Posted on Leave a comment

The Pros and Cons of Breakaway Halters

I usually like to recount happy events and leave disappointments – after learning from them – in the past. In this case, I’d like to share an upsetting experience with you… One that taught me how important it is to safely tie your horse in a halter with a break-away mechanism.

A few years back, I took on a rehab horse with the ill-fated barn name “Jimmy Dean” (like the sausage…). All luck had run out for this well-bred 4-year-old, who had lost all faith in the human race and had the ‘panic’ button as his go-to response. [His name is ‘Yogi’ now and he has found a new career as a therapy horse!]

Tying the horse was one of the challenges that I overcame with lots of patience and bailing twine as an ‘easy break’ link. After a few months of success in various rehab areas, I became overly optimistic and tied good “Jimmy Dean” to a hitching post while waiting for the farrier – without the bailing twine link!

Long story short: Jimmy Dean panicked, reared, got his legs over the hitching post, his hind legs slipped under his body, he slammed on his hind end and injured himself. A water melon sized hematoma was the dangerous and costly result.

Had I only... put on the bailing twine break-away on good Jimmy Dean. This would have saved a lot of grief, injury, and money.

How Halters Can Be Dangerous

For convenience, many horse owners like to leave a halter on their horse during turnout.

A potentially dangerous practice! Horses can get their feet caught in the halter or get hung-up on fence or other elements in their environment. This often has a sad and deadly ending.

Hauling your horse to a show or picking up a new horse?

During transport, we are not in the same space as our horse and cannot monitor, correct, or help our horse in dangerous situations. Injuries sustained by pulling back on the halter repeatedly are often micro-injuries in the cervical vertebrae or subluxations. Another very avoidable scenario.

Turning your back for a moment while the horse is in cross ties?

A split second of panic is all it takes to get some horses to rear, slip, and flip – the most common cause of compression fractures of the spinous processes that make up the horse’s withers. Not to mention the lasting emotional effect on the horse: being afraid of panicking when tied in cross ties.

How To Keep Your Horse Safe

  1. Never tie a horse without a break-away mechanism. Never.
  2. Never keep your horse’s halter on during turnout – even safety halters with break-away mechanism can fail to break in certain situations.
  3. Attach break-away links to your cross-ties. (There are too many unbreakable cross ties – many with chains – out there!!!) If you are in a crunch, use a bailing twine! Use leather thongs for a more attractive look.
  4. During transport or at shows, ALWAYS use a Safety Halter or attach a break-away at the halter ring and add padding if needed. This way you are ready for any kind of situation. We recommend the EQ Stretch Halter with removable padding.

What speaks against ‘break away’ halters?

There are halters for sale that have a leather break-away strap on the crown piece, which is expected to break under pressure. A good thought, however, not very effective in many situations, since it takes considerable force to break a leather strap! By the time the strap breaks (if at all…), the damage may already be done.

If there is enough force to break the halter, your horse now runs free without halter and will be harder to catch. A potentially dangerous situation.

In this scenario, you also end up with a broken halter, meaning you need to have a second one at hand, have the broken one fixed or replace it entirely. Not very economical!

What is the safest way to tie your horse?

At the barn: Attach a break-away to the cross ties, the tie ring or the halter itself. A leather thong can be quite attractive and does the trick. Do not let your horse wear a halter during turnout.

On the road or at the show: Carry leather thongs with you or improvise with bailing twine to tie the horse while grooming (do NOT double up or it is too strong). Use a lead rope with a panic hook so you can free your horse quickly if needed. Use padding on your halter to soften the impact in case the horse pulls back. Use an elastic halter with give during transport.

Summary

  • Halters need to be secure and well-fitting to safely lead, longe or transport your horse.
  • When the horse is tied for grooming, the vet, or the farrier, for example, attach a breakaway to the cross ties, the tie ring or the halter.
  • We do not recommend break-away halters since it takes too much force to break the halter. In many situations this is too late and the horse is already injured by the time the halter breaks or runs free without wearing a halater. (Plus you end up with a broken halter, not a very economical outcome.)

For most situations, we love our machine-washable, ultra-durable padded, adjustable halters from the HorseHaus Signature collection. They are not break-away halters as they are made to safely lead and secure your horse and are ideal for longing and schooling in hand. If needed, add extra padding during transport or use the EQ Elastic halter with additional padding.

If you have questions or comment, we would love to hear from you.

Enjoy your horse!

Stefanie Reinhold

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *