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bitless bridle vs. Little S Hackmore

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  • bitless bridle vs. Little S Hackmore

    This is geared mainly for those that are using a bitless bridle like Dr. Cook's or the Nurtural, but anyone's comments are welcome!

    I have a difficult horse to find a bit for...I have a Little S Hack that he seems to 'enjoy' (usually stuffs his head in when he sees I have it, vs his bitted bridle), but I am thinking I want better communication with him and the bitless seem to offer it.
    Is it all hype or does anyone have first hand experience with such a 'revelation'?
    RIP Traveler & Tesla <3

  • #2
    I tried the bitless on my pony and she just laughed at it. Albeit, I hadn't had her very long and we were still getting used to each other. She just ran right through it.

    It is a timely post, because I used a Hackamore yesterday, (usually use a Mylar Combination) and she went great in it.

    Although, she is pretty level headed and not hot, plus knows voice commands, especially when I say "walk".
    MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


    • #3
      For me, "more communication" meant an English Mechanical Hackamore (I got a Herm Sprenger knock-off). Good brakes
      <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


      • #4
        I've been using "English" hackamores for years and like my ability to communicate with the horse. I switched from the Little S to the English type and won't go back. The curb chain on the English hackamore sits lower, in the chin grove, instead of higher up on the jaw bones. I find my horses are more responsive with this set up and the shanks are quite short. Scroll down on this page:
        http://www.american-flex.com/bits.htm and you will see the one I use. It costs more than the cheap ones but this is cast aluminum shanks, made in England, versus chromed steel shanks made ????

        Bonnie S.


        • #5
          I wanted to move my gelding from a bit to bitless. I tried him on a little S and he didn't like it all. I think that had to do with the curb chain being so high up on his jaw. I then purchased a Dr. Cook's bitless bridle. Although I could control him in it he was very charge-y and he misbehaved (more than usual). He was better in the Dr. Cook's than in the Little S and might probably have improved with more work. I have since moved him to a Kimberwicke with a snaffle mouth...he is doing fine in it. I tried the Dr. Cooks bridle on my mare though and she LOVES it. She goes very well in it, is softer and more responsive and just seems happier. I think it really depends on the horse. Different horses prefer different set ups.
          "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


          • #6
            Each horse is different! You have to try one to determine if it works for your horse. I have tried similar to Dr Cooks and I was unimpressed. My horses tend to be the hotter ones and need a bit more coverage than those can do.

            My current mare does very well in the little S. If it works, I use it. If not, I move on. I hate the nasty western mechanicals, but if my horse worked well in it, I would use it.

            Good Luck. Try and find one that you can borrow. It will save you lots of money.
            Life is too short to argue with a mare! Just don't engage! It is much easier that way!

            Have fun, be safe, and let the mare think it is her idea!


            • #7
              I use the Little S a lot. My horses understand lateral pressure/release and it has plenty of turn in the design. It does not provide much whoa so if you horse doens't have good brakes installed, fair warning.

              The Dr Cooks is something I won't use: poor release of pressure once you turn loose, so the horse's head stays in a bit of a bind. Very effective at soring the poll if your horse does not have good steering.


              • Original Poster

                oh great, more confusion! LOL
                I will ask around and see if anyone has stuff for me to borrow, otherwise this gets very expensive... What do you all do with the stuff that doesn't work?

                and just a little history: I've had my gleding a little more than 2yrs now. When I 'test rode' he was in a Tom Thumb and hated it, you could tell. When I got him we tried several different snaffles with similar reactions and no brakes! We found the mullen mouth worked the best and I have been sticking with that since. He's a bit of a 'fighter' and likes to go with his head up and will blow through some cues regardless of what you do. Never tried a sidepull because I want to be able to 1-rein stop if need be and they just move too much for that. My goal has always been to go bitless with him, so I got the S Hack and have had pretty good luck with it, but still not quite right I think.
                I plan to play with it all more now that the weather is cooperating, hence the post!
                RIP Traveler & Tesla <3


                • #9
                  A properly fitted sidepull doesn't go anywhere. Fit it low and snug to their face. These BS rope 'sidepull/halters' are just that, BS. Riding in a rope halter is not the same as riding in a sidepull.

