Several people learning my method have horses that have not yet been trained to accept the halter, and they have asked for my guidance. Of course, there are lots of halter breaking methods. They call it halter “breaking” because you must be very careful with the horse or foal, as you can easily run into resistance you cannot handle from the sheer strength of the horse fighting to get away. You need to stay away from the resistance and train the horse to never use resistance in response to a direct request from a pull of the lead rope.
I find it very interesting that we see very few DVDs on the subject of halter training a wild horse. It takes great skill, and trainers who are not at all intimidated by getting in a fight with the horse or foal, or putting a horse though a process where he learns that, if he gets into a fight with the trainer, he will lose. This is why it is called halter breaking. Many trainers are not comfortable if the horse has not experienced this fight and lost to the trainer. Many feel that it is mandatory for a wild horse to learn that the trainer is stronger and will win any battle the horse might present. This way, the horse becomes failsafe, and will always respect the halter, which is a good thing; but this way of doing it is unnecessary and brutal. What I have seen is usually a precarious process and not at all necessary.
What the horse must learn from these methods is that, no matter what happens or where he wants to go, he must not do anything but listen to the halter. Any time you are working with resistance, you need a lot of horsemanship experience and skill, and knowledge of how to be persistent, direct, authoritarian, kind and timely.
It is very simple.
Usually, on breeding ranches, horses learn in gentler ways of how to lead, because they teach a foal around their daily routines. The mares and foals are usually kept in stalls at night, and led out to fields in the morning as a handler holds the baby gently and encourages the baby to go with the mother. This gets the baby feeling safe in the arms of a human being while wearing a halter. It is so natural. With very little training, really, the foal learns how to lead with no breaking of any sort. But, if it isn’t done in these early stages, the foal gains a sense of self and independence, and it must then experience a process that I have seen many people feel a foal needs to go through: learning that he has no choice in a time in the foal’s life that he is frightened and struggles.
Because of having to train many older foals and even adult horses to lead, I developed a method that does not require training by taking the power away from a horse, or intimidating him, or getting in a fight with him and buffaloing him into thinking that I am stronger. How I do this comes from having Companion Walking well set onto my horse. I lead him to where the treats are kept and do the routines he’s done at liberty, with a halter and lead rope, and I work always within his tolerance. In no time, it is the nature of a horse to naturally, for some strange reason, be willing to listen to the halter over his whims, wants and fears.
The failsafe button that you want to get on your horse so that he is considered halter trained, I get through leading the horse at liberty with no tack, then playing the Bucket Game and practicing the Uberstreichen Exercises.
I first get to the point where I can easily lead the horse with my hands on his nose, get him to turn around left and right easily on one spot, and halt as well. In the halt, I must be able to pull his head down from light pressure. What I’m looking to do is to remove the instincts of the horse to want to resist pressure from a pull. Once I have the horse completely polite around food and companion walking with me naturally, I then teach him to do the same things, this time feeling the rope and the pull on his head. All of this must take place with him giving to pressure without thinking. It then becomes natural and the horse won’t know how to be resistant.
Next, the Bucket Game gets the horse comfortable with allowing you to handle his head without force because he is happy eating out of the bucket. The object, while holding the bucket, is to teach him that he must listen to you when you ask him to leave the bucket, stop eating, and wait for permission to come back and eat out of it again. The process needs to be given in a way that would cause the horse to feel more bonded to you.
While the horse is eating out of the bucket and will allow you to massage his head, you can then easily put on a halter. From there, you go on to using the halter to take his head out of the bucket and to bring his head into the bucket but this time with a gentle pull of the rope.
After that, you can begin with the Uberstreichen Exercises and Leading from Behind with a halter and lead rope. The horse is failsafe when he no longer refuses to give in to a pull.