Tack Talk: Ideal show- hal­ter fit.

Ad­just your show hal­ter prop­erly for an eye-ap­peal­ing look and pre­cise func­tion in the com­pet­i­tive arena.

Horse & Rider - - Table Of Contents - By Al Dun­ning, With Jen­nifer Paul­son Pho­tos by Charles Brooks

Aprop­erly fit­ted show hal­ter ups the ante in your horse’s ap­pear­ance and your con­trol in both hal­ter and show­man­ship classes. The horse shown here is a plain-headed cut­ting horse, but his hal­ter fits per­fectly, which en­hances his fea­tures. The hal­ter’s ad­just­ment also al­lows a han­dler to ef­fec­tively per­form a judge’s re­quests.

Ev­ery horse has a dif­fer­ent size and shape to his head, so start with a hal­ter in the cor­rect size. Most show hal­ters come in sizes for wean­lings, 2-yearolds, mares, and full-size. Mul­ti­ple ad­just­ment points, in­clud­ing a buckle on each side and one un­der the jaw, help achieve a cus­tomized fit.

Here are four key fit points to check when ad­just­ing your horse’s show hal­ter for the most pro­fes­sional pre­sen­ta­tion when you com­pete.

Cheek length. The cheek pieces in­flu­ence the fit of ev­ery other as­pect of the hal­ter, so proper ad­just­ment is crit­i­cal. When I ac­tively showed hal­ter horses, I had mul­ti­ple hal­ters with dif­fer­ent lengths through the cheeks to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent head sizes.

The cor­rect length through the cheeks al­lows the hal­ter’s nose­piece to sit right above the bridge of the horse’s nose. A too-long hal­ter looks sloppy,

and a too-high fit makes the horse’s muz­zle look long.

Crown piece. The piece of leather that goes over the horse’s poll and con­nects the two cheek pieces at the buck­les should sit right be­hind his ears. Most show hal­ters have ad­just­ment buck­les on each cheek piece, which can help with this place­ment. A too-long crown will hang too far be­hind the horse’s ears; a too-short one will pull the en­tire hal­ter up too high on the horse’s face.

Throat­latch. Look for a close fit here for a tidy ap­pear­ance. This en­hances a horse’s nat­u­rally clean throat­latch or helps dis­guise a thicker one. A loose fit in the throat­latch hangs and looks sloppy, and a tight fit climbs up into the mid­dle of the horse’s jowl, in­di­cat­ing a too-small hal­ter.

Nose­piece. Many show hal­ters have a sep­a­rate ad­just­ment around the horse’s nose. This al­lows a horse with a re­fined head to achieve a good fit with­out the hal­ter look­ing too big around the nose. Be sure to ad­just the nose­piece com­fort­ably—well-fit­ted for the horse’s nose, but not ir­ri­tat­ingly tight.

Shank. Most show hal­ters have a leather shank with a chain on the end that at­taches to the hal­ter. Some breed as­so­ci­a­tions have in­sti­tuted rules for­bid­ding lip chains and in­stead al­low lip cords.

As shown on page 32, my chain is in a le­gal po­si­tion, looped through the bot­tom ring of the hal­ter and back to the shank. In this po­si­tion, be sure that your chain isn’t too long, even when it’s dou­bled-back to your shank. You can’t hold onto the chain, so a too-long chain af­fords less con­trol than a shorter one.

Al­ter­na­tively, the chain can run through the hal­ter’s near-side lower ring, un­der the horse’s chin, through the off side’s lower ring, and then con­nect to the hal­ter’s top ring on the off side. (Shown at left.) If the chain is too long in this po­si­tion, loop it back to the off-side bot­tom ring to take up the ex­tra slack.

You may also choose a leather lead shank with­out a chain that snaps di­rectly to the ring at the bot­tom of the nose­band.

Pre­cise hal­ter fit en­hances a horse’s fea­tures and im­proves your han­dle in a show­man­ship, per­for­mance hal­ter, or hal­ter class.

Al Dun­ning, Scotts­dale, Ari­zona, has pro­duced world cham­pion horses and rid­ers in mul­ti­ple dis­ci­plines. He’s been a pro­fes­sional trainer for more than 40 years, and his ex­per­tise has led him to pro­duce books, DVDs, and his own on­line men­tor­ing pro­gram, Team AD In­ter­na­tional ( tea­mad­in­ter­na­tional.com).

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