How to Halter a Horse

Three Parts:Approaching Your HorseHaltering Your HorsePracticing Halter Breaking

A halter is a leather, webbing, or rope headstall. It is used with a lead rope to lead a horse from place to place. If you are new to horse care, you may be unsure of how to halter a horse. The process is fairly simple. Make sure you approach your horse with care, buckle the halter correctly, and check to make sure it fits properly.

Part 1
Approaching Your Horse

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    Prepare your halter. Before you begin the process of haltering your horse, you'll need to prepare the halter. If your horse is acting up, it can be hard to prepare the halter in the moment.
    • Unbuckle or unsnap the crown piece. This is the strap of the halter that goes behind the horse's ears. It should have a buckle or snap somewhere on it.
    • Have your halter clipped to your lead line ahead of time. You want to be able to halter your horse and immediately lead him where he needs to go. You clip the lead line onto a ring at the bottom of the noseband. The noseband is the portion of a halter that slips around a horse's nose.[1]
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    Call the horse. Call your horse as you approach him. This helps alert your horse to your presence. This way, he's less likely to get spooked by your approach. Call out his name or call out something like, "I'm coming in!" to let him know you're entering his pasture or stall.[2]
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    Approach with the halter in your left hand. Make sure you have your halter in your left hand as you approach. You will be haltering the horse from the left side. You want to make sure your horse knows what's happening. If you try to deceive the horse by hiding the halter, he'll learn to be distrustful of your intent. This can lead to a bad relationship between you and the horse.[3]
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    Walk slowly to the horse's left side. When haltering a horse, you should always approach from the left side. Halters are designed to be buckled on the left. You should approach your horse so you're standing near his head on the left side of his body.[4]
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    Allow your horse to sniff your hand. You do not want to put the halter on instantly. This can startle your horse. When you are a foot or so away from your horse's head, allow him to sniff your hand. This way, your horse will also familiarize himself with your scent. He'll be able to differentiate your smell from the smell of potential predators in other situations down the road.[5]
    • A nervous horse may benefit from having treats as a reward for staying calm.

Part 2
Haltering Your Horse

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    Position the halter in the same direction as the horse's head. A halter needs to be slipped over your horse's head in a specific manner. Once you've reached the horse, position the halter in the same direction as the horse's head. The noseband of the halter should be facing the same direction as the horse is facing.[6]
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    Loop the lead line over the horse's head. Once your halter is in the right position, loop the lead rope towards the bottom of the horse's neck. This will provide you some control if your horse gets impatient during the haltering process and tries to run away.[7]
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    Guide the halter over the nose and ears. From here, gently guide the halter over the horse's nose. Slip the horse's nose through the nose band. Then, slip your right hand under the horse's throat. Use your right hand to place the crown piece behind his ears, gently bending his ears back as needed. Adjust the halter as necessary to make sure it's straight and not cutting into the horse's ears.[8]
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    Buckle the halter. Once the halter is on, buckle up or snap up the crown piece. Hold the halter in place with your left hand. Use your right hand to buckle the end of the crown piece into the buckle on the left side of your horse's head.[9]
    • Check to make sure the halter is not too tight. It should be tight enough that the horse cannot slip out of it. However, it should also be loose enough that the straps are not digging into the horse's skin. If it's too tight or too loose, you may need to use a different sized halter next time.[10]
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    Reassure your horse as needed. Your horse may be nervous about being haltered. Reassure your horse as you go. Talk to him in a soothing voice and pet him if he seems agitated or upset.
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    Make sure the halter fits properly. You want to make sure you have the right sized halter. An ill-fitting halter can cause your horse pain. If the halter is cutting into the horse's skin or fur, you could resize the crown piece by adjusting the buckles. However, some halters may simply be too small for your horse. Go to a local tack shop and get a bigger halter if moving to the next notch on the buckle does not help.[11]
    • You can measure a horse's head to find the right size halter. Use a measuring tape and place it midway between your horse's cheekbones and nostrils. Stretch the tape to the same point on the other side of your horse's head. Write down this measurement. This is the size noseband you need. If your horse reacts poorly to a measuring tape, wrap string around his nose and then measure the string's length afterwards.[12]
    • Place the end of the measuring tape directly under a horse's cheekbone. Stretch the tape to the cheekbone on the other side of his face. This measurement indicates how big of a crown piece you'll need. Then, place the tape several inches behind the horse's eye and stretch it near the top of his throat. Then, move the tape underneath this throat to the top of his throat on the other side of his face. This measurement shows you how big the halter's throatlatch should be. As with the noseband, you can use string if your horse dislikes the feel of a measuring tape.[13]
    • If you have a horse with special needs size-wise, you may need a particular type of halter. Draft horses need halters specifically made for larger breeds. If your horse has a narrow head, you may have to do some trial and error. Try halters from a variety of manufacturer's until you find a halter that fits.[14]
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    Practice basic safety guidelines. There are some basic safety guidelines you should practice when haltering your horse. You want to make sure your horse is safe during the haltering process.
    • Never let a horse run loose with his halter still in place. Halters can catch on tree branches and fences, causing injury.
    • Leather halters can easily become damp and gather mildew. This can cause them to slip off your horse easily. Clean them regularly and store them in a clean, dry place when not in use.
    • Never tie or wrap a lead line around a horse's head. If a horse gets startled or upset, this could cause injury.

