View Full Version : Hackamore fans (or not) please respond!

Nov. 10, 2010, 07:57 PM
For those of you who use or have tried different kinds of hackamores, what do you like about them or not like in terms of function and/or design?

What kind of riding are you doing with them and what is your horse like?

I am trying to get a feel for what people look for in a hackamore.

Cross-posting on eventing

Nov. 10, 2010, 11:38 PM
I have a 15 yo TB mare. She is pretty much a been there done that kind of horse although she definitely can have a TB moment here and there. I decided to try a hack(use a short shank english hack) for riding as she would get irritated with me if I got too handsy. She is fairly petite and I'm sure has a low palate. I also do a lot of trail riding and thought it would be good for her to be able to drink. So I don't really show any more, but dabble in as many things as I can find to try- low level dressage, some hunter lessons(jumping low stuff), foxhunting, trail riding, team penning, even a parade here and there. I haven't used a bit on my mare for about 5 years and am perfectly happy as is my horse with the choice.

Small Change
Nov. 11, 2010, 06:38 AM
I ride my TB mare in a Herme Sprenger short shanked mechanical hackamore. I chose it because it has a nice wide padded noseband and was well made with short shanks. I did use a similar $35 special to try out before shelling out the money for the higher priced HS, and the cheapie has become our schooling hackamore with the HS saved for going out in public. The cheap version looks bulkier, has a chain (which I classily have wrapped in gauze and tape) where the HS has a leather strap under the chin, and the metal has rust spots. It's a thing of beauty.

I chose the short shanked mechanical hackamore with a leather strap as the mare goes reasonably well in a plain noseband style English hackamore, but occasionally needs the leverage to get her to listen. She does go alright in a bit, usually a French link or a rubber mullen mouth snaffle, but I found that when she get rattled, she'd fixate on the snaffle and tune me out entirely. She'd pick the bit up between her molars and just chomp on it while getting completely overbent and behind the bit. With the hackamore, she doesn't get into fixated mode, and seems to cope better with being a bit stressed.

Although I did give up some lateral control by going to a hackamore, I gained so much relaxation and concentration on the mare's part by switching. This in turn means things don't happen as fast on course, and I have all the time in the world to think about my corners and turns, rather than whipping through them in a bit that allowed me a little more control over where her nose was pointing.

We are only doing little jumper stuff right now, but I really feel I have found a set up she's happy and comfortable in. We tried to do the hunters previously, but she was always tense and rushy. It's too bad I can't do the hunters in a hackamore, as I finally have her relaxed enough to look the part! ;)

Nov. 11, 2010, 07:26 AM
My Arab is hard mouthed and has a small mouth (low palette), a bit is wasted on him and I hate hauling on his mouth. I like using leg and seat on him. If he were larger my leg would not be effective .
And he accepts it. I tried this on my TB and didn't bother to mount him, he got so excited without a bit I knew I'd be in trouble. Funny that.
I do not ride outside the ring with this though, too risky, even if he is 22. And it is not a shank hackamore, just an ordinary bridle with a foam piece under the nose and the reins attached to where the bit would be.

Nov. 11, 2010, 08:12 AM
We ride our pony jumper in a hackamore. She has a very sensitive mouth and is also very hot. The bit we needed to use to stop her was making her pop up and down and gape her mouth. When we switched to the hackamore, she no longer gaped her mouth and the pops were limited to lead changes. We do flat her in a bit in lessons and occassionally other times. We compete her in a hackamore. She has a short shank english hackamore with a really long curb chain.
Finding the hackamore made her so much happier when we were riding!

Nov. 11, 2010, 08:27 AM
I use a Metalab Antique Short S Rope hackamore. http://www.scruggsfarm.com/images/products/Partrade_Bits_B/237160.jpg
The rope can be pretty severe so I add a fleece cover to dull the bite. My warmblood tends to get low and on his forehand, sometimes fights the bit and tosses his head--despite NO dental problems, and just generally doesn't pay attention. Honestly I picked this specific hack because it was only $20, I didn't like the look of the english hackamores and all the other western ones involved a bike chain which I wanted to avoid.

As far as bits he goes in everything from a french link to a double twisted wire--I'd rather ride him in the hack than the double twisted wire personally.

Nov. 11, 2010, 09:25 AM
There are so many different types of "hackamore" that it's effect and the horse it belongs on varies a lot.

Either super soft mouthed horses, in an english jumping hackamore without leverage, OR problem mouth horses who may be "hot" or uncooperative in a variety of bits for one reason or another, may benefit from the use of a hackamore of some sort.

Sometimes the use of a hackamore is only a short term thing, as the horse learns something, then can go back to a bit. Other times, it is best to stay in a hackamore if possible.

The only down side to a hackamore is that you do get less "feel", less connection between the hand and the leg, without a bit to do it with.

