Making your own rope halters is a rewarding process. You get an extra feeling of accomplishment knowing that your horse is responding to something personally made with your own hands. The first time that you attempt to make a halter, you may spend a few hours tying and untying the knots, studying the instructions, and thinking about all the money you are saving making your own tack! Don’t get discouraged if you make mistakes or have to start over from the beginning -- each successive rope halter that you make will be a little bit easier, until you have it down to a 10 minute process!
These are not the same techniques that we use to manufacture our Natural Horse Supply rope halters. These are instructions for a “simple” rope halter that can easily be made by the average person. Our Natural Horse Supply rope halters use a Fiador knot for lead rope attachment and double overhand (“Blood”) knots. In addition, the latch knot end ropes are spliced and sewn to prevent unraveling. But, we’ll teach you how to make a simple, very durable and safe rope halter that you can use to train your horse.
Depending on the size ofyour horse, these are the materials you need:
We use ¼” nylon double braided nylon. This is an ideal choice because it has a braided nylon sleeve over a braided nylon core which makes for a very soft rope. You can find this type of rope at a marine supply store, hardware store or mail order it from many sources. Many people use ¼” or 3/8” nylon or polyester rope to make halters. It really comes down to a personal preference. And, you may just have to use what you have available.
You’ll also need a sharp knife or single edge (safety) razor blade to trim the ends of the rope and a lighter or matches to melt/seal the ends of the rope when finished.
Even a good Cub Scout knows a thing or two about knots. Fortunately, you don’t need to master too many in order to make a rope halter. You may want to practice these knots before you start making your halter to lessen the frustration level…
The Overhand Knot
This rope halter relies on an overhand knot as the basis for making your halter. This is what an overhand knot looks like. If you can tie your shoes then you can tie this knot! Tying the overhand knot is simple, the hard part is tying into this knot to create a double overhand or “blood” knot.
The Double Overhand Knot
The double overhand knot is tied by threading the end of the rope through an existing overhand knot and back around to form a “double” knot. This is an attractive and durable knot which is extremely difficult to take apart once it has been used on a horse. It’s also difficult to learn to tie because you come at it from different directions on a rope halter. This knot takes some time to perfect, but is ideal for the rope halter because there is no flat portion of the knot.
Tying the Double Overhand Knot
Step 1: Loosen the existing overhand knot and feed the loose end of the rope through the middle of the existing knot. Make sure that the rope goes into the center loop of the existing knot on the same side of the loop as the rope on the first overhand knot.
Step 2: Take the end of the rope over the top of the overhand knot, crossing directly in the groove or V of the knot and back behind the two strands of rope. I find it easier to turn the existing double overhand knot to the side at about a 45 degree angle – this makes it easier for the next step.
Step 3: Bring the end of the rope around and through the middle of the overhand knot. Take the rope through the “new” overhand, tighten the rope and take up the slack. Turn the knot over and you’ll have a wonderful double overhand knot!
TIP: Knots for the “Knot Challenged”
For those of you who are having a hard time getting the double overhand knot to work out, you can simply tie into the knot following the path of the rope through the existing overhand knot. This is not as effective for training because it lays flat on the horse. Also, not as pretty as the double overhand -- but it’s not very hard to tie either… It works!
Making the Halter
This type of halter requires that you tie the overhand knot at the correct location on the rope. The distances are measured from knot to knot and do not include the knot in the measurement. It’s important not to tie these knots too tight at first because you are going to go back to tie into the existing overhand knots to finish the halter.
Step 1: Determine the size of halter you want to make. Take a measurement around your horse's nose just below the cheek bone. Note: the average horse is about 24" around the nose. Use a string to get the length of these measurements and lay the string out against a yardstick or tape measure. DO NOT USE A METAL TAPE MEASURE TO TAKE THESE MEASUREMENTS ON YOUR HORSE!
The following table shows the measurement between knots for different sizes of horses:
Note: This is a “recipe” for a rope halter – you may have to adjust the suggested measurements to fit your horse. These instructions suggest enough rope for the average horse of each size. This should leave you enough margin of error to have a bit of rope left over. You’ll appreciate this if you go through all the effort to make a halter and it comes up short! If you have to decide on a size -- It's better to have a halter that is a little bit too big than one that is too small.
Step 2: Using the diagram below, tie overhand knots in the rope at points A, B, C, and D using measurements from the table in step 1. You may find it easier to label the points on the diagram with the measurements from the table to keep things straight.
Step 4: Using the diagram below, tie into the left nose knot from the tie loop. Remember to use the measurement from step 1, point F on the halter. This is your first opportunity to use the double overhand knot. You are going to use the double overhand to tie into the left nose knot.
Step 5: Using the above diagram, tie into the right nose knot from the left nose knot, point G. Again, you will use the double overhand knot to tie the rope into the right nose knot. When you are finished with this step, your halter will have two parallel pieces of rope tied between the left and right nose knots. These two pieces of rope should be the same length.
6: Using the diagram below, measure the distance between
point H from the right nose knot to the throat latch knot and tie into
the throat latch knot using the double overhand knot. Make sure that
the distance between the left nose knot and the throat latch knot are
the same – points D and H need to be equal. Now is the time to correct
any difference in length.
Step 7: Your halter should be taking shape now. Arrange the halter so that it looks a bit like the diagram below. Tie into the right ear knot from the throat latch knot, point I -- using the double overhand knot. Congratulations, that was the last double overhand knot you will need to tie on the halter. Verify that all of the measurements are correct.
Step 9: Trim the rope ends to be the same length and melt them with a lighter/match to seal the ends. Many people will tie the ends together with a piece of leather while others leave the ends loose. Again, this is a personal preference thing. We splice them together to make one single piece of rope.
Step 10: Adjust the halter to fit your horse. If you didn’t tighten the knots too tight you’ll have the ability to move things around, take up slack, give more room etc. If you need to adjust the size, slip the knots up or down the rope or adjust the size of the tie rope under the chin. If you are going to ride with the halter you may need more room above the tie rope at the chin -- we recommend a 2"-4" space above the knot that ties the lead rope into the halter to leave room for the lead rope.
Tying the latch knot
Bring the tie strings through the back of the loop. Hold your fingers below the loop, bring the strings around the back of the loop, through and under the strings. This is the best way to tie the latch knot. It won’t come loose and it will come apart easily when you go to take the halter off.
You are now ready to use your rope halter. You'll need to attach a lead rope to the chin knot in order to use the halter.
To buy the Rhett Russell Halter Tying Book and DVD on closeout for $10, click here and scroll down.
Important: These halters are great training devices, but aren’t very forgiving – the breaking strength on the rope is so high that a horse won’t likely be able to get free on their own if they get into trouble . Do not leave a rope halter on your horse when you are not using it. Do not tie your horse in a trailer with a rope halter.
There is some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and dont attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. This information is intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques, you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you dont feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, dont do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional horse trainer. Stay on the "high side of trouble".
Natural Horse Supply Training Information, (c) 1999 Natural Horse Supply. All rights reserved. Duplication of any material prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached and you have written permission. E-mail to submit comments or request reproduction permission.
Last updated: July 17, 2003