People often ask me about the gear I use on my horses and what I like about it. While that is a huge topic, I’d like to share my thoughts on a few of my most important, go-to pieces of gear and explain why I find them so useful.
Rope Halters & Leads
While you don’t have to use a rope halter when training a horse, I find that a good rope halter allows the horse to feel what you are asking really well, and you can also feel the horse better than with other kinds of halters. However, all rope halters and leads are definitely not created equal, and once you’ve had a quality one, you really notice the differences.
Having worked with just about every kind of halter out there, my personal favorites are the Burwash brand rope halters and leads. They are made with the highest quality marine rope which not only provides exceptionally good feel, but also helps reduce the likelihood of rope burn for you and your horse if things ever go a bit sideways. I use their loop-end leads, which provide an uninterrupted connection between the halter and lead, improving feel and communication. The Burwash products also hold up extremely well over time, so while they may cost a bit more, their overall quality and the benefits they confer make them well worth the price.
20Ft Working Line
I believe very strongly in the value of ground work, not only for building a connection with a horse, but also for teaching a horse how to develop correct balance and self-carriage. When you are doing close work in hand, a regular lead line is fine, but there are many important exercises that require work on a larger circle, and a normal lead is just too short. My preference for this kind of work is a 20’ marine rope line, once again made by Burwash. As with their halters and leads, the Burwash working lines have great feel, are not overly thick or heavy, and will last for many, many years, even with hard use. I prefer them quite a bit over a typical lunge line, as the Burwash line allows a connection and back-and-forth communication that you just don’t get with a lunge line.
A sidepull is a form of bitless bridle that I find a must-have for many different situations. They are an excellent way to start a young horse, allowing you to teach the basics of softness and balance before ever introducing a bit. They can also be very helpful in retraining horses that have been struggling with a bit, and they are often a great choice for riders who are working on developing softer hands.
My own sidepulls are custom built by Berlin Leather. The noseband is constructed of two pieces of leather with reinforced stitching at all connection points. Rein connection rings are located on the side of the noseband and are supported by bracing on either side for added stability. While some sidepulls have a stiff noseband designed to apply a lot of pressure across the bridge of the nose, the ones I use have a broad, pliable leather noseband that ensures optimal comfort for the horse while still allowing good communication.
While it has never been my goal to sell products or push people to use specific types of gear, so many people have wanted to get the same items I use that we have made that easier by putting all my favorites together in our online tack store, which you can find at http://JoshNichol.com/tack-store. If you have any questions about the gear I use or have other tack-related questions, please get in touch!
Beautiful gear, Josh! I have an 18 year old Arab mare who uses a rope halter side pull. Would your leather side pull be a good replacement as I’m needing a new one soon. Thanks!
The leather sidepull is a great replacement for the rope style. The leather is soft and the width increases the surface area that the noseband sits on. This makes for a comfortable fit!
I still use the sidepull I got from you many years ago. It has been so great for so many horses, especially the ultra-sensitive Gryphon, who went better in that than in the best bits money could buy. Thanks for always bringing us wonderful ways to work with our horses, Josh!
You are so welcome Susan! I can still remember riding Gryphon in the sidepull! What an amazing horse!
I’m still using the side pulls that I’ve purchased years ago…I’m wondering if they have a shelf life? Do you ever need to think about replacing them?
If the leather is taken care of they will last years!
I have had my rope halter for many years. you may have a record when I purchased the halter. The halter still looks like new and the lead has not frayed and still has its’ life. I have used it on several horses.
I would have to look, it most definitely has been a while! I’m glad you have enjoyed it!
Is the 20 foot good to use with a cavesson? I don’t like a snap on a cavesson either because it sits right on their nose and may bump them in movement just because it is heavier even when it is light metal. I guess one would attach the 20 foot line to the cavesson before putting it on as to not pull the line through all the way to fasten when the cavesson is already on so as to not be fiddling with and “jerking around” on their nose?
Hi Claudia, The 20′ line was designed for the cavesson for the very reason you’ve mentioned. I’ve found that the buckle on the a lunge line can end up banging the horses nose. The weight of the rope is also quite a bit lighter as it’s only 3/8″ in diameter which makes it easier to handle.