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How To Make A Field Halter For Human Equines

Many horses now wear a nylon halter at almost all times. Here is a simple and inexpensive halter for the human equine. The halter is secure (assuming the wearer is unable to use their hands), waterproof, and easy to wear. The halter can also be made safe against choking and falls. The components are nylon or polyester strapping, buckles, and a few pieces from the hardware store. The halter should cost less than $15 and take three to four hours to make.

Unless you already have these on hand, you will need to make the following purchases.

10 feet of 1 inch nylon or polyester strapping
2 buckles for 1 inch strapping: either regular buckles
   or click together pack buckles
   or a set of luggage straps (12 feet of strapping and 2 pack buckles)
2 O-rings 1 inch to 1 1/4 inch
3 D-rings 1 inch

You will also need scissors, needle, thread, and a candle or other heat source for melting the cut ends of the straps. If you are using regular buckles, you will need a steel nail a little wider than the tongue for melting holes in the straps. What I call "Pack Buckles" are flat plastic buckles with two sections. The sections are each attached to a strap and then slid together. You release the buckle by pressing the outside edges inward. These are often used on packs and similar equipment.

Purchase the O- and D-rings (or regular buckles if you prefer them) at a good hardware store; I've used both ACE and Orchard Supply Hardware. While you are buying the hardware, look in the automotive section (among the tie-down straps and bungee cords) to find a set of straps with buckles. If you like the color of the straps and the style of the buckles buy the set. I don't know exactly what you will find, I have found three different sets at three different stores: 2-6ft luggage straps, black with red edges, for $6, 2-8ft yellow straps for $6, and 4-8ft black straps for $9.

If you prefer, you can buy the straps and buckles at a fabric store. They usually carry black and white strapping and both pack and regular buckles. They may be willing to order colored strapping for you. Some craft and art supply stores carry strapping in a variety of colors.

Wearing a halter is risky. There are two main ways the human horse can be injured. First, when a line is tied to the halter, a fall or sudden jerk on the line can strain or even break the horse's neck. Second, the straps encircling his neck can strangle the horse. I recommend reducing the risks by building intentional weak points into the halter. The idea is that the weak point should be strong enough for normal use but break when it is jerked.

This halter provides 3 D-rings (left cheek, right cheek and under the chin) for tying the horse. These D-rings are designed to break away if jerked.

The threat of choking can't be completely eliminated, but the attachment for one of the neck straps is intentionally weak and should break in a struggle. Even so, the horse should be watched while it is sleeping in its halter.

Construction Tricks
When the nylon or polyester strapping is cut it starts to unravel. To prevent this problem, always melt the cut end. I keep a small jar candle lit and melt the ends as I cut them. Gradually move the end of the strap into the area above the flame until the fuzz shrivels and the end glistens. This technique can leave rough spots so examine, reheat, and smooth the ends which are going to be folded inward.

I use two different kinds of thread for sewing the halter. I hand sew most places with multiple lines of upholstery thread or I use a sewing machine; these spots should not break. For weak points, I hand sew with cotton thread and test the joint by breaking it and sewing again until I find the correct strength. Weak points will be noted in the instructions.

Instead of punching holes in the strapping, I use a nail to melt the hole. A melted hole is a bit stronger than the punched hole. A warning: The nail conducts and holds heat and it will blister your fingers or scorch your table. I hold it in a pair of pliers and lay it on a plate.

Step 1: Getting Started
Attach a buckle to one end of the strapping. If you are using a pack buckle, run the strap through the buckle, fold it back, and sew. If you are using a traditional buckle: fold the end of the strap back about 1 1/2 inches, heat the nail and melt a slot in the center of the fold. Thread the strap through the buckle so the tongue goes through the slot, then sew the the loose end.

Step 2: The Headband
Run the strap around the head just above the eyebrows forming a headband. Determine whether you want this band outside the mane or buried under it and measure. Cut the strap about 3 to 4 inches longer than necessary to go around the head. Either thread the extra length through the other half of the pack buckle or use the heated nail to melt holes about 1/2 inch apart to accept the tongue of a regular buckle. Buckle the headband snuggly around the horse's head and center the buckle at the back.

Step 3: The Top Band
This band runs over the top of the head and down along the sides of the face just in front of the ears. Lay a piece of the strapping across the horse's head just in front of the ears extending about 3 inches below the jaw line on each side of the head and cut it. After cutting, position the top band carefully, and mark where it crosses the headband on each side. Sew the two bands firmly together on both sides. I sew a square almost as large as the strap width and then sew an X inside the square.

Put the harness back on the horse and make sure the top band is secure and falls just in front of the ears. Place an O-ring on each strap with the strap folded to the inside, adjust so that the O-ring is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch below the jaw line and pin. Examine the horse from the front, the O-rings should hang evenly and be slightly below the jaw (be sure the horse's mouth is closed). Sew the O-rings to the straps.

Step 4: The Chin Strap
Run a strap beneath the horse's chin from one O-ring to the other. This strap should be loose enough for you to slide your fingers underneath. Cut the strap with about 2 inches extra on both sides. Run the cut ends through the O-rings, fold them with the cut end inside, and pin. Examine the horse from the front. The chinstrap should hang loosely in front of the throat and below the chin. Sew the chinstrap.

Step 5: The Right Neck Strap
The neck straps will run under the mane and combine with the chinstrap to form a closed loop around the horse's neck. This loop should be comfortably loose but too small to slide off over the horse's chin.

Attach a buckle to the strapping and center the buckle at the back of the neck level with the O-rings. Run the strap through the right- hand O-ring, folding the free end outwarD this time. Add about 2 inches and cut the strap. Sew the strap to the O-ring with a single line of heavy stitching and leave the end free for now.

Step 6: The Left Neck Strap
Cut a strap long enough to run from the left-hand O-ring to the center of the neck in back and add about 6 inches for adjustments. Run the strap through the O-ring and fold back 2 inches on the outside. Sew the strap to the O-ring with a single light line of stitching. This is an intentional weak point which will allow the horse to tear off the halter if it gets hung up on something. Either thread the strap through the remaining half of the pack buckle or melt holes in it for a regular buckle. Adjust the neck straps to get the appropriate fit: loose but too small for the horse to scrape the halter off.

Step 7: Adding the D-rings
The halter has three D-rings for guiding and tying the horse. All D-rings are intentional weak points and should pull loose with a sudden jerk. One D-ring is under the chin and will accommodate a lead rope or lunge line. The other two rings are on the neck straps just behind the O-rings and can be used to attach reins or to cross-tie the horse. For the horse's safety, never attach a tie line to the O-rings themselves.

Cut a 2 inch length of strapping, and run it through a D-ring. Sandwich the D-ring between the strapping and the chinstrap and center the D-ring. Sew the straps lightly together on each side of the D-ring.

On each neck strap, slide a D-ring onto the stub projecting outward from the O-ring and slide it down to the row of stitching holding the O-ring. Lightly sew another row of stitching next to the D-ring. This completes the halter as a functional unit.

Finishing Touches
You might want to tidy up the loose ends (literally) and make the halter look better. There are a number of loose stubs sticking out which will look much better if they are sewn lightly to the strap beneath. Remember these are all weak points so don't sew them too well. The buckles may also need a little more work. If you are using regular buckles, you might want to add loops of strapping on the right side to tuck the end of the left strap into. If you are using pack buckles, you can sew down the remaining strap on the left side of the buckle after you have adjusted them. A brass nameplate, either on the forehead strap or on the left vertical strap is authentic and looks nice. You can either sew it on or use brass rivets.

Enjoy yourselves and remember, it's the horse inside that counts.

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