Halter training is one of the most important steps for a horse.
Without accepting a halter and lead, a horse is unmanageable; he cannot be groomed, held for the vet or farrier, or led to pasture. Without training, he can be a danger to himself and others. By learning to accept the halter, the horse builds a foundation towards bonding with people and understanding basic commands.
Halter training is a long and tedious process and it's common to get frustrated. But no matter how tired or aggravated you get, it is imperative that you not get angry or aggressive towards the horse. Yelling, jamming on the halter, or hitting him when he's scared will only make things worse and make training more difficult.
Every training session should end on a high note; some days, that might be as minor as the horse not spooking when you lift the halter off a hook, but even minor triumphs should be celebrated.
Halter Training Foals and Yearlings
In an ideal situation, a foal has been around people since birth, being handled and touched every day. With a mother used to people and halters, placing a halter on a newborn foal is much simpler. He's smaller and easier to handle, and halters made for foals are slim and easy to put on.
Working with the young horse every day, putting the halter on and off, will make it just part of his daily routine and help prevent him from becoming head-shy.
Halter Training Adult Horses
If a horse did not go through halter training as a foal, it is more difficult of a process. It requires a great deal of time, patience, and baby steps.
First, allow the horse to get used to your presence. Liberally give out treats so he associates you with good things. Then, gradually get him used to you touching his head, ears, and muzzle. Once he accepts being touched and petted, then you can slowly introduce the halter. At first, just raise it so he gets a good look at it. Once he can be around it without spooking, you can lightly touch his head with it, without trying to put it over his nose.
Next, just slide the noseband over his muzzle, and immediately take it off. Repeat this a number of times until he's used to it. Then you can slowly and gently slide it up and fasten it loosely behind his ears. Give him lots of praise and treats, and remove it. Continue this every day until he stands quietly, then you can tighten it to the appropriate level.
Once he's used to the halter, you can add a lead rope and begin teaching him to walk politely. Work slowly, taking a step and urging him forward, then reward him with a treat.
Halter training and walking with a lead are pivotal for working horses. These steps are necessary for the horse to be handled and trained.
With patience and constant work, you can successfully train your horse to wear a halter and walk on lead.