Working with a rope headcollar

Expect a lot, accept a little, reward often – François Baucher


The rope head collar is a working tool, often under estimated. This headcollar must not under any circumstances replace the ordinary, traditional headcollar (on a side note, it is illegal in Switzerland to use a rope headcollar to tie a horse in a trailer for transport). If the horses were to get stuck, or pull blindly out of sheer panic, the headcollar won’t break. It is far more likely that the horse will suffer irreversible damage. The rope headcollar should only be used under surveillance and for work.





The rope headcollar is finer than an ordinary headcollar, and has strategically placed knots. The finer ropes add to the headcollar’s severity, and the knots apply pressure to precise and sensitive areas on the horse’s face, creating great discomfort and pain if too much pressure is applied. As it has a more direct and severe transfer of pressure, this headcollar must be used with a much softer hand than a conventional headcollar. With a young horse, this pressure needs to be even softer; especially as this tool allows us to be much more precis in our demands. With greater precision comes a smaller margin of error. It is not a tool for a beginner in groundwork, even with a schoolmaster horse.





During the last few groundwork sessions, I have been gradually introducing the rope headcollar into Star’s groundwork. As he is sensitive and has a fine touch, it is important for me that this introduction is done progressively and serenely for Star. The idea of integrating the rope headcollar into a work is to bring diversity into practice and tools, but also to broaden Star’s experiences. The first sessions are always done with both headcollars- the nylon and the rope – so as to limit the actions of the rope headcollar at first. The lead rope is attached to both the headcollars at first, under the chin. Then only to the rope headcollar. But I keep the nylon headcollar on just in case, so as to make a quick transfer from one to the other if the pressure becomes too much for Star. The aim is to keep the lead rope as soft as possible; playing with the weight of the clip rather than tension on the rope so as to minimise the use of the rope headcollar, and using a maximum of body language and verbal commands. I try to remain very conscious in my work of the pressure I apply to the headcollar and the optimum moments of release. The sessions are very short, as much as for Star as for me, so that we keep quality over quantity and become too greedy in our requests.


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