Do Halters Make A Difference?

(Part of the stock horse type conformation series)

by: Suzanne Sylvester/S. Sylvester Photography


Basic conformation shots (usually used for sale horse ads, or for stallion promotion) are best done with a neat, clean leather halter.  While you can use a silver halter, I prefer not using one on a horse that you are doing conformation shots of.  Silver halters, while beautiful, can detract from a beautiful head as much as then can enhance one.  If the halter is a big clunky one, it can make a refined head look awful, and a slim dainty halter can make a horse’s head look huge. Show horse ads, or stallion ads, by all means use one! After all they are gorgeous and your customer will likely have one that will enhance your subjects head.

Let’s take a look at what different halters look like in conformation shots.  I have used just pictures of the horses’ heads as that is all we will be focusing on in this segment.

Rope Halters

We have all seen them and most of us have probably used them, in-fact you will find them on most ranches.  They are cheaper than regular halters and when you use a ton of them, they are very cost effective.  But for photos? Here is what using them on a horse during a conformation shoot can look like.


The rope halter on this horse made his head look really long. In reality, he actually had a pretty decent head. (not the prettiest, but a lot better than what it looks like here…).  One of the other issues with using a rope halter is editing out the lead rope,  unless the rope is almost laying on the ground, you get really weird angles on the bottom of the halter. Look at photo 2, the angle of the bottom of the halter, is just well…..ick! At least we don’t have the “tail” of the halter hanging down under the horses jaw.  On the plus side, the halter is on the horse so that it fits.


Let’s just avoid rope halters, shall we?

Nylon Halters

A nylon halter while not as nice as a leather halter can actually be ok.  I would suggest not using old faded halters, or ones with frayed ends or a ton of adjustable hardware on it.  Fit is essential! An ill fitting halter can again make a horse’s head look nothing like the real thing.


The worst part of this halter is that it has so much hardware on it.  While being able to adjust the halter at the chin and throat are super handy, they take away from the horse.  Your eye ends up being drawn to the halter hardware rather than the horse’s cute face.


While this halter still has more hardware than I like to see, it is not near as prominent as photo number 3.  The halter looks to be fairly new and not faded.  The ends of the halter are all contained in the buckles and tucked in so as to be less distracting.  This halter is not a bad second choice to a plain leather one.


Leather Halters

What can I say? Leather is just neat, clean and does not draw attention away from a horse’s head.  Name plates on the halters are fine, they are usually simple and clean.  Leather halters need to still be clean, no different than if you are going to a horse show, dirty, cracked halters are all a distraction and could be a problem if it breaks during your shoot and the horse runs off.



This handsome guy is sporting a very basic leather halter.  Your eye is not drawn to the halter but rather to a beautiful face. Notice that while we are looking at the off side of the horse, there is a buckle on this side.  The nice thing about using a halter that is adjustable on both sides is that you can get a better fit.


As we have seen in several of these photos fit of the halter is as important as the type of halter you use.  The halter should fit nicely up under the throat (not to tight) and should cross over the bridge of the horse’s nose. Be sure not to run the nose piece to low (see photo 1…) but also be sure not to run it up to close to the eyes either.  I do not have any preference as to what type of lead rope is used, as I remove them in post.  I can say that a frayed rope is harder to remove in post than one that is not…lol

Halters are important enough to me on these shots that I bring several to my shoots. I have various sizes so that I can fit a yearling up to a stallion.  Just another way to offer service to your customers.  If you offer this service to your customers be sure to clean the halters after each session so as not to accidently pass any potential illnesses to the next customer.

© Suzanne Sylvester/S. Sylvester Photography



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One Response to Do Halters Make A Difference?

  1. Thanks for this! Your final paragraph answered the question that I’d been rolling around in the back of my mind.

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