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Halterbreaking Basics
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [1999]


This article is based on 'The Patience Game' and on Sensitizing the horse to specific cues. Therefore, the following articles should be read and completely understood before reading this article and definitely before attempting to halterbreak any horse:

  • Sensitizing & Desensitizing

  • The Patience Game



    Is This Horse Properly Halterbroke?

    No. A horse that is properly halterbroke will
    NEVER pull against pressure on his halter!



    What is halterbreaking?

    Halterbreaking is the process of teaching a horse to respond to cues that ask him to move his head in 6 directions: left and right, forward and back, and up and down.


    How do I know if my horse is properly halterbroke?

    If your horse does not respond to your cues to move in each of the 6 directions 100% of the time, he is not properly halterbroke. If he is not properly halterbroke at this time, he is not safe to be around. You owe it to your horse and to the other horse-people around you to properly halterbreak him.



    The Halterbreaking Basics:

    The halterbreaking exercises outlined below should be done in the order they are listed. Repeat each exercise until the horse responds as desired 100% of the time.

    1. Left and Right.
    Stand on the horse's left side. Gently put pressure on the left side of the halter as if you were going to lead the horse to the left. Hold the pressure steady until the horse responds by moving his nose to the left. The instant he moves his head to the left, release all pressure. If he moves his head up down or any direction other than left, keep the pressure on consistently until he moves his head left. Repeat this exercise over and over and over until the horse will respond immediately 100% of the time.

    2. Right:
    Repeat #1 (above), but on the right side of the horse's halter.

    2. Forward:
    Hold the horse's leadrope directly under his chin. Apply gentle pressure forward on the lead rope. Keep this pressure solid and consistent until he steps forward. The instant he takes a step forward, release all pressure. If he moves his head up or steps back when you are applying pressure, you must keep the pressure solid and consistent until he steps forward.

    3. Back:
    Hold the horse's leadrope directly under his chin. Apply gentle pressure backwards, straight towards his chest. Hold the pressure steady until the horse responds by shifting his weight backwards. The instant he shifts his weight backwards, release all pressure and wait a few seconds before repeating. If at any time the horse steps forward, to the sides or becomes excitable, you must stay calm and continue the steady, consistent pressure until he performs the desired result.

    4. Down:
    Place your hand on top of your horse's head, about 1 inch behind the poll. Only rest your hand gently here, do not apply strong pressure! Keep your hand in this spot until the horse lowers his head. The instant he lowers his head, remove all pressure and wait a few seconds before repeating. If he raises his head, jerks upwards or makes any other movement that is not down, you must keep your contact behind his poll solid and consistent.

    5. Up:
    Place the palm of your hand in the spot where your horse's jugular is. This is on the underside of his neck where his neck meets his head. Apply gentle pressure upwards until the horse raises his head. The instant he raises his head, remove all pressure and wait a few seconds before repeating. If he lowers his head or makes any other movements besides raising his head up, you must keep the pressure under his neck solid and consistent until he responds as desired.



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    All content on this website is Copyrighted © 1997-2002, Cheryl McNamee-Sutor,
    unless otherwise noted on individual pages or images on this site. All Rights Reserved.
    This article was published on: 1999. Last updated on: 1999.