Lightness vs Softness and how our Rope Halters can help
Why a rope halter?
With the proper use, rope halters can be more effective than regular halters (web or leather) in aiding lightness and ultimately, softness. And that is, or should be, the goal of horse training; having a soft horse.
There is a difference between a soft and light horse. A light horse reacts fast, but can be dangerous, whereas a soft horse is a much safer horse.
A light horse reacts before the cue is carried out: you start the cue to walk and your horse moves. You start the cue to stop and your horse stops.
What is missing with a light horse is contact and relaxation. The horse is unsure and tries to react before any pressure is applied... to "outrun" the contact. And that's where the danger lies. Because if a light horse suddenly feels pressure, it won't know what to do with it. It might panic and put you and itself in danger.
A soft horse, on the other hand, is trained to respond to pressure. The cue to walk forward is carried out to where the lead rope creates contact... then the horse moves without hesitation or pull back. The cue to stop is carried out to where the horse feels contact, then the horse stops.
The contact is there, the horse doesn't overreact; he knows your intentions and isn't worried. There is trust. The horse knows exactly what to do to make the pressure go away. He is relaxed and works with you.
When done right you have a horse you can lead anywhere and it will move without resistance.
Contact is the keyword here. A horse used to contact won't normally panic if something were to go wrong, like, for example, if he steps on his lead rope and his head is held down. Instead of pulling against the pressure and panicking, a soft horse would give to the pressure and remain calm.
A rope halter facilitates this training of softness. It allows for precise cues and greater reactions from the horse with the least amount of pressure from the handler.
What about Stiff Rope Halters?
The halter being stiff is a personal preference, used by many top clinicians in the country and overseas. It holds its shape better on the horse's head, which is meant to increase control. It can have 2 or 4 knots on the noseband. 4 knots are meant to give the best control with a green or unhandled horse, causing the horse pain if it pulls or leans on the halter.
Personally, I think the equipment doesn't have to be harsh, but the training method has to be right. So focus on HOW you train, not WHAT tool you use.
Whichever halter you prefer, make sure you train your horse with a sense of forgiveness and a lot of patience! Take things slowly and enjoy your journey... there isn't much in this world more precious than a strong bond between a horse and his rider/handler. So take time in building this bond, and the rest will follow.
Note: I am not a trainer and don't claim to know the ins and outs of horse training. I simply state my opinion in these posts. Please don't take my opinion as professional advice and ask your trainer instead.