You may train at liberty of course but there are different options if you are looking to use some equipment
The headcollar is our standard bit of kit for leading horses, certainly in the UK. However for inhand, groundwork or lunge work is provides less precise control, as the broad straps are often loose, which can challenge you when trying to give clear signals to your horse.
The attachment of the lead rope is under the chin, which doesn’t create a turning effect on the nose when bending or on a circle. If the horse follows the rope it will come in the direction from the cheek first, thus a slightly outside flexion, rather than a more correct inside upper cervical flexion.
Not ideal for groundwork but better to use a headcollar than no groundwork if it’s the only bit of kit you have!
A rope halter provides clearer signals, than a headcollar, from you to the horse due through the thinner rope. You can give a clear pressure on and off, and quickly for leading and handling. But with it being looser it can slide around.
However due to the narrow ropes, too much pulling from either the handler or the horse can create high pressure in small areas. Also some have extra knots and metal clamped around specifically to add extra pressure. Training to respond to lighter pressures should be carried out if you are finding you need to use high force to control your horse.
The direction of pull from the lead rope is the same as using a headcollar because the attachment of the lead rope is under the chin which doesn’t create a turning effect on the nose when bending or on a circle. If the horse follows the rope it will come in the direction from the cheek first, thus a slightly outside flexion, rather than a more correct inside upper cervical flexion.
Often used for natural horsemanship and handling training, these are also used for more technical inhand work. The challenge with a rope halter is the lack of clarity to direct the turn of the head and potential high pressure if you or your horse pulls. You also need to be careful if there is a clunky metal clip to the led rope u Der the chin.
A bridle can be used if your horse was bitted before you started this training or rehab. If you are bitless then it is not appropriate of course nor is rehab the time to teach inhand work and rein-aids. If you have time to ‘bit’ your horse before surgery or before you start rehab, then this would be a better time.
A bit can provide very clear signals to the horse for stop, turn and no pressure during movement, but can be abused if the pressure is not released. Being a bit uncoordinated with timing of aids can happen, so take care not to be pulling hard on their mouth.
If your horse is not safe in a headcollar or rope halter, using a bridle for leading might be a better option, in the short term although retraining is the ultimate best option.
During inhand work, using two reins gives outside rein which can help with controlling straightness and the outside shoulder. However having more reins to control can be tricky!
And remember the fit of the bridle and bit are as important as the fit of a saddle!
The cavesson is my preferred choice for inhand, ground and lunge work. It provides clear direction to the horse for the correct turn of the head and the neck to the inside. It also does confuse any aids to the bit or mouth. The cavesson has to fit snuggly to avoid it twisting and the cheek pieces rubbing across the eyes. The best styles are the European leather covered metal links rather than the heavier, traditional English ones.
However a headcollar, rope halter or bridle used for inhand, ground or lunge work is better than not doing any inhand, groundwork or lunge work!