The Great Debate: Rope Halters vs Flat Halters
 By ImaCoolCowgirl   •   8th Apr 2012   •   15,605 views   •   21 comments
Rope Halters vs Flat HaltersI love writing articles on controversial methods in the horse world, not to start arguments, but to make people think about what they are doing and why they are doing it. To start my series I wrote an article on Slant Load vs. Straight Load trailers quite a few months ago; the second installment is a two part article on Rope Halters.

In this article I will compare and contrast rope halters with flat halters. When I say flat I refer to flat 1in to 2in thick made of either leather or nylon. To start us off take the poll strap of a flat halter an pull it across the back of your neck, then take the poll strap of a rope halter and do the same. Can you feel the difference? Keep in mind that the poll is a sensitive part of the horse and that they feel everything much differently than we do.


Flat Halter
Pressure applied to a horse’s head with a nylon or leather halter is rather dull and annoying to the horse but not really effective, but also safe and less likely to do physical damage to a horse.

Rope Halter
Pressure applied to a horse’s head with a rope halter can be severe in the wrong hands or effective in the right hands. The rope halter can localize pressure in different places on a horse’s face giving a clearer more distinct signal to the horse or a harsh painful signal causing fear and discomfort.

Looks & Style

Flat Halter
Nylon can be made in so many different colors and styles, and leather can be blinged out and spiffed up.

Rope Halter
Although rope comes in many different colors there are few ways to add bling or decoration without compromising the usefulness and effectiveness of a rope halter. Perhaps that is why people do like the look of them so much, because of their simplicity.

Ease of Use

Flat Halter
Often times flat halters are secured with a simple buckle or snap, making them easy to get on a fussy horse. However, you have to be conscious of the size of your horses head to get one that isn’t uncomfortable for your horse.

Rope Halter
With rope halters you have to learn how to tie a correct knot and learn how to do it quickly if you have a fussy horse. You can add snaps to make it easier but it then compromises both the look and the effectiveness of the halter.


Flat Halter
Tying a horse in a flat halter is comfortable for the horse. There is relatively no pressure placed on horse’s head unless the horse pulls relatively hard and puts pressure on it. Even then it’s still dull and relatively un harmful.

Rope Halter
Tying a horse in a rope halter is not ideal, because even with just a slight amount of pressure on the rope the horse feels a great deal of pressure on its head. Also any constant pressure on a horse can cause the horse to become desensitized, making the rope halter a very ineffective tool for the very reason people say it works so well. Short sessions tied in a rope halter can improve and retrain what people call “pullers”, horses that pull on their halter or tie until something snaps. Tying a “puller” long term in a rope halter simply masks the symptoms instead of fixing the problems. Never leave a horse unattended and tied in a rope halter. Should a predator or something spook the horse it could freak out past the point of any pressure on the halter calming it down, more than likely the pressure will cause the horse to freak out more until either the halter breaks or the horse does.


Flat Halter
You can leave a horse tied long term in a flat halter with little to no side effects. It is also quite easy to add padding and head protection for trailering. Also they come in quick release form in case of an accident.

Rope Halter
Any time the horse moves its head pressure is applied, and the constant vibration of the knots on the horse’s face can desensitize the horse to the pressure. They rarely, if ever, break; your horse or trailer is likely to break first.


Flat Halter
Depending on how you lunge you may need to stop and re attach your lunge line as you switch directions. Often times horses will pull, brace, or balance themselves off you as you hold the other end of the lunge.

Rope Halter
As long as you clip to the single loop under the chin you never have to stop as you switch directions. Horse will be less likely to pull, brace or balance themselves off you in a rope halter because the more they pull the more uncomfortable it is for them. I lunged my one gelding in a rope halter twice then switched back to flat and he hasn’t pulled since.

Remember, what is best for your horse is not always what is “cool” in the horse world. Don’t get caught up in the new trends or temporary fads. Do research and make your own decisions about things. Just because your trainer tells you so, doesn’t mean it is. In my next article we will get more in depth on what a rope halter is, how it works, how to use it, and my own opinion on rope halters. If you know of any other controversial horse topics that you’d like to see written about drop me a line and I’ll see what kind of research I can find and if it’s enough to put together an article.

If your interested in more info message me and I can share the sites where I got a lot of my information.

