There is already a thread about fitting a western saddle and recently, I’ve seen several threads that either had obviously poorly fitted tack or threads asking how to fit various other pieces of western tack so I just figured I would go ahead and make a general thread for that. Some of the pieces that I’ll include are also used by English riders, such as halters, but mostly, what follows will be western tack since that is the style that I ride.
When fitting a halter, you need to take into account the age and size of the horse. You wouldn’t try to make a full grown horse fit into a weanling halter so the same goes that a weanling will not fit into a full horse halter (most times, unless you have a very large breed horse). The halter should fit close all over the horse’s head. The nose should fit cleanly with very little open hang room at their chin. The throatlatch should be up at the horse’s throat where it was designed to fit. If there is room for you to fit a closed fist between the horse’s face and the nose of the halter, then the halter doesn’t fit. If you have the halter buckled or tied as tight as you can over the poll and the throatlatch is still hanging halfway down the horse’s face, then the halter doesn’t fit.
Proper fit for a nylon/leather halter: See that the nose has only a couple of inches of space at the chin, the throatlatch is actually up at the throat where it should be, the noseband is just below the end of the cheekbone, and the buckle is centered just below the ear.
Improper fits for nylon/leather halters:
Too small: See how the nose is tight, the throatlatch is pulled down and the buckle is in the very last hole? This halter is too small for the horse wearing it.
It was a very tight fit trying to squeeze 2 fingers between his jaw and the halter.
Too Big: See the lead ring hanging several inches from the horse’s jaw, the throatlatch hanging far away from the throat? This halter is too big for the horse wearing it.
I could easily fit my entire hand between the halter and his jaw.
Even if the halter was tightened up at the buckle, this halter is still too big.
Proper fit for rope halter: See that the nose has no more than 2 inches of space at the chin, the throatlatch is actually up at the throat where it should be, the noseband is just below the end of the cheekbone, and the tie is centered just below the ear with the excess tucked into the throatlatch (that will keep it from swinging around and hitting a horse in the face while being worked).
Also note the proper way to tie a rope halter. If tied this way, the halter will not work loose as you work the horse or if they pull when tied. Also, even if pulled tight, this knot is very easy to undo.
Improper ways to tie a rope halter:
Tied with the knot above the loop closure, this will work loose as you work the horse or if they pull. The halter could eventually be pulled down off the horse’s nose and this knot is very hard to untie once pulled tight.
Knot tied backward with the excess pointing toward the horse’s face. This puts the excess rope in a prime position to hit the horse in the face or the eye when tied or worked. Always tie so that the excess is pointed away from the horse’s face.
Improper fit for rope halter:
Tied too loose: The halter should be tied up with the throatlatch snug, not left to hang halfway off the horse's face. If the halter is left tied like this, there is a very real possibility that the horse could stretch the knot just enough to get the noseband down off of his nose so that he is tied only by the neck. OR, the noseband could end up in his mouth. Either way, that could cause a catastrophe where the horse gets severely injured.
A rope halter that is too tight will have the exact same problem as a nylon/leather halter that is too tight. That is the one picture I forgot to get today but I can get it later if anyone really needs it.
Too big: See the noseband hanging very loose around the nose and the heel knot hanging several inches away from the jaw, the noseband is far up the horse’s face and even though the throatlatch is up where it should be, there is still a lot of room between it and his throat, and the knot is up behind the ear, almost on top of the poll?
Improper fit with this halter is especially easy to see if it is tied with the poll knot where it should be, just below the ear.