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Horse Halters And Leads:
The Best Materials

By Jeffrey Rolo

While it is true that a horse halter is intended primarily for functionality, you can certainly incorporate it as a fashion statement too! Whether you are seeking a basic colored halter, a natural rope halter or even a rich leather halter, you will find one perfect for your horse's needs.  

That being said, before purchasing just any halter or lead you should determine exactly which needs you are looking to fulfill, because the various types and materials each contain their own pros and cons.

Nylon Halters & Leads

Nylon halters and lead lines are the most common due to their affordability and ease of use. As if that wasn't quite enough, they come in a nice variety of colors so finding one to compliment your horse's hue is generally pretty easy. Still not enough? Okay… okay… they are also easy to keep clean! I generally use a nylon horse halter for our "every day" work with our horses.

On the other hand I have a strong dislike of nylon leads. Rope burn is bad enough when a horse unexpectedly bolts away from you; nylon leads can cut right into your hands if the severity and angle of the bolt is significant enough. Their flat shape and smooth texture makes them uncomfortable and unpractical for training purposes, though they will certainly do the job leading around a well-trained horse.

Rope Halters & Leads

Rope halters are most often made from cotton and although they have their supporters, I personally am not as fond of them. A rope horse halter is prone to some shrinkage when exposed to water, plus it is very difficult to keep clean.

On the other hand I far prefer rope leads for training purposes since their form and texture allows for a better grip while remaining kinder on the hands when one of the younger horses makes a sudden and unexpected dash.

Although I generally stick with cotton leads during training sessions due to their cheap and disposable nature, many horsemen swear by leads created from boat/yachting rope. Being very familiar with such rope, I'll certainly attest to their strength and comfort, but ultimately for me the added expense isn't worth it.

Leather Halters & Leads

The advantages of a leather horse halter are durability and style. If cared for and regularly oiled and/or polished, leather halters and leads will remain supple and functional for many, many years to come. I will pull out my leather halter when it's time for one of my horses to attend a show or make a good impression… not that they need a halter to make a good impression, of course! (I had to slip that disclaimer in lest I have some scowling horses the next time I visited the barn.)

If leather possessed a weakness it would definitely be price – leather is for the show ring or good impressions, not training! In addition brand new leather halters are often rather stiff and may need to be oiled a few times before they can be easily buckled and/or setup.

In the end it's impossible to choose a winner among the above materials since the selection process will differ based on the user's preferences as well as his criteria. My personal ranking would look something like:

Quantity of colors and stylesWinner: Nylon
PriceTie: Nylon and Rope
Ease of cleaningWinner: Nylon
Overall usabilityWinner: Nylon
AppearancesWinner: Leather
Overall Preference: Leather for show purposes, nylon for commonplace uses

Lead Lines
Quantity of colors and stylesWinner: Nylon
PriceTie: Nylon and Rope
Ease of cleaningWinner: Nylon
Overall usabilityWinner: Rope
AppearancesWinner: Leather
Overall Preference: Leather for show purposes, rope for commonplace uses

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