There is perhaps no piece of horse tack or equipment that is used more frequently than a halter and lead rope. Just about any horse, whether it is a saddle horse or not, needs to be haltered from time to time. This even goes for the cranky old broodmare out in the corner of the pasture. There are several varieties of halters available made out of a variety of materials. I am of the opinion that rope halters offer several benefits over those made from webbing or leather.
Standard Webbing Halter, Complete with Breakable Hardware.
The photo above shows a normal webbing style halter. Before you comment, I am aware that the halter isn't big enough for the colt in the photo. For a two year old, he has quite a large head. Enough about that. The most notable reason that I do not care for this style of halter is because of the weak points in the hardware. This goes for the snap at the end of the lead rope as well. More than once have I seen a horse pull back at a trailer and break this hardware, subsequently going off for a jog without his owner. On the flip-side, I have seen the same situation with a rope halter, except that time it broke the bolted tie ring right off the trailer (granted, it was an old trailer, but you see my point). The webbing on this type of halter is extremely strong, and some of them do have beefy, solid hardware. These halter and lead rope setups work fine for many situations around the barn, but out on the trail or at a hunting camp, or during a training session for that matter, I want a rope halter 10 times out of 10.
Miss Jade outfitted in her rope halter.
As far as rope halters go, there are a few different styles. I prefer those made with a stiffer rope material, as they stay open very nicely and allow the horse to slip their face right into the opening. As I said earlier, these type of halters are also preferable to train a horse in, as most horses are less likely to lean against them than a web halter and can offer the handler excellent lateral control of the horses head. As you can see in the picture, the tail of the sheet bend knot is pointing away from the horses eye. This is the way it should be done, if for no other reason than keeping the tail from slapping around the horses eye.
This is simply my opinion on the matter of halters. If you have something that works for you, by all means, keep doing it! We all have different preferences and there is nothing wrong with that, but I would encourage anyone that isn't sure about their current halter and lead rope setup to give a rope halter a try. At some point in a horses life, events can and likely will occur that will cause the horse to pull back and test whatever halter and lead rope they are wearing at that moment. Don't let them learn that they can, in fact, break one.