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Nose To The Ground, Issue #004 -- Xenophon Had it Right.
January 01, 2005

Greetings from Nose to The Ground; the beagle-inspired newsletter bringing you the latest from

Happy New Year! We hope you've have had a most wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas. A mild winter so far at the Goose Bay Ranch but enough snow for a White Christmas and now a bunch more to welcome in the New Year. The wintry scene below shows Boo, the inspiration of Nose to the Ground, with two of her equine friends.

We know that in parts of the country the weather was pretty bad and getting anywhere was quite an adventure. If that's where you were or are we trust you've made it through the bad weather safe and sound.

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays this January newsletter is getting out just in time for our end-of-the-month deadline. The newsletter will be a bit briefer than usual but we'll get back in gear by the end of January.

For the next few months we're going to be focusing on tack and saddles which will be reflected in the next few articles. Haven't forgotten books, art and the like, just concentrating on other aspects of horse gift ideas for a bit.

We've added some pages designed to help you if you're of a mind to purchase a new saddle. - It's at an awkward stage at the moment with some key pages not yet completed but that'll be taken care of shortly. To see what we've been up to you can go to our main Saddles page.

Horse Books One of my favorite horse books is Pat Parelli's Natural Horse.Man.Ship. After borrowing the book several times from friends and the library I got my own copy as a Christmas present.

As I've noted on the web site, just about every sentence in the book contains something of value. That's something few authors can achieve. If during the New Year you're considering the gift of a book for a horse lover, especially a "beginner", Natural Horse.Man.Ship would be an excellent choice. You can view our write-up for this and some other fine books on our Horse 101 books page.

Horse Jewelry One of our suppliers of jewelry has sold out leaving us with a gap to fill. In particular our source for the popular Celtic Horse Jewelry is no longer there and one of our tasks at the moment is to find a suitable replacement.

This month's article features the rope halter. In true Nose-to-the-Ground fashion, the idea just sort of came out of the blue. In thinking about an off-the-wall gift idea, the thought of a piece of rope with instructions on making a rope halter came to mind. Then I got to thinking about how very valuable the rope halter is as a training tool - we've used them often - so, why not share the idea for a rather strange but useful gift here and in our Cool Ideas section.

This Month's Article.

Rope Halters
Great Training Tool - but a Great Gift?

Does a rope halter make a great gift? It might for someone who uses them exclusively, but for the horse lover who prefers nylon or leather halters for their horses the gift of a rope halter might rank right up there with the gift of a bad necktie.

Our "great gift idea" was actually a 20' length of rope and a set of instructions detailing how to make a halter from that piece of rope. There is a group of horse people out there, admittedly a minority, for whom such a gift might not be such a bad idea. Such people either (a) love a challenge, (b) like to use things they've built themselves, (c) are adept with tying knots and handling rope, (d) have time on their hands, or (e) all of the above.

We've done a bit of research on the subject of rope halters coupled with our own experience. There are those who swear by the rope halter and would think of using nothing else (not surprisingly this group includes that "minority" who likes to make their own).

Then here are those, most horse owners and horse lovers, who primarily rely on nylon or leather halters and use rope halters for specific tasks. And finally,there are also those who feel that rope halters are generally a bad idea and see little use for them.

We fall into the middle group, using the rope halter for specific tasks. Now the significant feature of the rope halter is that it exerts greater pressure when the horse resists being led, thereby providing greater control. It's a device that belongs in your arsenal of training tools.

A - We've used rope halters when ground training a foal as there is far less tendency of the little guy to lean on the halter and fight the lead rope than if a nylon halter is used. When you stop and think about it, with a nylon halter the bands tend to spread pressure over a wider area instead of focusing it on a smaller area as a thin section of rope or a knot will do. In a nylon halter it is easier for the foal to fight the lead rope.

B - We've used rope halters when a grown horse develops an outbreak of bad manners while being led. Our oldest Fjord gelding, Nessi, though a rather smallish horse is, like others of his breed, incredibly strong. Under saddle or while driving, Nessi's manners are impeccable but for some strange reason he occassionaly suffers a bout of Norwegian stubborness while being led. If a you are leading a Norwegian Fjord in a northernly direction and he (or she) suddenly decides to head to the east, you will either drop the rope or head in that direction as well. While this does not happen very often, the remedy is the use of a rope halter for a few days and the problem goes away.

What is happening of course is, as the thinness of the rope halter together with the knots increases the pressure at points on the horse's head and the horse takes the easier path which is not to fight the halter, making life for the both of you easier.

In either case, especially the latter, I would emphasize that the rope halter is not used as a device for punishment, but as a tool to establish better control when needed. Like bits and spurs, when used correctly the rope halter produces needed pressure at a specific point and nothing more. It sends the needed message without harm or undue discomfort to the horse.

At our place we don't leave nylon halters on our horses when we are not working with them. Insofar as rope halters are concerned we don't leave them on an unattended horse or a loose horse at all - even if the horse is in its stall.

In short, the rope halter is a useful tool when training a horse or dealing with behavioral problems. When tied properly (normally not a problem if store-bought, potentially a problem if I tied it) the rope halter is durable and reliable, lightweight and pliable and easily kept clean, especially if made from synthetic material.

If you're contemplating purchase of a rope halter there are many good brands of halters out there. We've used the Double Diamond brand, available at many saddle and tack shops. You can get a good idea of what's available and where to purchase at their very informative website -

Other informative websites you can visit for information on purchasing, tying, fitting, or using the rope halter include:

  • - The KBR Horse Net site has a good introduction to the use of the rope halter, especially in a training environment. You'll find some other useful training information at this site as well.

  • - Connie Nygard's diagram for the Rope Halter with Fiador Knot is a how-to-make a rope halter page offerred for free (not to be resold). This page gives a good illustration of how to tie the halter.

  • Another site showing how to tie your own comes from Australia, the Pony Club of Victoria.

  • has for sale a 134 page book on how to tie a rope halter. We haven't seen the book but would think that within 134 pages there must be some useful information. A table of contents is given along with a sample chapter if you like to look before you buy.

  • At this site you can download a printer-friendly set of illustrated instructions on how to tie a halter.

So if your wandering how to get the New Year off to a good start, get yourself a 20-foot piece of rope and .......

All of us at the Goose Bay Ranch wish you all the best for 2005.

Bill Savage

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