Nov. 11, 2010, 10:53 AM
I also use the "little S" hackamore with the rope nose on my half arab. He's got a tiny mouth and a low palette which limits my conventional bit choices. If I use a bit, it's a loose ring with the oval link in the middle: https://shop.horsemensoutlet.biz/istar.asp?a=6&id=464720!ERS

I use it in the ring and out on the trail. Stopping is NOT a problem. You DO give up a reasonable measure of lateral control, so I imagine that were I to start seriously jumping with him again, we'd have to go back to the bit.

I also use a halter fleece on the rope. It is a little stronger than I need without the fleece, but it's mostly for Mr. Sensitive Face. The rope can actually put a ding in his nose. He's a wacky kid and sometimes gets a little hysterical when he gets sweatty enough for the sweat to drip down his face, so the fleece absorbs that too. Any thing to keep him calm and focused.

I didn't change to the hackamore for any mysterious training reasons, I did it because my trail ride buddy has a very bad habit of letting her horse stop and snack every five feet. urgh. I was concerned that my greedy kid would over stuff his gob, not chew the grass well, and then choke; so there you go!

Nov. 11, 2010, 01:18 PM
I school my hunter in the HS short shank hackamore at home a lot, and he loves it. He is really light and soft in it, jumps a little better, and seems generally to stay balanced better. I wish I could show in it, but for now schooling in it helps. I'd definitely recommend trying it out if you think your horse might like it. I tried it on a whim really, and I'm so glad that I did!

Nov. 11, 2010, 04:29 PM
Thanks a bunch for the replies! I am working on developing a more useful type of hackamore. I ride in them all the time but frequently wish for something that works better. I want to develop one that has both leverage and turning ability. It is nice to hear that some many people really like them.

Sorry for the thumbs down. I just got my eyes tested and haven't got my new contacts yet. I thought the thing was a question mark not a thumbs down. Geeezz.

Nov. 11, 2010, 04:55 PM
I use a hackamore - snaffle combo on my TB. He gets long and low and heavy in just a snaffle (and by long and low I mean that we put 7 strides into a 10-stride line in a 1.40m class earlier this year and I was doing everything in my power to get him to back and up again), but he curls behind anything stronger in his mouth. He also has uber sensitive "TB mouth" that tears with any sort of a slow twist or corkscrew type bit (a slow twist gag was my DREAM bit on this horse for day 1 and 2, but the corners of his mouth started getting rubbed raw by day 3). I have both the hackamore and the snaffle attached to the same cheek piece of the headstall and have one rein on each.

That gives me the turning control and the ability to ride with a connection (my guy feels much more secure with a solid connection than he does on a loose rein), but still gives me the ability to get him off of the forehand.

I'm curious to know what sort of a different hackamore you're looking at trying to develop? There are so many hackabits and hackamores and bitless bridles on the market now that you must have something specific in mind (if there's anything you can tell without it ruining your plan, that is).

Good luck!

Nov. 11, 2010, 04:55 PM
We use a different type of hackamore - a friend makes them and they are just a rope noseband with an attachment at the bottom with 2 rings for the reins. So there's no leverage, but it rides low enough that it can "bite" a little on their nose if they fight it and they also turn pretty well with it. We mostly foxhunt, and use convention bits for that, but use the hackamore any time we are trail or pleasure riding or exercising horses. We also start all our youngsters in it before graduating to a snaffle. I find they are relaxed but we still have plenty of control. Sorry I don't have the ability to post a pic, but could PM someone if they wanted to see it.

Nov. 11, 2010, 06:50 PM
You usally use a hackamore with horses that:
a) have problems with their contact
b) lean low/get heavy in front
c) get rigid through their neck/back because they were not taught to accept the bit without fighting.
In most situations it is used to correct a horse and then move on, although sometimes you may use it for the long run. I have found that with a hackamore alone, with time, they tend to get the knack of it and might start leaning a bit on the nose. Also after some use, you begin to feel you are riding a motorcycle: you turn straight with practically both reins and don't look for much curve. It's hard to achieve some rein independance with a hackamore alone...
Also, you don't have much collection and curve with a hackamore. This is why so many riders are going with the hackamore-bit combo (like Hickstead and many others): it gives you the leverage you need but with some mouth contact to achieve suppleness and curvature/collection plus it teaches a horse to accept the bit since they are synchronized: as soon as you pull the nose comes into action, teaching the horse to lift and get light when they feel bit contact.
When I used a hackamore on it's own (only for showing), after 3 or 4 shows I could feel the effect was not the same. I later switched to a Hack-bit combo and it made my rigid necked mare ridable to the point she could do 1.40m. It gave her more acceptance and control+ leverage and contact.
I say you never know which bit is for you until you try it. It's a mysterious task, almost as much as finding the right horse. :winkgrin:

Here is a video of my mare, so you see what she was like:

