How to make a
a rope halter for your horse is simple, fun, and inexpensive
compared to a pricy halter out of a catalog. This halter
fiador knot under the chin. The fiador knot is fairly
straightforward, but it can be difficult to get it placed exactly right
for the size of halter you are making. Since it the the first
knot to be completed in making a halter, you can take it apart and
try again as many times as necessary to get the positioning
want -- custom-sized for your
rope halter is an important tool for training and working horses.
Because the surface area of the halter contacting the horse's
face is small, a pull on the rope from the trainer (or the horse) will
exert considerable (even severe) pressure. Used correctly,
horse can be taught to be responsive and yielding to pressure.
This is a result more difficult to achieve with a wide strap
halter because the same amount of pull from the trainer is spread over
a much larger area on the horse's head and so the pressure (pounds
per square inch) is much less and horses often learn to lean
on the halter rather than yield to it. With a rope halter the
horse learns to respond to pressure and then to even lighter
signals. The horse can
differentiate between signals, and you can achieve
refinement with the response you
get by just small variations in the movements in the rope.
halter should NEVER be left on an unattended horse-- not in a stall nor
turned out. I also do
not tie or cross-tie a horse in a rope halter. I use
while training. Rope halters are essentially not
breakable, and therefore precautions must be
The halter can
caught on something, or the horse can get his foot in it, and since it
doesn't break there can be disastrous consequences.
diagram below shows the sections of the halter and the lengths (knot
center to knot center) which I use for
my quarter horse x Arab mare. Adjust sizing as needed for your
rope halter is tied out of a single length of rope, using two kinds of
knots-- five of them are a two-stranded lanyard knot (two strands going
in; two strands coming out) and the knot under the chin is a 4-stranded
lanyard knot. In the directions which follow, I use
a fiador knot under the chin and 2-stranded Matthew Walker
for the rest of the knots in the halter.
like to use soft cotton clothesline when teaching halter
It is soft and easy to tie and is very inexpensive and readily
available. (1/4" works well.
3/16" or 5/16" is also OK.) First. practice the
then, when you are confident, try making a halter. While this
clearly a practice piece, it does result in a usable halter. A
clothesline halter has several disadvantages, however.
is a bland boring off-white. It stretches with use and the
tighten so it gets too big and doesn't fit after a few dozen uses.
It gets dirty
easily. If it gets wet, it is really hard to untie the latch knot to
get it off. And if it stays wet, it mildews and degrades.
I use this for student practice because it is <5 cents per foot
opposed to the double braided polyester marine cord which might be
$0.50 - $1 per foot.
So, get some cheap rope, practice knots, make
a halter, try it out, see what sizes for each section in the pattern
work for you and your horse.
Then, when you know how to do it and know what you want, buy
that you really want for your halter. And do it all over
again, for real.
rope can be used for halters. The stiffer the rope and the smaller the
the more severe the halter, while a softer rope in a larger diameter is
less severe. Diameters between 3/16" and 3/8" are usual.
The length needed depends both on the size of the horse and
stiffness and diameter of the rope (which affects how tightly the knots
can be tied and how much rope is within the knots). A halter
take 16 - 25 feet of rope, depending on the size of the pony
or horse and the type of rope. For my mare, with the
the left and using a soft 5/16 " rope, the halter requires about 18
are several choices for which specific kinds of knots can be used in a
halter. If you refer to
note that a knot may be known by many
different names, and sometimes the same name refers to several
different knots. Also, the same knot (topologically) might
two different names depending on the knot's orientation relative to the
free (working) ends of the rope. This is because the way the
knot is tied might be quite different if there is not a free end to
work with. Sometimes two identical knots might have
different names (depending on how it is tied or whether the reference
is fishing, sailing, or climbing) and they might be called
"related" rather than "identical". An authoritative knot
reference is Clifford W.
Ashley, The Ashley Book of
Knots, 1944, Doubleday & Company, Inc.
Garden City, NY
For under the chin (forming the loop for attaching a lead rope),
use a Fiador knot (aka
4-stranded diamond knot).
[Ashley knot #1110, #693]. Other possibilities include
a 4-stranded simple overhand knot, a 4-strand Matthew Walker
knot [Ashley #692],
or a two stranded Matthew Walker knot using doubled cords for
"strand". There are other possibilities as well.
For the other knots in the halter, use a 2-stranded Matthew Walker
knot [Ashley knot #776, #795, #801, #2421] (aka true lover's
knot, halter knot, interlocking overhand knots). Other
possibilities include a 2-stranded overhand
knot [Ashley #1410, #518] (aka doubled
overhand, EDK, European Death Knot, simple overhand,
overhand, overhand bend, overhand knot doubled), a two-strand diamond
knot, and others.
