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Hackamore experiment, what does this tell me?

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  • Hackamore experiment, what does this tell me?

    I have a somewhat retired QH who I just do some low level jumpers with these days. He has a tendency to get heavy in the canter, mainly when doing coursework and especially when he gets tired, to the point of being almost exhausting to ride and pick back 'up'. On the flat, I can do lots of transitions or circles to get him back up, but not so much while on course We've tried numerous bits with minimal difference, and we still do weekly dressage lessons to help with the issue.

    Enter my experiment....horse was a bred and trained pleasure horse for most of his life until I bought him. I started noticing when I'd ride him on the buckle, he'd stay much more uphill, so for fun I tried riding him in a jumping hackamore the other day. I was blown away, he was SO LIGHT. He was even turning easier than usual, and he was jumping GREAT.

    So I guess my question, does this make any sense? It makes me wonder if I'm being too handsy with the bit and making him lean on me whereas with the hackamore there's a slight loop in the reins? Or are there some horses that just do better without contact from the bit? Please educate me!

  • #2
    I'd hazard a guess that he is gradually leaning more and more on the bit throughout your ride. By the time you notice you have already allowed him to lean so he doesn't believe you when you suddenly decide that leaning is not allowed. If you were quick at the beginning of the ride to insist he carry himself, and quick to nip the first hints of leaning (consistently) you could see a big difference.

    My QH was lazy enough to do the minimum I asked for, and also too lazy to argue if I insisted he work properly (because he knew I was going to make him do it anyway).

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    • #3
      Probably a little bit of all those things! I just switched my mare to a jumping hackamore for the opposite problem - way too much head tossing. It has essentially completely disappeared after only a few rides. She takes a half halt much better in the hackamore and is more focused on the job rather than arguing with me. She is lighter and more responsive than she has ever been. For my horse, I suspect she just prefers less contact (who wouldn't!) and I may be a bit handsy (at least in her opinion!) when we are doing more complex jumping exercises.

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      • #4
        Not surprising to me at all. There are many kinds of hackamores, which one did you choose?

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        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by RedHorses View Post
          I'd hazard a guess that he is gradually leaning more and more on the bit throughout your ride. By the time you notice you have already allowed him to lean so he doesn't believe you when you suddenly decide that leaning is not allowed. If you were quick at the beginning of the ride to insist he carry himself, and quick to nip the first hints of leaning (consistently) you could see a big difference.

          My QH was lazy enough to do the minimum I asked for, and also too lazy to argue if I insisted he work properly (because he knew I was going to make him do it anyway).
          Oh yes, this sounds exactly like my guy. He's as lazy as I allow him to be. I can absolutely see that happening too, I'm not catching it early enough and he gets heavier and heavier until he's tuning me out. So, why do you think he isn't testing his limits with the hackamore and staying more uphill? I have one theory (below) but I'm genuinely curious!


          Originally posted by leheath View Post
          Probably a little bit of all those things! I just switched my mare to a jumping hackamore for the opposite problem - way too much head tossing. It has essentially completely disappeared after only a few rides. She takes a half halt much better in the hackamore and is more focused on the job rather than arguing with me. She is lighter and more responsive than she has ever been. For my horse, I suspect she just prefers less contact (who wouldn't!) and I may be a bit handsy (at least in her opinion!) when we are doing more complex jumping exercises.
          That's amazing it's made such a difference with her! I get the same way, especially more technical courses when I know we need to be able to turn right away but I think he's happier with less contact too. He's awesome just off my voice and seat and part of me wonders if he almost gets offended when I pull on the reins sometimes and resists by pulling back? With the hackamore, it just took a little closing of my fingers and he stayed up. The other big difference was turning him, he likes to lean in especially turning left, and if I keep my inside leg on so he has to stand up he tends to resist and get really heavy on my outside rein and tries to bulge that shoulder. In the hackamore, I literally looked left and he would turn nicely balanced. It was a night and day difference (and probably relates to me doing something incorrectly). Interesting!

          Originally posted by LookmaNohands View Post
          Not surprising to me at all. There are many kinds of hackamores, which one did you choose?
          I just tried a simple jumping hackamore like this https://www.doversaddlery.com/hackam...0aAiHREALw_wcB
          It was too big, so I returned it but he worked so well in it I'm searching for one that fits!

