Halter Training

Halter training is the most important step in training a horse and should be done by professionals with quality skills.

"In the past, there were persons given charge of working with horses upon their being brought in from the pasture, when they were still completely with out training. these men were called Cavalcadours de Bardelle; they were chosen from among those with the greatest amount of patience, industry, spirit, and diligence, the perfection of these qualities being not so necessary in the work with horses that have all ready been ridden. They accustom young horses to being approached in the stable, to having their feet lifted up, to being touched with the hand, fitted with the bridle, the saddle, the girth, etc. They reassured them and made them easy to mount. They never used either sternness or force before they had tried the most gentle means at their disposal; and by this great patience they rendered a young horse familiar with and well-disposed to human beings, imparted to it courage and vigor, rendered it well behaved and obedient to the first lessons. If the conduct of these past lovers of horses were imitated today, there would be fewer horses crippled, ruined, intractable, stiff and vicious." Gueriniere 1733

Halter training creates the first impression and dictates to the colt what the horse human relationship will be. The guiding principle of these resources is to nurture the horse’s natural attributes from halter training through the upper levels.

Lets be perfectly clear and honest natural attributes come from natural horses, not trained horses and unless the study of the natural horse is the core of you horsemanship, you have no way to understand natural actions, balances, and gaits from artificial ones. All one has to do is start comparing natural gaits and balances to ones being trained today, to understand the modern horse industry is completely lost.

The natural mental attributes are even more lost today.  We have destroyed the horse natural maturation process, trained horses from birth, and declared what ever we end up with as a natural horse.  There are also a number of people who claim there is no such thing as a natural horse and sadly, they are almost correct. The reason there is no such thing as a natural horse, is that the study of the natural horse is not the core of horsemanship.

“When developing the training, the trainer must endeavor to use the horse’s instinct to the best advantage and, at least in the beginning, to act always in conformity with the horses natural impulses.” Decarpentry

This is a quote from General Decarpentry chapter “work at the trot” This halter training process moves that training function of working with the horses natural impulses into the halter training process. In a professional horsemanship this requires the actual study of the natural horse, then building a halter training process around that actual study of the natural horse.

The modern horse industry and to a lesser extend the past military horsemanship’s created a technical halter training process then rebuild the natural attributes back into the process with the outdoor riding.  When modern horsemanship eliminated most of the outdoor riding from horsemanship, they eliminated the last process they had to preserve the natural attributes of the horse.

The halter training process is really a three-year process, from age one, to age four, as the horse is mentally and physically developing as a horse. Again, the modern horse industry has replaced that natural development phase with an artificial develop maturation process based on training instead of the horses natural development.

The goals in halter training are simple.

First make the horse confident in his relationship with a human. Modern horsemanship has taken advantage of the newborns bonding process, where a newborn bonds with its mother, then with other horses in the herd.  Logically if a newborn bonds with both a human and a horse, then the horse will always suffer from mental confusion about what he truly is in life.  This is why you let the horse bond as a horse, and build your training process around the horse’s natural attributes, instead of replacing the horse’s natural development.
The confidence you are building does not change the horse’s natural attributes, but allows the horses to use his natural attributes to help you.

Second you are allowing the horse to become confident in the tools you use, in time he becomes confident in any tool you chose to use. Modern horsemanship uses tools to train a horse to submit, not build confidence.  Round pens, lunging, whips, flags are all most commonly used to train a horse to submit, not build his confidence.

Third, you are building the foundation for the calm forward and straight stage of training.  The most important trait is forward, followed by calmness, then straightness. The aids you need for calm forward and straight are a straight forward, a straight stop, and a simple left and right.  These signals are all easily built into to the lead rope from the ground and if they are solid, they will also be solid in the saddle.

The root of the halter training skills comes from the observations of the natural horse.  There is no way to separate those understandings, which come from the direct observation and interaction with natural horses in the halter training process. When you are trying to preserve the natural attributes of a horse, than the only way to build quality halter training skills is combine the management of a natural horse preserve with the study of the horse, and the refinement of the halter training skills and process.

The horse industry is set up to train exceptional horses; Classical Equation was a process to train all horses, with the exceptional horses moving to the upper levels.  When you halter train 50 horses a year out of a natural horse preserve, you find there are a couple of horses that have the ability to go to the upper levels and a couple of horses you are not sure you can even train. It is these tougher horses that improve the process, but they require a horseman to break down the process and rebuild the process from the ground up to work with the tougher horses.

Most of the horse issues in modern horsemanship are from a complete breakdown in the professional process.  Halter training has replaced the horse’s natural development and that “training” process has become a sport or a game, with the horse as the lab animal. This process in now producing generations of horses completely disconnected with their natural development as a horse and this created other training issues.

Milo was the horse we used to illustrate the halter training process.  Milo turned out to be a far more difficult horse than I first judged. As far as building the process, Milo is a good choice. If you are going to judge a process on one horse, then poorer processes with easier horses will always look better, than a good process with a tough horse. There is no way to build the understanding of the variance in natural horses unless you work the entire spectrum.

The roots of horsemanship are so broken at the halter training level, the entire view of horsemanship will have to change from the training of the horse to the study of the natural horse, in order to rebuild quality horsemanship skills in our culture.