Happy Trails!
Southern Devil  
Love it girlie!!! I must say, I love a good rope halter, but I've heard that you can also hang a horse if you don't tie them right.... My horse Sully sometimes pulls back on the trailer, everyone tells me to tie him with a rope halter. And I'm like "Lemme think about that.. Yeaa- no!" Lol, they're GREAT for working with weanlings! But I ALWAYS tie my horses with a flat nylon halter. If I tie with a rope halter, then I loop it through, I NEVER tie with one. I'd rather not go with the flow than lose my best horse! Very informative article! You're gifted at writing!!!!
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,085 views
Makaela Marie  
Great article!
Personally, I tend to use flat halters, but I have used rope halters before.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  13,693 views
Great article! :D I have a rope halter that I use for grooming sometimes. It's just 10x easier to move it a little to trim the bridle path and brush the face. :)
  Apr 8, 2012  •  13,981 views
Starlight Farm  
Personally I say flat halter - they're easier to use, you don't have to worry about pulling on them so much, if you need a clearer signal you can attack a chain shank, and they're easy to lunge in (your horse shouldn't pull anyway). But I understand that some people prefer rope halters.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,106 views
Quite a good article, however it was very biased towards flat halter which kind of ruined it for me. Although very well written, and you managed to cover a variety of area in very few words. I look forward to reading the rest of the articles to come :)
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,114 views
I personally find two reasons to prefer rope halters: They don't break as easily (which can be a con in certain situations) and they are great to use when riding, whether the halter is under a bridle or actually being used and attached to a lead line when riding. We always always use a flat halter when trailering, though, and tying up the horses for long periods of time. The flat halter's pros definitely outweigh the rope halter's, but I've always preferred the rope's looks (I'm odd LOL) and I like using it when I'm working with Pogo on the ground, but not tying him up of course.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,082 views
Valkyrie   MOD 
I think leather halters are a lot safer to handle a horse with. They're stronger and, when taken care of correctly, the leather is supple enough not to hurt the horse. However you have to be careful what kind of oils you use, as some horses have sensitive skin. And if you oil on the inside of the halter the sun can heat the oil and burn the horse's skin.

In saying that, I've used all three kinds - leather, nylon and rope. The rope ones are handy when I need to just throw a halter on for grooming. But at the moment I use nylon and they're much safer to leave on a horse in the paddock if you need to. I wouldn't dare leave a rope halter on a horse in the paddock.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,085 views
Topthorn Equestri  
Very well written! I see that you are quite partial to flat halters. Which is fine! We are all different. I am no writer that's for sure, but may I suggest that when writing a debate, you may want to try and leave your own opinion out? Which I know is very hard, we all are entitled to our opinions. :)

I use rope halters for most things I do. I think some horses can feel claustrophobic, and lean against the halters more.
I don't use rope halters for trailering. I don't want to take any chances with the knot slipping over a period of time.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,394 views
Polish Arabs  
Great article! I prefer my flat halters. Haven't used a rope halted in about 7 or 8 yrs. Which was when I was taking lessons. And that's just what they had.

But I like my flat halters because of all the different colors they come in. And also if your horse starts to panic when tied you can easily unsnap the lead. Also the breakaways are amazing!

Could you message me a link to the trailer article? I'd love to read it!
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,097 views
Dark Star  
I use both, Archie has a flat halter since he's so sinsitive about his head, but Dee will happily wear both. We have tied Dee up and trailered her with rope halters, and there hasn't been one problem with hers. Then again, she's trained to the point she is usually easy to handle on the ground.
  Apr 8, 2012  •  14,095 views
Double Spur Ranch  
Great article
  Apr 9, 2012  •  14,100 views
Sapphire Flames  
great article! i prefer flat halters to rope, just because i find them quicker and more effective.
  Apr 9, 2012  •  14,082 views
Deleted Accounts  
at my stables they tend to just use normal halters but i do like the look of rope ones tbh
  Apr 9, 2012  •  14,121 views
I love my flat halters because you can customize them to fit you and your horse's personality:) They are also easy to take on and off. The only drawback is that whenever you wast your horse the halter gets soaked.
  Apr 9, 2012  •  14,164 views
Nice article!!
  Apr 9, 2012  •  14,109 views
My Paper Heart  
Great article! =)
  Apr 10, 2012  •  14,081 views
Cruisin Past Curfew  
Nice article! I personally like flat halters better.
  Apr 11, 2012  •  14,090 views
meh - i own both ) but i prefer the flat halters and i lunge in a bridle:)
  Apr 17, 2012  •  14,327 views
I like them both. I'll take a classy leather or stylish nylon print halter anyday, but rope halters really cannot be challenged in usefulness and training.
  Apr 23, 2012  •  14,113 views
RoyalCrownEstates  MOD 
Well written and a great article, good job :)
  May 5, 2012  •  14,114 views
Foxchase Farm  
I've always used flat halters myself. Good article!
  Aug 3, 2012  •  14,134 views
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