          Comment


          • #6
            Assuming he was ridden Western in the past? A good Western horse can get very offended at rein contact because he has learned to respond to much more subtle cues and keep self carriage.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
              Assuming he was ridden Western in the past? A good Western horse can get very offended at rein contact because he has learned to respond to much more subtle cues and keep self carriage.
              Yes, for the first 11 years of his life! He won a some futurities and has a lot of AQHA points, so apparently he was a pretty good pleasure horse.

              This has been the most eye opening experiment....today I rode him in his normal bridle, but didn't maintain much contact at all. Instead, I'd close my fingers then immediately soften again and he was freaking awesome - like you said, I think the constant contact does offend him! His canter felt incredible and he didn't get heavy once. WOW.

              Comment


              • #8
                He doesn’t really know anything about contact, not bred to go that way, not trained for it, doesn’t need it to do as you ask. Respect that and ride him accordingly. No need to start him all over and try to teach him at this point in his life, just find what works best as you have here.

                He’ll happily work with you as opposed to you restarting him to work for you if you adapt to the way he was bred and trained to go for a good many years.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                • #9
                  Interestingly I have a stock horse mare that has been ridden English her whole life and never really loved contact. She would love to anticipate your cues and just work off seat and weight and voice.

                  Before I rode her a leased a quarter horse for couple of months. He had been a good Western horse but was now going hunter jumper. He basically said over and over, look how well I go off voice and seat. Don't insult me by touching my mouth. I don't need it.

                  There's things I cant figure out how to train with no contact or no bit but if you have a finished balanced Western horse who likes to jump, yes humor him and take advantage of all that balance and steering!

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                  • #10
                    Look at it this way, he spent 14 years, which is at least half his projected lifespan perfecting his craft, working independently off the subtlest of cues. And with great success and many points earned against top competition. He’s bred for it, built for it, trained for it and it’s very much who and what he is.

                    In order to get correct contact, you need to add leg and keep it active. He doesn’t do that, might well be insulted by your micromanaging every step, it’s contrary to his lifetime training. He will get confused and frustrated,

                    If he was 4 or 5 years old it might be different. But he’s a senior statesman and he’ll be much happier if you respect him for that. He’s kind to be jumping around with you, may even think it’s fun. Long as you have steering and brakes, don’t think you need to micromanage here. He sounds like a wonderful fellow to have the priveledge to ride.

                    As an aside, I’ve noticed that breeding specifically for the level, low and slow needed for championship level WP creates conformation that does not allow the kind of...Oh...”packaging” we like to see in one going on contact. Think it’s probably the shoulder and hip angles to create the desired pitty pat step combined with where the neck comes out of the chest and at what angle. I’ve ridden a bunch of these, enough to know it’s not easy for them to engage behind and come up into the bridle and if they are downhill, it’s even more difficult for them.

                    Love him for what he is. He’s telling you what he is. Listen.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      Originally posted by findeight View Post
                      Look at it this way, he spent 14 years, which is at least half his projected lifespan perfecting his craft, working independently off the subtlest of cues. And with great success and many points earned against top competition. He’s bred for it, built for it, trained for it and it’s very much who and what he is.

                      In order to get correct contact, you need to add leg and keep it active. He doesn’t do that, might well be insulted by your micromanaging every step, it’s contrary to his lifetime training. He will get confused and frustrated,

                      If he was 4 or 5 years old it might be different. But he’s a senior statesman and he’ll be much happier if you respect him for that. He’s kind to be jumping around with you, may even think it’s fun. Long as you have steering and brakes, don’t think you need to micromanage here. He sounds like a wonderful fellow to have the priveledge to ride.

                      As an aside, I’ve noticed that breeding specifically for the level, low and slow needed for championship level WP creates conformation that does not allow the kind of...Oh...”packaging” we like to see in one going on contact. Think it’s probably the shoulder and hip angles to create the desired pitty pat step combined with where the neck comes out of the chest and at what angle. I’ve ridden a bunch of these, enough to know it’s not easy for them to engage behind and come up into the bridle and if they are downhill, it’s even more difficult for them.

                      Love him for what he is. He’s telling you what he is. Listen.
                      Thank you, findeight! This all makes a lot of sense and I completely agree. I've owned this horse for a few years now and he's done really well in the low level jumpers, but this is an issue we've struggled with all along. So, I'm really relieved/excited to finally have figured out what kind of ride he prefers and feel like he'll be much happier! I'm mad at myself for not realizing this sooner, I've no doubt been annoying him for years. He's a saint and has appeased me in my 2'6" jumper goals and is a great little xc horse, he's as honest as they come and has never stopped a day in his life. He's earned a lifetime home with me

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