Part 3
Practicing Halter Breaking

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    Start young, if possible. It can be difficult to halter break an adult horse. Therefore, if possible, start halter breaking the horse as soon as he is born.
    • Foals should be handled by adults right away. You want horses used to a human touch as young as possible. Try placing a halter on a foal within his first few days of life.[15]
    • Place the haler on and off your foal each day as he grows up. He will begin to accept the halter as a normal part of life. Later, he will easily go along with being haltered as an adult.[16]
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    Handle your horse's head, ears, and neck. If you have an adult horse who is not halter-broken, you'll have to start slow. To begin, handle your horse's head, ears, and neck. Each day, interact with the horse. Pet his neck, ears, and head.[17]
    • Reward the horse for allowing you to touch him. Offer treats, like carrots or apples, if he remains calm when you're petting him.[18]
    • Talk gently to your horse as you go. Provide soothing words to prevent the horse from getting nervous or upset.
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    Introduce your horse to the halter. Once the horse is comfortable with your touch, introduce him to the halter. For a few days, simply hold the halter as you pet him. Allow him to sniff the halter and get used to its presence and scent. Then, try gently slipping the halter over his nose and ears.[19]
    • It may take multiple tries. If a horse gets antsy with the halter over his nose, take the halter off. You can try again the next day.[20]
    • It may be a few days before you get the halter on the horse and buckled properly. This is normal. It's important to have patience and let the horse work at a pace that does not frighten him. If your horse develops an aversion to the halter, halter breaking will be even more difficult.[21]
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    Practice leading. Once the horse is used to the halter, you'll need to practice leading. Attach a lead rope to the halter and begin your practice sessions.
    • During the first few sessions, stand to the right of the horse. Pull on the lead rope, applying pressure, to encourage the horse to move. When your horse turns his head towards you, praise him. Reinforce the good behavior with treats. Give him a slice of apple, for example, when he turns his head.[22]
    • You can teach your horse to step forwards by pulling on the halter until he moves. Stop applying pressure once your horse takes a step forward. Then, pull back on the halter. When your horse steps backwards, stop applying pressure. Consider rewarding your horse with food for good behavior.[23]
    • Work your way up. As your horse gets used to moving forward and backward, try to get him to walk with you. Do a little bit each day. For example, start with five steps. In a few days, increase this to ten steps. Keep going until your horse is comfortable walking with you when wearing the halter.[24]
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    Avoid punishing your horse. You want halter breaking to be a pleasant experience. Any negative associations with the halter can set you back greatly when it comes to halter breaking. Avoid punishing your horse during the process.
    • Do not yell at your horse, whip him, or behave in an aggressive manner. The halter is new and unfamiliar and your horse may be scared. Have patience. If your horse acts up, take a break and try again.[25]
    • Each lesson should end on a successful note. Even if all you manage to do is get the halter over the horse's nose, this is still a victory. If you sense your horse getting tense or uncomfortable, stop.[26]


  • Be careful to adjust the halter so it doesn't touch the horse's eyes.
  • Never remove a halter where the horse can escape into a road.

Sources and Citations


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Categories: Horses