Equine Affaire Art Sends the (Wrong) Message

We’re big fans of the Equine Affaire. We’ve attended the annual version in Massachusetts (there’s one in Ohio, too) for years and have even had a booth there.

So it was with a big “Oh, no!” that we saw the organization’s logo art for this year. It shows a horse grazing in a pasture with its halter on.

Say all you will about so-called “field safe” halters. The consensus here is that any halter left on a horse at liberty is a bad one.

Just ask the guys of Unbranded, who left a halter on one of their mustangs and then woke up to a severely injured horse. (It likely happened when the horse went to scratch his chin, as shown in the illustration below.

Just ask Julie Goodnight, who wrote about it on her social media page:

It’s a scene that irritates me every time I see it: 

horses turned out with halters on…I am not sure whether this is done out of ignorance, laziness or simple incompetence, but I am sure it is not a good idea.

In my opinion, there’s no good reason to turn a horse loose in a halter and leaving a halter on 24/7 is very poor horsemanship. It is uncomfortable, potentially dangerous to the animal and it will not resolve any training issues that the horse might have. Turned loose in a halter, the horse may potentially snag the halter on something and be stuck. Maybe he’ll panic and break free, maybe he’ll throw himself on the ground and struggle; either way the potential for hurting himself is huge.

Besides, how would you like to have that thing on your head all the time? Maybe some people think because we leave collars on dogs, it is ok to leave halters on horses, but a dog does not have the same capacity for panic and destruction that horses have.

Julie Goodnight

Often I hear people say they leave a halter on because their horse is difficult to catch. But guess what? That’s not fixing the problem—it’s avoiding it. Training and good handling will fix a hard-to-catch horse. Leaving a halter on 24/7 will not. I’ve worked with many wild, unhandled or traumatized horses and the temptation to leave a halter on is great. But until the horse is desensitized to your approach, your touch and the halter going on and off, your problem is not solved.

Thanks, Julie.

We visited with the Equine Affaire’s Executive Producer Coagi Long. She said of the watercolor, “It’s a piece of art and is not necessarily meant to be instructional by any means.” During the process for selecting the painting, the fact that the horse was wearing a halter was not addressed. But, Long said, “it’s something we could address in future.”

Thanks, Coagi, we hope you do!

Curious about other practices that we’ve given Thumbs Down?

Read about Cross Ties

Read Amy Skinner’s take on Cross Ties

Read more about Haltering

Posted in Clinicians, Safety and tagged , , .


  1. This is a big pet peeve of mine. There is no reason for it. Turning them loose wearing a halter is just irresponsible and dangerous. If you can’t catch your horse than that is something that YOU need to work on. All good horseman that I know remove the halter when they turn their horses out They have their halters hanging in the barn and go out with them draped over the crook of their arm when they go out to get their horse. Maybe Equine Affaire can airbrush it out of that painting.

  2. I agree…no halters should be left on a horse unless a human is actively handling them. Each day, one of the five horses on my farm gets to roam free-range on our property, with no halter. I can walk up to any of them at any time. Calling this logo a piece of art is no excuse for promoting bad horse practices.

  3. While haltering unattended horses is not something that I recommend nor practice, it is way off the edge of the radar for what is appalling in the American horse industry today. Its at most a sign of poor-horsemanship or perhaps just someone’s rush to judge. A lot was assumed from this single image which clearly shows an animal at peace. If given the choice – which I am obviously not – I say halter all of them and Stop Soring, Breeding and Slaughtering them! There is a National group who uses halters hanging from the fence, gates and bumpers of cars as a symbol – a reminder of all those who already went to a Puntilla death in Mexico and will never wear a halter again. I’m not dismissing the issue of horses wearing halters unattended – I saw a beautiful paint stallion break his neck flirting over the fence line while galloping in a nylon halter as a kid. it was truly horrific but in comparison to the slaughterline – it was quick, painless and he never saw it coming. Lets use some of this “Care for the Horses” attitude to make some real changes for Horses in America and start with the Over-breeding that has thrown off the economics of Supply and Demand. No finger pointing necessary – if they breed and do not take back the animals when unwanted then they are the problem. Production / breeding needs to be given far more thought than it has been for its impact on the industry as a whole and the animals at the center of it. I get the same gut wrenching feeling every time I see a picture or artwork of a foal that some seem to have felt with this image of a horse freely grazing in a halter. For statistics do not support a positive outcome for the foal as much as they do an unattended haltered horse. So, hang yer halters on the fence and tell your friends who breed to make room for those animals they created when they become unwanted, for they really are ‘Making’ the problem of Unwanted horses in America. Slaughter is just Not a respectable option in a business plan in a Country as great as ours in the 21st century. ( For those who are interested – 50k horses have already crossed to Mexico thru Las Cruces NM since Jan 1 2017 https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/al_ls635.txt )

  4. You are making the assumption that this horse is out in the field, by itself just roaming around. What if it is taking a break in the pasture after working? I often do this with my horse in a field where I’m walking with it. Truly, attacking art, thinking people learn from art and not taking responasability to actually learn from having animals is just…. well… like many in modern times. Trying to shove all responsability onto those around us rather than owning it ourselves. What about removing most shoes from horses? That causes WAY more damage while out unattended and yet we don’t worry if artwork shows horses with metal shoes. I am all for removing halters and TEACHING people why they should or should not be doing things as that is the way people should actually learn. I truly hope that my painting on the wall of a beautiful abstract horse with prehistoric tattoos all over it’s body isn’t telling people they should be going out and putting handprint tattoos on their horses. We need to monitor our judgement and not condemn so quickly.

    • Thanks for your comments, Amy. In fact, we are educating. That’s why we have included comments from Julie Goodnight and links to other informative articles.

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