring this out -- because I don't want it to hurt if she does.
My feeling about this is that I'd rather she learn that I'm the one she can trust and stay with when she's spooked at something, rather than add pain/punishment (even if self-inflicted) if she follows her natural instinct to get the heck out of Dodge if something scares her.
We're making great strides with this -- even the other night, when she was really freaked by the horde of draft horses galloping towards us and away from us, she stayed with me, moving in circles. The only time she ran out to the end of the lead was when she got bitten on her cute little derriere by one of these bad boys!
But I was glad I didn't have a halter on her that could have added a sharp pain to the equation -- she was trying so hard to listen to me, even in her hyped up state, and I think that would have shut down our connection completely.
So, as she gets more confident in my ability to protect her if she's scared, and as we get better about our "heads up" cue when she's eating and sticking her hooves in her ears and pretending I don't exist when I ask her to come along (which is the only other time I apply pressure (unhappily!) to the halter/lead rope), we'll switch to a rope one for her as well.
(Oh -- one other thought, as a cautionary tale -- I was at a ranch where horse was kept in pasture in a regular flat nylon halter who broke his neck after getting it caught on a fence post and falling while trying to get untangled -- you can get a breakaway nylon halter, but I personally prefer to keep my guys nekkid
unless we're specifically working in a way that something on their heads is appropriate. My ultimate goal is to be head gear free, but we've all got a ways to go before we get there!)
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