Horse Tack Review

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How to Tie a Basic Rope Horse Training Halter - Book Review

Horse Tack Review Staff

Initial Thoughts on Receiving Product: How to Tie a Basic Rope Horse Training Halter by Kari Newman. Step-by-Step Natural Horsemanship series. Paperback. 38 pages. Colour diagrams and pictures. Suggested retail price is approximately $20.00US. I’d guess it would probably be easier to be shown how to tie a rope halter, but I’ll find out soon enough.

Review based on 1 month of testing: The book has a simple but attractive layout, including several colour pictures and diagrams. The photos are relatively clear (in focus) but could be better. Little things like removing the distracting backgrounds (it looks like the halter was spread out on a rumpled bed sheet) and standardizing the colour levels (some of the pictures in a sequence are coloured differently than others) would go a long way.

It would also be of benefit to have a book that stays open to the page you turn it to – especially when you’re trying to follow step-by-step directions. Even when you turn the book over on itself and crease the spine in an effort to keep it open, it flips closed again. So this is why someone came up with paperweights!

My first attempt at making a rope halter was dismal, even though the books author cautions its readers that a first attempt can take a few hours. Like all things, the more you do it, the better you’re supposed to get. Experienced rope halter makers can apparently turn one out in less than 45 minutes.

The book is divided into useful sections including the anatomy of a horse’s face, parts of a halter, how to fit a rope halter, knots and how to make the halter. It gives rough measurements for halters sized from yearlings to draft horses.

As recommended, I chose 3/8” double braided nylon rope for the task. It was readily available at our local hardware store. I bought slightly more rope than I needed, but 30’ of rope cost approximately $20.00 Cdn. Project cost so far: $40.00, give or take a few pennies. The rest of the supplies needed can probably be found around the home (scissors, matches or a lighter and a measuring tape).

My biggest issue with this book are the inconsistencies. Confused by the blood knot description in this book, I went to an internet search engine and typed in “blood knot”. I found umpteen descriptions and pictures for knots that looked nothing like the one in the book. I also typed in “double overhand knot”, which is apparently the same as a blood knot (according to halter makers) but the double overhand knot looked nothing like the blood knot.

I had my riding coach browse through the book and her first comment related to the poor quality of the photos. She also noticed a mistake that isn’t a huge deal, but might affect the outcome of the halter. In the Knots section where the author describes an overhand knot, the picture shows an underhand knot without mentioning the change. It’s basically the same knot, just flipped over, but this isn’t helping make things easier.

I got to page 23, which is approximately halfway into the halter making process. I liked that there are small graphs throughout the book detailing exactly where each knot should be made. It gives specific measurements for each horse size (pony, cob, horse, warmblood and draft). I decided to make this halter for a Belgian / Quarter Horse cross who has a solid build and big head. Using their guide, I found the warmblood directions to be most appropriate for her.

I got until approximately step five in the actual halter making process before giving up in utter confusion. Perplexed, I asked my husband to give it a whirl. Years and years ago, he was a boy scout – surely all of those intricate knots would come in handy. No such luck. My husband easily got as frustrated as I.

Our problem was that, following the steps up until number five, the makings of our halter looked like that in the picture. The next picture shows the halter, but not in its entirety (the sides of the halter mock-up are cut off, leaving you wondering exactly what part remains in the picture). Another confusing aspect is that the knot letters change – each knot is given a letter (ie: A, B, and so forth) and as you add one knot to another, it becomes a new letter.

I would like to say that I completed the rope halter book and had a hand-made halter, custom sized to the horse I was making it for, but I can’t. Instead I have a book that won’t stay open, 30’ of double braided nylon rope and no patience left.

I’m sure the author had great intentions in making a DIY book for the average horse owner, but there are far too many negative factors to make this worthwhile for anyone but the extremely determined. The cost of the rope itself is more than the price of an average rope halter. Add in the cost of this book and you can buy several pre-made rope halters! Sure, it would be neat to say you made your own halter, but I guess my initial impression was right – some things are better shown than told.