Halters are so basic that few of us give them a lot of thought ? until you grab a bad one, that is. it's frustrating to put a halter on your horse that simply doesn't fit the shape of his head. We don't like them hanging too low on the horse's face (two to three fingers below the cheekbone for the noseband is correct) or, worse, dangling loose below his chin (again, two or three fingers width). For that reason, we always prefer a halter with an adjustable chin.
We want a halter that's strong enough to hold the horse if he acts up but is ?weak? enough to break if he gets hung up and pulls on it. This is why we won?t turn a horse out in an all-nylon halter. Although the hardware likely will snap under enough pressure, it's unlikely to release as quickly as leather.
Safe turnout halters include: all-leather, nylon with a leather crown and those with a breakaway fuse, like the ones in this field trial. Leather gets stiff when it gets wet if you don't condition it, so nylon halters with leather crowns require care after every rain or bath. We've rarely had dryness problems with leather fuses, possibly because they?re under the crownpiece strap and we remove them for cleaning the halters.
The Field-Safe Halter comes with two hook-and-loop fuses. They work fine ? although we?d be nervous using them with a very difficult horse ? and it's a great turnout option. Our only concern is where to easily find replacement fuses.
With the leather-fuse halters, you can find fuses at most tack retailers or, if you're at all handy, you can make one with a piece of leather, a hole punch and a Chicago screw. You should periodically check to be sure the screw remains secure in the fuse and tighten it if it's loose.
Many people like the option of a throatlatch snap on a halter, as it allows them to put the halter on and off the same way you do a bridle. That's fine, but if our halter has a snap, we tape it shut with duct tape. We've found more than one halter caught on a wire fence ? broken, thankfully ? where the horse had to fight to get out of it.
Folks will tell you that the snap should just be turned in for turnout, which is supposed to decrease the chance of it getting caught on something. Unfortunately for us, we had a halter with the snap inward ? and it still got caught on the fence. Others think the snap should face outward, as they?re concerned it might be uncomfortable for the horse otherwise. it's such a debate that some halter snaps, like on the Centaur and SmartPak halters, swivel so you can decide which way to turn it and when.
We like padding on turnout halters for obvious reasons, like decreasing rubs. All the halters in this trial have padding, except the Ronmar.
Most of the halters padded the inside of the crown, nose and sometimes the cheek pieces with something cushy, like soft nylon, which is on the Dura-Tech, or felt, which is on the Centaur and LamiCell halters. The Field Safe Halter?s padding feels almost velvety. The High Fashion halter conceals its padding between the two layers of nylon.
Since our horses spend so much time in their halters, it's nice to have an attractive one. Each of the halters in this trial were attractive ? although to varying degrees.
The LamiCell Reflective Halter received high praise from everyone who saw it. it's functional, well-designed and easy to toss on a horse.
Both the Centaur halter and the SmartPak Kensington halter arrived with a coordinating lead rope, which was a fun extra. The SmartPak halter has Textilene, a tough PVC fabric, on the nose and cheek piece. The Centaur is a softer-feeling nylon halter, and we love the plaid felt padding inside it.
However, if you're talking strictly style, you would hard-pressed to beat the halters from Red Haute Horse. There are so many designs and prints that we got tired clicking through the choices. The nylon is soft with inner padding (as opposed to padding right next to the horse). We did find the halter initially challenging to put on the horse quickly. It doesn't hold its shape well off of the horse. However, once we were used to it, it was fine.
Nylon isn?t hard to clean. We don't put it in a washing machine because we don't want to risk damaging the machine from the hardware banging on it ? and it may not remove all the grimy stuff anyway. We soak the halter in Dawn dishwashing liquid then gently use a soft toothbrush with more Dawn to remove heavy grime. Rinse and dry. (Dawn?s grease-lifting ability makes it a barn must-have product.)
The unanimous top choice for a breakaway halter is the LamiCell Reflective halter. It has ?professional? written all over it. Best Buy was a tough call, but our testers really liked the Centaur Breakaway with lead.