What is a halter and why do some horses wear them?

Why do race horses wear halters and what are they used for? Paddy Power explains all…

Paddy Power betting guide horse on a halter


Horse racing betting is all the more fun when you can watch the action online—and when you live stream racing with Paddy Power you’ll notice how the horses have strapping on their heads.

These leather straps aren’t just for show. They’re possibly the most important piece of equipment a jockey has when racing. And there are two main strappings that are used on race day.

The first is a halter, which is attached to a horse when they are in the stable. The halter is usually a loose-fitting set of straps that run across the nose and head of the horse, to keep it under control. Horses can therefore be tied loosely in a stable while they wait to be raced.

Once horses are brought out to parade and ride, a bridle is attached. This is a more close-fitting set of straps that run over the ears, feature a bit between the teeth and feed reins back to the jockey.

By utilising the reins, the jockey can steer their horse, slow it down to better time a jump, or let out some slack so they potentially go faster. That’s because racing is all about the relationship between jockey and horse, and to maintain a strong bond the rider must be able to handle the beast below them.

Paddy Power halter guide

A race horse eats grass while on a halter (GETTY)


Stable workers would have a hard time controlling the horse were it not to wear a horse racing halter.

Indeed, race horses are strong animals and pack plenty of speed in those legs. Halters are used to help reduce the problem of horses galloping away from their handlers during transportation to and from the stables. Keeping hold of the halter – and therefore controlling the horse’s head – is the best way to show who’s boss without hurting the horse.

Paddy power race horse

A race horse is fitted with a bridle after coming off the halter


There are plenty of features that can be added to the bridle to help horses in a race. These include blinkers, visors and hoods, all of which are used to try and get the horse to focus on what’s in front of them, rather than distractions on the racecourse.

Eye covers and eyeshields are both similar to blinkers but use different materials to aid or reduce visibility. Indeed, eye covers are non-transparent and are rarely seen at racecourses as they are utilised to protect a damaged or blind eye.

Earplugs can also be used to avoid unwanted distractions, while a tongue tie keeps the tongue in place in order to aid the horse’s breathing during a race.

Horse racing betting headgear

Horses can wear plenty of headgear while racing but will often return to the halter when in the stable (GETTY)


If you’re racing betting and realise your horse is wearing a lot of headgear then that doesn’t necessarily mean they are less likely to live up to their odds.

After all, trainers add headgear to horses for a wide range of reasons. Sometimes the jockey will suggest a tweak in the headgear, or a trainer will decide before the race that extra features are needed. What’s more, headgear is there to help the horse, so it’s more likely that they will run better thanks to the additional gear.

Remember, the halter is replaced by the bridle when horses are being prepared to race.


Check out other guides in our Demystifying Racing series…


What do you think?