How to Ride a Horse in a Halter

Riding with a halter/headcollar. This is a guide for how to ride with a headcollar and leadrope in substitution for an English bridle. Not something I'd advise doing unless your horse is already well trained to respond to commands to slow down and when riding with a bridle you do not need to rely on a bit to stop. This is something you may want to do when riding your horse in from the field, or when developing a bond with a horse. It isn't really designed as a method of riding that you would do every day- if this is what you are after doing then it would be best to look into a bitless bridle or hackamore. Horse riding in all its forms is dangerous and this is no exception- do this only on a horse you trust and always wear a helmet when mounted.

Riding headcollar-and-leadrope can be great fun, but always be safe!


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    Select a headcollar to use. Apply the same rules you would when travelling a horse- the headcollar should be well fitting and comfortable with a snug fit (but loose enough that you can just fit a flat finger under all areas) and no broken parts. You can use a rope headcollar if you wish but be aware that this is more severe than a flat nylon or leather one when pulled hard.
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    Put the headcollar on the horse, ensure that it is correctly fitting. If the noseband of the headcollar is too low or loose and sits over the cartilage of the horse's nose rather than the bone then by pulling hard on it you could damage or even break his nose, or prevent him from breathing.
  3. Image titled Ride a Horse in a Halter Step 3
    You can either attach some reins to the headcollar, which is the safer option; in which case you would buckle the reins onto the side rings of the headcollar. If you have reins that attach using a clipping mechanism this will be much quicker than a buckle or billet fastening but any will do.
  4. Image titled Ride a Horse in a Halter Step 4
    If you are riding with a leadrope as reins then clip the metal end of the leadrope to one ring, and tie a secure knot to the other one. When clipping the metal clip on, do so with the smooth edge facing the horse's head and the clip facing out. The thinner the leadrope the better as it will allow for a tighter knot. BE AWARE that when riding with a leadrope for reins, it is possible that the tied end may unravel leaving you with one rein. If you feel that you would lose control at this point, then do not attempt this in the first place. Always use the metal clip on the side that the horse is more likely to need pulling on, so if you were in a school/menage then it would probably be the rein nearest the fence as you ride round.
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    If riding a horse with a long neck, you would probably need two lead ropes tied in the middle to make functioning reins. If riding a very well trained and responsive horse, it may only be necessary to attach the leadrope the way you would when leading a horse, and ride with one rein. To do this your horse would have to be able to turn almost entirely from your seat/bodyweight.
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    Mount up and ride as normal. To repeat- you WILL need to be able to control your horse easily with a bit, to be able to do so without. Start slow and test out your breaks- although it is possible to canter, jump, gallop, barrel race, go on a hack and virtually everything else without a bridle, start off with maybe walk and trot in a school and build up from there. It may also be wise to ride with a saddle the first time you try this, although it would generally be something you'd do bareback a saddle may give you extra support should your 'breaks fail'
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    As you ride you will probably find your horse is less responsive than he is with a bit- do not yank and tug at your 'reins' for this reason, instead exaggerate the use of your legs and seat to control your horse. As I said, if you do not know how to do this and usually rely on your bit to steer and stop then you aren't ready to be riding without one.


  • Do not attempt this in a school full of other horses or a school with jumps or other obstacles left up, or a space which is not enclosed- especially near a road. You may not have complete control so be aware of this before selecting a venue!
  • As well as being dangerous to you, it can also be dangerous to the horse- do not pull or yank at the horse's head to steer just as you wouldn't in a bridle, instead use your other aids (seat, voice, legs) to control the horse. Make sure the headcollar does not sit low down on the horse's nose.
  • Your horse may be stronger or less responsive when ridden in a headcollar- only attempt this if when riding with a bridle you can easily get him to perform downwards transitions without pulling on your reins.
  • Horse riding is dangerous at the best of times and riding without a bit leaves you vulnerable to having your horse take off and having no leverage to stop them. Be aware of this before you start. Wear a helmet and make sure the horse on which you attempt this is trustworthy, predictable and well behaved.

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Categories: Horses