Saddle Up with Beth Eva: Halter Breaking

Jim Light working on halter training under the instruction of Beth Eva. [Photo contributed by Beth Eva]

Beth Eva | Owner of Heartland Ranch

Throughout my many years of working with clients and their respective horses I have observed the effects of improper halter breaking of young horses. Whether a respective owner is too soft or too aggressive in their approach, both have equal effects in creating deficits in training the horse.

What does halter breaking incorporate in my method might you ask? To start, a horse must stand quiet while placing a halter on, being led behind me without encroaching upon my space or rushing ahead of me and standing quiet while tied for long periods of time. In addition, they must be willing to have their hooves trimmed, be groomed, and load in a trailer. Obtaining these goals requires not only an understanding that each horse will learn at different rates of time, but consistency in proper approach of how and what I’m asking a horse to do is absolutely critical. I begin by asking a young horse to move in a circular direction in a round pen with minimal pressure to establish a positive environment, which will in turn relax the horse from being in a confined space. While in the round pen, I will take the pressure off by backing away, seeking to get the horse to stop and look at me for further instruction. Horses will often “lick” and blink as a sign of message received and understood.

As previously stated, this result may take a day or a month, depending on the horse. When I feel the horse recognizes the round pen as a positive place and seeks my instruction, I will introduce more pressure via a lariat rope. For this, I will place a lariat rope around their neck and move them around the round pen in a circular fashion, except this time I will back away and place my body in a position to correctly instruct the horse to move where I want them to go. If they do not respond to my body position while I back away, I will pull or “bump” as a correction, which will encourage positive response to instruction. Some horses will respond with minimal conflict, and others will throw a fit from a lack of understanding of the increased pressure and how to get away from it. When they demonstrate a willingness to move and follow my instruction under this pressure, I will introduce the next step of placing a double-knotted halter on and continue moving them around the round pen, providing the instruction in the same fashion with a long lead line attached to the halter. In this step, I ask the horse for stops, directional changes, and turns through backing away and positioning my body to the correct position depending on what I want the horse to do.

Remember, releasing pressure is viewed as a reward to a horse. Additionally, where and how you stand as well as how you’re looking at the horse in relation to what you’re instructing the horse to do must be correct to obtain correct results. Essentially, we must learn how to speak horse. I cannot stress enough that timing, position, and patience cannot be taught strictly through reading an article or watching a video. One must learn these methods by practice under the instruction of a qualified trainer such as myself.  

Once a horse accepts my instruction in the above areas, I will introduce trailer loading, which I will outline soon. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a lesson, please feel free to contact me at

Until next time, have a great and blessed day.

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