Nov. 11, 2010, 07:07 PM
Had to read the entire thread....apparently "Hackamore" in English is much different from "hackamore" in western. The English one is what western riders refer to as a mechanical hackamore while the western riders that compete in a hackamore are using the old Spanish vaquero bosal and mecate. It is an intermediate step between the snaffle (considered to be a "baby" bit in which horses learn lateral response and softness and which a horse is supposed to be done with by...in general.....5 years of age) and the "bridle" which is a curb bit (usually a very fancy "spoon" or "spade"). At one point in training "bridle" horses there is a period when both snaffle and hackamore are used and then another when hackamore and curb are used. The hackamore is used to encourage a horse to carry his head more vertically in preparation for carrying the curb bit. The mecate is a horse hair rein that is used to teach the horse to neck rein...the prickly feel of it is deliberate....the horse can feel movement from these before he actually gets pressure of any kind from the reins. Those two periods when the snaffle/hackamore or the hackamore/curb combo are used are called "two rein" classes. A fully trained bridle horse is usually 5 at the very youngest and often not considered "finished" until 8 or 9 or older.

Nov. 11, 2010, 07:10 PM
I use a hackamore with a happy mouth mullen loose ring as well. The combination works well on the horse for a variety of reasons. It is just a short shank English hackamore. I dyed the leather black because they all seem to come in that gawd awful light tan, which looks downright horrid on my very dark brown horse. I'll likely purchase the HS short shank before next show season since it looks a little nicer.

Nov. 12, 2010, 08:12 PM
Tried a short shanked English hackamore on my guy. He can be a little fussy with the bit, but generally schools very nicely in his Myler loose ring (the basic one), or a single joint HS loose ring. He shows in a full cheek waterford- that is a strong bit for this particular horse. I thought he might like the hack since he can be a little touchy about things in general (he's chestnut ;)).

There was pretty much no difference between his snaffle and the hack. I lost a little steering with the hack and he was stronger with the hack- for him not really a bad thing. Basically no life altering change. I will, however, purchase him one because he likes it and he can graze in it. :lol:;) It's probably something I'd ride him in 1-2x a week on hacking/light flat days. :)

Nov. 13, 2010, 11:36 AM
I use plain rope hackamores on anything I start because I want to teach them all the basics from the outside in, before ever going into their mouth. A horse's mouth is extremely sensitive and I want to keep it responsive and soft as we work through the baby steps and the horse fumbles around. Once the basics are established they can move into a snaffle.

Personally, a bosal is the equivalent to me of a curb - for refinement and straightness, so it would not come until much later, though I understand a lot of western riders use it on babies. I do not use mechanical hackamores but do have a Nurtural Bitless that works decently well so far on my english horses. I do not find they pick up contact quite as well and there is less refinement or room for subtle communication so to be honest, I do not currently use it for anything other than hacking around.

On my older horses I do still use a hackamore if we are simply hacking out (especially in the mountains) or if we are doing some type of activity where I might be inclined to be in their mouth more. Case in point: working cattle on my Quarab I am more likely to be in his mouth a little more, so I use the plain rope hackamore so I can communicate clearly yet not wreck any havoc on his mouth as we respond to the situation and activity.

Otherwise on a day-to-day basis I use the bit appropriate to that horse: thus far I absolutely love my Myler combo bit, it works on all my english horses. I use a variety of bits though from D-ring low ports (for tongue relief but no palate action) with shaped mouthpieces and sweet iron, to double-jointed Happy Mouths or such. I do not really find much of a difference between bit and hackamore, other than (as mentioned above) the lack of subtlety in communication - for me a hackamore (non-mechanical) is the least subtle, then the next step up would be a snaffle, with the final step being something with leverage or say (ultimate refinement and intimate communication) a spade bit. Otherwise, if the basics are there, a proper foundation is established, there should be no discrepancy between bit and hackamore in relation to level of control.

Nov. 13, 2010, 11:58 AM
[QUOTE=naturalequus;5220926]Personally, a bosal is the equivalent to me of a curb - for refinement and straightness, so it would not come until much later, though I understand a lot of western riders use it on babies.

There are a good many western riders who do not understand the progression from snaffle (for lateral flexion, plough rein steering, follow your nose education) usually on two to three year olds..... to snaffle/bosal combo (for beginning to get some vertical flexion and getting out of their mouth while teething with adult teeth) on three to early four year olds.... to bosal (again, out of their mouth while teething, and getting the vertical flexion to be a habit and beginning correctly done neck reining) on four to maybe early five year olds.... to the two rein (bosal plus curb to have the bit properly carried and work more on neck reining refinement) on five and sometimes six year olds.... and finally to curb/spade with something like braided rawhide reins for a little weight..on 5 to 6 or 7 year olds....these finished horses are so light that a wrist movement of 2 inches to one side or the other along with a light pickup on the rein (to cue total collection of forward movement) and a light leg tightening will get you a really impressive spin! I've been fortunate enough to ride a finished bridle horse a couple times and if you even THINK a turn or stop or rollback they read your weight, leg shift, slightest hand movement and are right there! A little scarey at first but such a rush when you get it!!