A Guide to Horse Headcollars
Horse headcollars (also called halters) are an invaluable tool which should feature in your tack. They consist of a noseband and a headpiece that buckles around the horse's head, allowing him to be tied or led. However, it's important that they're used appropriately in order to avoid a horse becoming injured. Far too often, inexperienced riders don't pay nearly enough attention to headcollar safety, frequently placing their horses in harm's way.
Headcollar size matters
It's essential that the headcollar you use fits your horse properly. If it's too short, it will be uncomfortably tight and may cause his skin to become irritated, or it could even lead to hair loss. Too loose and it might shift around your horse's face, slip over the nose or could get caught up on foliage and fences. This is especially the case for horse headcollars made from rope; they can cause pain if too tight or be incredibly dangerous if too loose.
If you're unsure what size headcollar to purchase for your horse, it makes sense to seek advice from friends who own horses. The sizes can vary but you will usually find Pony = small, Cob = medium, Full = large and Extra Full = extra large. Generally, headcollars will have buckled straps so you can make small changes to the get the right fit.
Should horse headcollars be worn in the field?
The answer to this is definitely not. You should never leave a horse headcollar on your horse when you release him unsupervised into their field or pasture. The same goes for a paddock, riding arena and even his stall. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, leaving a headcollar on your horse can cause irritation and discomfort. Secondly, it's easier for thieves to catch your horse. Thirdly, it is unsafe. Horses can get their headcollar hooked on a fence, branch or even catch their hoof when scratching. Just about any other obstruction can snag a headcollar. If this happens, your horse may panic, which could lead to physical injury and even mental scarring. He may become less trusting of horse headcollars and other tack which constricts his face in the future.
There are some headcollars which are designed to break away when they get caught up. However, although this makes using them in fields and pastures safer, I would still avoid doing so as it's just poor practice.
Tying a horse in a headcollar
Whilst it's not uncommon to tie a horse to a post, fence or outside the stable for a short time whilst attending to other tasks. It's not a good idea to leave him unattended for too long, no matter how well trained he is. This is down to safety again. If your horse gets panicked and pulls away from their headcollar, he may injure himself.
A good tip is to attach some baling twine tied to the fence, post or metal rings. Then tie the lead rope to the baling twine. If the horse pulls away in a panic, then the twine will snap quickly and is easily replaceable.
Also, a good habit to get into is using a quick release knot when tying up your horse. As the name suggests you can then quickly and easily release the knot by pulling the remaining amount of rope.
A runaway horse is certainly annoying, but an injured horse is far worse (I'm talking from personal experience here!). So if given the choice of tying him up or allowing a panicked horse to get away, I would always prefer to worry about chasing a runaway horse! There are many reasons why your horse might fight being tied up. He could simply be stubborn, he could become anxious about something round him, or he may get bitten in a sensitive area by a horsefly. It can be very difficult to predict what could happen in the great outdoors.