In our Cool Ideas page one "great gift idea" was a 20' length of rope and a set of instructions detailing how to make a halter.
There is a group of horse people out there for whom such a gift might not be such a bad idea. Such folks either
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).
There are those, most horse owners and lovers, who primarily rely on nylon or leather halters and use rope halters for specific tasks.
And there are also those who feel that rope halters are generally a bad idea and see little use for them.
A - We've used rope halters when ground training a foal. 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 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 try 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.
In either case, especially the latter, I should 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.
Safe Use -
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 summary, 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 not quite comfortable with the idea of tieing your own halter and instead contemplate purchase of one there are many good brands available. We've used Double Diamond, available at many sadddle and tack shops. You can get some good information on rope halters and where to purchase their products at their very informative website.