From Endurance to Dressage
Hello. My name is Karen, and I am a halter snob.
Most people will tell you that I am pretty down to earth. I don't think I put on airs, although who would admit it even if they did, and I am far more into function than aesthetics. I am not into name brands, and I am not into bling or flash. So what's the deal with halters?
I know, weird thing to have a "thing" about, huh? I am guessing my obsession with good halters and lead ropes stems from having ridden some really green or naughty Arabs. So here is where my snobbery makes its appearance:
I HATE nylon web halters.
What's to hate? you ask. Well, they get stiff when wet. The metal tab on the crown piece can get get hung up as you buckle and unbuckle and with no end buckle, the end piece frays. They also start to smell when they get wet. The worst problem though, is that horses can easily lean on the thick straps and happily ignore you as they drag you all over the place.
As much as I hate nylon halters, I hate the typical poly nylon lead ropes that tend to go with those halters even more.
I know I am seriously offending 99% of the horse loving world. These are the halters and lead ropes that virtually everyone uses. I just can't help it. I hate how those leads and halters feel in your hand.
Instead, I use clinician style rope halters and 10 - 12 foot leads. I don't necessarily buy my halters and leads from Parelli or Clinton Anderson, although I have. More often, I buy my stuff from Pat Fredrickson, also known as The Halter Lady.
What makes Pat's halters and leads so useful is that she uses rope designed for boating, or yacht rope. Marine grade rope can withstand a lot of moisture and never gets stiff. It also has a comfortable amount of "body" in the line that makes it easier to communicate with your horse. With yacht rope, you don't have a limp rope. Instead, the line stays "alive" which gives you a feel of steady contact.
Her halters, and others of the same quality, encourage horses to be responsive and polite on the ground. The well placed knots teach a horse to give to pressure rather than leaning into the pressure. Since a good quality rope halter won't break, it's important to use a tying system that will give under pressure; I use the Blocker Tie Ring or cross ties with a panic snap.
When I first got Sydney, more than two years ago, I tried to use a regular nylon halter. I even bought that cute black, yellow, and red Rambo halter, but he learned that he could ignore me on the ground with it. Within a very short time, less than a month actually, I had him in the rope halter. He's a pretty big boy, and when he wants to be naughty, I know that a sharp jerk on the line gets him back in line.
And then there's my Speedy pony. Speedy went in a rope halter for quite a few years. Eventually, his ground manners got nearly perfect so I switched him out to my Zilco halter which is a bit more traditional in style. It also fits perfectly under his Zilco trail headstall. The Zilco halter is a synthetic, but it looks like a flat web halter. The main difference is that the material is very thin and strappy, which gives it a bit of an edge when I need to get his attention. On occasion, I toss a rope halter on him just to keep him sharp.
Sometime recently, Speedy managed to leave some chew marks across the nose piece of his halter. Zilco is actually a nylon product that has a plastic seal around the outside. Once the coating cracks, or gets chewed up, the plastic can start to have sharp edges. So far, Speedy's halter isn't causing him any harm as the teeth marks are just indentations, but before too long there will be some "erosion" of the plastic.
The halter is nearly as old as Speedy and has been used on several horses already. It's time for a new one. While I love my rope halters, I also like the look of leather halters, but there is no way I am going to use a leather halter as my day in and day out restraint. My halters get dropped in the dirt and sprayed with the hose regularly. I hate to condition and clean my bridles; there's no way I am doing that for a halter.
So ... I've ordered the Tekna Padded Breakaway Halter from Riding Warehouse. I have a Tekna bridle that is well (enough) made so I am hoping I like the halter. I am about 50/50 on whether or not I'll keep it. After all, I am a halter snob. If it's too thick or stiff, I'll send it back and go back to a rope halter for Speedy.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read