Another note on knot
There are quite a few web sites with
directions for rope halters. Many of these sites are
other, sharing diagrams, text and nomenclature. As such, they
the same names as each other for the types of 2-stranded
knot experts --sailing, climbing, fishing, mathematics, etc--use
these terms to refer to other quite different knots. (See The
Ashley Book of Knots). So because of these naming
ambiguities, I am
not going to use use the knot names the way some other halter sites do.
Pick out the kind of rope that you like. This decision can be
a number of factors
including comfort, stiffness, strength, flexibility, color, durability,
ease of tying, washability, etc. Since you will tie the
to fit your horse, the length of rope needed will depend on the size of
Synthetic fibers used in ropes include polypropylene ( MFP-multi
filament polypropylene), nylon, polyesters (e.g. PET, LCP, HPE, Vectran), polyethylene
Aramids (e.g. Twaron, Technora and Kevlar) and polyaramids (e.g. Dralon, Tiptolon).
Some ropes are constructed of mixtures of several fibres or use
co-polymer fibres. Rope construction can be twisted or
although braided ropes are most commonly used today. Braided
are usually polypropylene, nylon, or polyester. Rope
can be single braid (diamond braid, hollow core braid), double braid
(diamond braid around a braided core, braid on braid), kernmantle (core
of twisted fibers with a braided outer shell), solid braid, etc. http://www.lehighgroup.com/fiber.htm
often used for halters include double
braided nylon (a braided nylon sleeve over a braided nylon core),
double braid polyester (braided polyester sleeve over a
polyester core), marine grade kernmantle braid rope, braided
(polypropylene), and others.
rope for your halter that's
of a stiffness and in a diamater you want. Compare prices.
check on availablility. Many ropes can be ordered on-line,
you want to feel the rope before you buy, you might try to find it
locally. Accessory cord (rock climbing rope) is found at
goods stores. 1/4-inch-diameter
(6-7 mm) works well. Brands include PMI Perlon
Cord (braided nylon with nylon core) or Samson's Accessory Cord
(polyester cover and nylon core). Some people find it too
and hard to tie. Another source is marine or yachting stores
where you can get marine cord or static kernmantle. Hardware
stores carry a number of ropes. I have had good results with
MFP braied rope with a core. I did not get good results with hollow
core diamond braided polypropylene (POLY) because my knots didn't stay
well in the slippery rope.
much rope you need, use the fit of your practice halter
(tied with cheap cotton clothes line) or decide what size the halter
needs to be based on
your horse’s head measurements. Use a cloth measuring tape
to measure around your horse’s nose just below his
cheekbone and note appropriate sizes onto the halter
pattern. Add up all the sections, then add the amount of
rope in each knot to determine the total amount of rope. To determine
how much rope is in a knot,
measure out a defined length, tie a knot, measure again and calculate
the amount in the knot. This will differ for different kinds
ropes. A rule of thumb is to use 9-10 inches rope for each inch in the
around-the-nose measurement, but this varies considerably with the kind
of rope. If you are using a relatively
inexpensive rope, you
don't have to calculate it very exactly, just use plenty. For
a typical size
adult horse, start with 18-25 feet of rope. You'll likely
quite a bit
longer end than you need, but you can cut it off when you're finished.
to tie a Fiador knot
fiador knot has 4 strands of rope going into the knot at the top (and
the same 4 coming out the knot at the bottom). This
rotational symetry around the central axis. I think of it as
having an imaginary pole down the middle of the knot, the 4 strands
evenly spaced around the pole going into the knot at the top, each
strand wrapping the
same way around the pole and coming out of the knot at the bottom 3/4
of the way around the pole from where it went in and the 4 ropes still
evenly spaced from each other and in the same order around the
circumference. The right handed version is
pictured to the right.. (A left hand version is also
possible.) I think
of the knot as a cylinder with the strands spiraling around the surface
cylinder. The Fiador knot is the same as a four-stranded
[Ashley # 1110, #693]. It is called Fiador when it is tied in
single twice-folded length of rope. It is called diamond knot
it is tied using four working ends.
with the 4-strand diamond knot
practice tying this knot, I recommend starting with 4 strands, then
after practice moving to the next section where
a single folded rope is
used. To tie the 4-strand diamond knot, I look down at the
knot from the "top" (what will be the under-chin loops for
attaching the lead rope). I hook
strands together (tape or rubber band) and place on a flat
and work the knot loosely around the center. (It is like a
shape with the strands spiraling around from the center outwards).