                  I won't buy a Dr Cooks so there was no money to lose on it, LOL, otherwise ebay and craiglist are your friend, and tacktrader.com

                  Your horse needs to learn how to go where he's told in the mildest head gear possible. I would school him in whatever bit you think he likes the best, and get a professional's opinion of how/why he's evading the bit. Why do I say that? Because I was booked to teach 'the attitude out of ____'s mare' this week and what I was presented with was a mare who needs her teeth done, in the 2 dollar bit that comes with any nylon bridle, and a rider who paws at the reins to turn and kicks to go. Coarse riding on a fed up mare. This is not meant to hurt or impune your skillset, just sayin' that the bit doesn't turn the horse and amping up the bit is not a great idea unless a good set of eyes says sure, let's try ___ and see how he goes.

                  Good luck and best wishes.


                  • #10
                    I like the Dr. Cook's bridle

                    Well, I'll be a little different here. I have the Dr. Cook's on my husband's TWH, and really like it. This particular horse has good brakes and steering, and went well in a french-link snaffle, but I wanted to use bitless for longer trail rides.

                    I generally trail ride my Arab in a rope halter, but wanted my husband to have (or feel like he has...) a little more control.

                    I used the Dr. Cook's once at home before taking him out on the trails, just to get him used to the feeling. He's much softer in this bridle - he seems to put his head down and relax faster. I found that the brakes were there right away, but the steering took a little practice, and still isn't as subtle as it was with a bit (not sure I'd ever be willing to do bitless dressage). You do have to be disciplined about releasing the pressure as soon as you get what you asked for, but the bridle seems to release right away.

                    I have the nylon version, which I've heard some people say they don't like as much as the beta or leather (feel it doesn't release as quickly). It's working fine for this horse, and I've been very happy with it.

                    I'm definitely not an expert on bitless, but feel free to pm if you have any questions about my experience.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks Katarine, I do not take offense. He is unfortunately just one of those horses who has been through 2 rounds of training so far and still isn't they way I want him. I don't feel like it is the trainers (two different ones as we moved states), more he is slow to learn and 'give in'. What I mean is that he has that fighter attitude that takes a fairly dominant person to overcome! Yet, he absolutely hates being yelled at (he freezes if someone is yelling at another horse nearby).

                      The first round of bitting issues was a teeth thing, and we figured that out and resolved it very quickly. He was much better after that... His current issues I think or more related to stubbornness than anything else and I want to find something that is 'gentle,' because he acts like he has had very harsh treatment in the past and I want him to realize it doesn't have to be that way, but also gives me some security if he gets too strong.

                      Thank you GreyDes, I will probably PM you in not too long to discuss it more!
                      RIP Traveler & Tesla <3


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by paintedtrails View Post
                        We found the mullen mouth worked the best and I have been sticking with that since. He's a bit of a 'fighter' and likes to go with his head up and will blow through some cues regardless of what you do. Never tried a sidepull because I want to be able to 1-rein stop if need be and they just move too much for that.
                        If your horse likes a mullen, you might be interested in the Pee Wee bit. It has worked extremely well for my horse, who used to have very similar problems to what you are describing. It's a very gentle bit, but when you need that one-rein stop, it gives you excellent brakes without causing pain to the horse.

                        It's more popular in Australia, but actually designed by an American. Here's the Australian website.


                        They used to have a much better US website, but I can't find it anymore. Anyway, Chick's is selling it.

                        RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.


                        • Original Poster

                          Very interesting bit, BHLH. I might consider that one further...

