Halter Breaking 101

Halter breaking your next year’s show project can be easier and more effective by following these steps in earning the trust of your new calf. This is a 5 day step by step process that has been successful.

Transportation and delivery
Some gentle-natured calves can become traumatized by being hauled in a stock trailer for the first time by themselves. This bad experience can set you back several days in the gentling/breaking process. Always try to take a seasoned or experienced show animal to ride with when you go to pick up your new project. This will help reduce the stress level on the “new guy” which may have never been hauled previously. It’s also a good idea to give the calf a pen-mate until he is adjusted to his or her new surroundings.

Day 1-3
Go in the pen and let the calf get used to being confined with your presence. His first instinct may be to run around the perimeter sniffing, snorting and looking for an escape route. Just be slow, calm and talk to the calf.

Once he has settled and realizes he isn’t in danger, bring a blower to the outside of the pen and run the hose beneath the fence. This will safeguard the calf from damaging the blower or injuring himself. Use the blower to blow on the calf’s legs, belly and entire body. This will get him familiar with the feel of being touched and get him used to the blower.

Day 4 – Haltering the Calf
Once you have established the trust of your new calf, it is time to put the halter on for the first time. We recommend using a rope halter with a slip ring. This will allow your calf to receive some slack which will be easier on their jaw. The length on the rope halter will allow you to wrap around the panel or fence and slide back on the end of the lead and get behind the calf pushing him forward toward the tie rail. Until the calf is familiar with being caught you can use a show stick to assist you with putting the halter around the nose and then the ears of your calf.

Day 5 – Breaking to Tie
The first time we tie our project we need to tie at a neck or nose level height. Do not tie him in an elevated position yet. We also like to leave 6″ to 12″ of slack from the tie rail so the calf can stop pulling back and get relief on his jaw and chin. The slip ring will provide slack under the chin and comfort when he stops pulling back. Do not leave you calf unattended on the first day of tying. As the calf earns respect of the halter gradually tie his head higher toward a show position. Use a show stick to rub and scratch all over the calf as a continued trust relationship will develop. This will allow you to work up to standing next to your calf to brush and comb on it. Once that has been achieved comfortably it is time to slowly introduce a daily hair care program.

Some of these simple steps can be helpful in making the halter breaking experience less stressful for you and your new calf as well as preventing injury to either of you.