I am looking down at what will be the outside
surface of the cylindrical knot. After forming, I
tighten and adjust, then lift and pull up the 4 taped center strands
while pulling down on
the 4 loose ends. (Thus, pulling the face of the disk shape
surface of the cylinder
Layout the rope. Rubberband or tape the 4 strands together,
above where you will tie the knot. (Or you can use 2 ropes
in the center, rubber band the two folds together). I find it
helps to pin it down to hold it still.
One strand at a time, form each strand into a loop (going clockwize
around the center) with the long end crossing over (on top
the next loop.
|3. One strand at
a time, tuck each free end through the next (opposite the
starting point) loop.
Gently pull on the 4 loose ends (keep the top/center in place
above the knot). Tighten the loops until they are
around the center and all 4 are equal sized.
|5. Pull up the
center 4 strands and down on the 4 loose ends. Evenly tighten
the diamond knot.
a Fiador knot
making the fiador knot in a halter, you don't have 4 loose ends, you
only have two. Since you can not "tuck the loose ends through
loop", you will instead have to make the loop around the constrained
parts. Practice the diamond knot as above until you
are comfortable with it. Then practice it as
in the set of pictures below. After this becomes
try tying a halter. It will be much more difficult in a halter, because
the free ends will be very long and because you want to adust the
spacing fairly accurately so as to fit your horse, so do practice with
a shorter rope first. Color coding makes it much easier.
Layout the rope. Fold the rope then fold again. Rubberband or
tape an inch or so from this fold (which will be the under-chin loops
in a halter.) Lay out on a flat surface, spreading the 4 ropes away
from the center.
Form each constrained strand into a loop (going clockwise
around the center) with the long end crossing over (on top
the next strand. Cross the adjacent (counter clockwise)
over the constrained "end" and both strands of the next
(clockwise) loop, then tuck it's free end through the next
The last strand has a free end. Work it clockwize around the
center, over, under, over two, and tuck it through the next
(opposite the starting point) loop.
Gently pull on the 4 strands (keep the top/center
in place or
above the knot). Tighten until all 4 strands are
around the center and all 4 are equal spaced.
Pull up the center 4 strands and down on the 4 ends.
tighten the Fiador knot, by gently pulling one strand at a time, going
around the knot several times.
to the Fiador knot
simple overhand knot
simple overhand knot has two versions, right handed and left handed.
Either is OK. To tie an overhand knot with 4 strands, keep
strands parallel. It is easier to tie than a Fiador knot but
- It takes more rope and the knot is
bulkier. If you are using a thin, soft, inexpensive rope that
makes tight knots, this might not be a problem for you.
knot is flat and the incomping and out-going ropes are not exactly
opposite each other, you will get a bit of a bend or twist rather than
be straight through the knot. By comparison, the Fiador knot
uniformly round and the strands
into and out of the knot are opposite, resulting in a fairly straight
- The 4 ropes in an overhand knot do not equally share the
in the knot. In the Fiador knot, the topology of each of the 4 strands
is the same and applying pressure (pull) above and below the
knot pulls on each
strand within the knot similarly.
the knots in the picture above. Left is the 4-strand overhand
knot. Right is the Fiador (4-strand diamond) knot.
Matthew Walker knot
Matthew Walker knot is a compact knot with a 4 fold rotational
symmetry. It is difficult to untie and unlike the Fiador, it
not tend to loosen. However, if the noseband needs to be size
adjusted after the entire halter is assembled, a Fiador knot is
Two examples of a 4-strand Matthew Walker knot [Ashley #692].
Here it is tied in a single length of rope.
Matthew Walker knot, doubled.
two stranded Matthew Walker knot can be tied in 4 strands of cord by
using paired cords, (keeping cords together and parallel).
somewhat like a 4-strand Matthew Walker knot, but is easier to tie.
It does not loosen as readily as a fiador (diamond) knot.
to tie a 2-stranded Matthew Walker knot
2-stranded Matthew Walker knot is one of several interlocking overhand
knots. To make a 2-strand Mathew Walker knot, make a simple
overhand knot in one strand, then thread the second strand through the
first overhand knot to make an interlocking overhand knot of the same
handedness. [Ashley knot #776, #795, #801, #2421] In
Mathew Walker knot, the "crosses" of each of the interlocking knots is
on the inside, and the loops are on the outside.
|Tie an overhand knot in one strand.
the working end of the second strand and thread it through the first
overhand knot. It should come into the existing knot parallel to its
the working end around the cross-over in the first overhand knot; cross
part of the the original overhand knot and itself.
the second overhand
knot. Tuck the working end through the first overhand knot so that it
leaves the knot parallel to the line of the first overhand knot.
Carefully tighten the knots around each other. The cross-over
the two overhand knots will be on the inside of the Mathew Walker knot
each cross over being covered by the loop of the other overhand knot.
to the 2-stranded Mathew Walker knot -- a 2-stranded
simple overhand knot
simple overhand knot has two versions, right handed and left handed.