                          There really needs to be a bit rental program or something! LOL
                          RIP Traveler & Tesla <3


                          • #14
                            For those of you that use a Little S do you cover the noseband with anything? It seems harsh by itself. My mom uses one on her endurance horse and has it covered with a huge wool fleece wrap, I don't think her mare can even feel it. I want to try it on my coming 4 year old, I have been using a rope halter which is better than a bit but if he is distracted then I lose fine communication. Basically I have to really use some effort to stop or steer when he isn't paying attention. If he is paying attention control is perfect.


                            • #15
                              I have Little S that I bought about 16 yrs ago. It is my favorite piece of equipment. I don't think I have ever found a horse that didn't go well in it.

                              I replaced the chain with a leather strap.

                              I covered the rope nose with vetrap, one layer at a time. I loved being able to have a new color every season... Last year it got so big in diameter that I cut off half the layers and wrapped the whole thing in black electical tape. It still looks great and has not needed re-wrapping.

                              If I were to get a new one I'd buy the new flat leather nose.


                              • Original Poster

                                So what is the real difference between a Mechanical Hack and Little S Hack (with the flat-nose or rope)?

                                I do happen to use a fleece cover on the rope nose for my Little S, but maybe Vet-wrap would be better for color and less-bulk!
                                RIP Traveler & Tesla <3


                                • #17
                                  Mechanical hacks can have a lot of leverage depending on how long the shanks are, so can be very strong, whereas the little S has very little leverage and is mild.

                                  I like the little S a lot, and find most horses go very well in it. I also have a long shanked mechanical hack and actually like it for endurance rides, especially the start of endurance rides when my horse can be keyed up. If you have good hands, you have a lot of control but its not overly harsh at all. Its really just all about what works for you and your horse.

                                  I also have a bitless bridle that I think is a knock-off of the Dr. Cook and I just really dont like it very much.


                                  • #18
                                    more he is slow to learn and 'give in'. What I mean is that he has that fighter attitude that takes a fairly dominant person to overcome! Yet, he absolutely hates being yelled at (he freezes if someone is yelling at another horse nearby).
                                    I think you might be going about this wrong- he sounds to me like a very timid sort of horse and when you approach him with your "you must give in" attitude he panics and can't think or do anything except react (i.e. "slow to learn", "fights"). He's probably very confused if he's had two half-done different sets of "training" put on him.
                                    Instead of looking for yet another gizmo that might "fix him" you might want to just put him in a starter-type setup (a bosal maybe if your goal is go bitless? or a nice french-link snaffle?) and gently re-teach him from scratch what your cues mean in a nice quiet arena or field.

                                    Note that throwing the head up in response to a rein cue usually means the rider is being too rough with the reins, and/or that the horse really doesn't like the bit setup, not that the horse is "fighting".


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Wendy, I figured the thread might go this route, as I'm sure what I said can be the "wrong" way to explain it and thus miscommunicated.

                                      I would agree with you EXCEPT that it is not only me to have these issues with him, but also the much more experienced trainers who 'know' their hands better. I do not think of myself as an exceptionally advanced rider, but I am not a beginner either.

                                      And FWIW, I always initially ask very lightly. Only when he fights does the pressure increase and that I make him "give in". Think of it like a horse who knows he's on his way back to the barn or to food and is fighting you becaue you want to go a different direction. He is a horse that tests and you have to stand up to him...He has been worked in Parelli methods with myself, and Clinton Anderson by the previous owners (who only had him 6mos) and we have overcome major herd bound issues together with trust, patience, and determination (he used to charge who ever had the lunge line).

                                      He'll toss his head up to tell you he doesn't want to do something and try to pull the reins from you. He does not toss his head up with gaping mouth with a pained look on his face.

                                      The slow to learn label was actually from a trainer... I got him at 10 yrs old and unfortunately have a lot of "untraining" to do from much harsher people.
                                      I am just trying to find the best, least agressive way to do that.
                                      RIP Traveler & Tesla <3


                                      • #20
                                        I don't do anything to the Little S nosebands- I don't hang on their face so it doesn't chew them up.

                                        The little S IS a mechanical hack, it's just a gentle one.