Keep an Eye on Foal HaltersBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · April 16, 2012
Safety should be the chief concern when selecting a halter for a young foal. Soft, smooth leather is the material of choice. Avoid nylon, a material that won’t break if it gets caught on something, putting the foal in danger of being injured.
The halter should fit snugly enough that the foal can’t get a foot hung up in it. Eliminate long strap ends that could swing around and hit the foal or mare in the face as the baby shakes his head. Watch for areas where the foal’s hair may be wearing off because of halter rubs.
Though it should fit moderately snugly, the halter should not be tight around any part of the foal’s head. Foals grow very rapidly, and a halter that fit last week may be too tight this week. Halters should be checked daily and adjusted or changed frequently to keep up with growth. A too-tight halter can cause skull deformities as the foal’s head continues to grow around a restricting halter strap.
Figure-8 halters are favored by some foal managers because they can easily be adjusted to fit a newborn foal. This type of halter has a single piece of leather that goes over the nose, crosses under the foal’s head, and buckles near the ear after going over the poll. A metal ring under the jaw allows a lead rope to be attached. A figure-8 halter can be sized to fit close to the foal’s head, minimizing the chance that hooves or other objects can get caught in it as the foal moves around.
The policy at some farms is to put halters on shortly after foals are born and to leave them on when foals are turned out. Other farms wait until the foals are older before introducing a halter, and use the halter only for turning out and bringing in rather than leaving it on most of the time. There are good reasons for each practice, but all would probably agree that whatever management system is used, it should be based on whatever will be best and safest for the mare and foal.