Either is OK. To tie an overhand knot with two
strands parallel. The knot is flat and the incoming and
out-going ropes are not exactly opposite each other, so the knot
tends to be the location of a twist or bend. If this is
to you, use the Matthew Walker knot instead.
Overhand knot (doubled) on left. [Ashley #1410, #518]
Two-strand Matther Walker knot on right. [Ashley knot #776, #795, #801,
to tie a rope halter
entire halter is tied from a single length of rope. If you
at the diagram, the two ends of the rope lie side by side at the ends
of the poll strap. So how do you get all those knots in at
the right places? Well, you sort of start in the middle (of
nose band) and work your way out. The diagram at the left
the order in which you work. First you tie two
overhand knots (1 and 2) on either side of the center of the nose band
(you will come back through these later and tie another knot into them
to complete the Mathew Walker knot). Next, tie the fiador
(3) to complete the nose band. (knot3). Then tie a Mathew
knot (4) to form the gullet piece. At this point, the two
ends are of different lengths. In the longer rope, tie
knot (5) to form the loop in which you will tie the poll piece when you
put your halter onto your horse. Now, come back through the
simple overhand knots in the nose loop to make them into Mathew Walker
knots (6 and 7). The final knot (8) completes your halter
The two ends are lined up parallel with each other and the
trimmed to the same length to finish the poll piece. Detailed
steps are described below.
Assemble your information. Horse measurements. Diagram with
for YOUR horse written on it. Information about how much rope
used in the knots. Calculaton of how much rope you need.
2. Assemble your stuff. Rope, tape measure, narrow
screw driver (helps to untie wrong knots), patience.
Cut rope to length. Find center of rope.
about 20" from center. Mark this point (it will be the center
the nose on one of the strands) with a piece of tape. The two
sides from the center point will differ in length by 40"/
4. Tie 2 simple
overhand knots (leave fairly loose), each 4" on either side of
the tape-marked center point. (This is the length of the nose
Draw together the rope about 10" from each knot.
ropes, then fold it over, making a 2-strand loop about 4" long.
Rubberband this loop in place. Adjust so the nose
about 8" longer than its final desired length, and the little doubled
loop is about 1".
6. Pin the loop on to
a working surface, spreading out the 4 lines coming out of the loops.
Tie a Fiador knot as described above.
Measure the nose loop. If too large or small, try
the Fiador knot. Alternatively, mark with some tape
pen where your loops enter the knot, then untie it, and tie it again
making needed adjustments to get the right-sized nose band and loop for
the lead line. I
think a little bit small is better than large, because the knots tend
to tighten with use, so the nose loop and the lead line tie loops both
get bigger with use. Tighten the Fiador knot.
When you are satisfied with the size of the nose loop (nose
plus chin pieces), procede to the next knot which forms the
stranded gullet piece. This knot is a 2-stranded Mathew Walker knot.
To tie it, make an overhand loop in one strand, then an
interlocking overhand knot in the other strand by threading the end
through the first overhand knot. Adust the position and
The next several steps will use the longer of the two strands
coming out of the gullet piece knot. Form the left side
piece and the loop
(2" loop for latching the poll piece) by tying an overhand knot, then
the rope over (rubber band it to hold the loop in place while you work)
and tying a
2-stranded Mathew Walker knot by threading the end into the overhand
knot you just tied.
Now use the long end to thread through the first single
knot in the nose band. Measure the length for the left cheek
strap, then tie a Mathew Walker knot. Run the line to the
nose band knot (so that the nose band is a double line) and form the
Mathew Walker knot in the second overhand knot. Recheck all
11. For the next knot, you will be
using both of the strands and tying them together. For the
of the right cheek piece and right throat piece, use the already tied
left parts of the halter as your measurements, so that the
12. The two long pieces are
for the poll piece. Run them parallel to each other and
band together while you go try it on the horse. Make any
adjustments you need to. Then cut the two strands of the poll
piece so they are equal and finish the ends.
Other finishing touches. You can melt the ends
together with a match, tape them, sew them, etc. depending on the type
of rope. I often sew (or hot glue gun) together the loops (for the lead
rope) which is under the chin. This helps keep the fiador
from unravaling and makes it easier to hook a lead line on.
Sometimes I hot glue gun or sew the entire length of the poll
pieces together. You can put heat shrink on the rope ends, or metal
Here is the construction of a cotton rope halter (dyed with food
coloring so you can see it better).
Fit looks pretty good. The throat pieces should be a little
(maybe an inch) longer .
to tie a rope halter
Mathew Walker knots