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Mechanical Bits or Going Bitless Q's

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  • Mechanical Bits or Going Bitless Q's

    I was taken with the photo on the back page of June's Equus; an ad showing a jumper in a bitless bridle. Not a heavy bosal, but a long shanked bit that when "squeezed" seems to put light pressure on both the nose and poll.
    I talked to the BM and she told me this was a "mechanical" bit and I could find one anywhere, so I looked in my "horse" catalogue and saw a few.

    I am really interested in trying this as it seems exactly what my horse would like. When she was in training, I used a nylon gag type of rein that put slight pressure on her poll. She responded very well to it and built up the appropriate muscles in her neck and back and eliminated her nervous habit of jerking her chin out.

    Does anyone have any experience with these they can share here?

    My mare has become more trustworthy (she used to buck me off/rear/bolt/etc) in our 4 years together and been rewarded by moving off the shanks to the top ring of her "wonder bit" (making it a regular snaffle)

    I plan on buying one in a tack shop, not a catalogue so I can feel it's weight first. I'd love to get the bit out of her mouth altogether since she looks as if she'll have teeth issues as she ages.

  • #2
    I think you are talking about mechanical hackamores?
    There are many kinds of them, barrel racers use one called a beetle, that is very mild, has short shanks and so can be used to turn a bit.

    Most longer shank mechanical hackamores tend to be used by playday and trail riders with older horses and that don't do more than just ride or compete where finesse is not necessary.
    Those mechanical hackamores have more of a stop on a horse, but are not good to train with as they don't give much to communicate for other than stopping, so your horse has to neckrein some already.

    There are the mechanical hackamores that have the shorter shanks and you can use for more than stopping power, but not by much and generally any mechanical hackamore is used on well trained horses and not when training.

    Here is a picture many years ago, over a course, the horse with a "Kelly hackamore".
    This was a horse that used to crash thru jumps and we had retrained and we were trying different headgear on him.
    At that time you could not show in jumpers with hackamores, so that was moot question, but it did help retrain him not to get stronger thru a course and rush the last jumps.
    Worked well for him, but we never did try with any other horse:

    http://i13.photobucket.com/albums/a2...mechhack-2.jpg

    I had never even seen a mechanical hackamore before this one and I have to say, the long shank ones, even this kind with the very small round sides, that would bend if someone exerted any kind of pressure, any mechanical hackamore exerts a very powerful force on the horse's face, nutcracker type, between the nose piece and chin strap.
    Those mechanical hackamores could to damage to a horse's light face bones, should be used very carefully.

    It is interesting to try all kinds of head gear in horses, but be careful you understand how they are working and what you want to achieve using one.

    For the more refined aids, mechanical hackamores are like using a shot gun to kill a mosquito in your bedroom, the wrong tool for the task.

    If you are not training seriously and asking very exact control of your horse, in some circumstances, a mechanical hackamore may be fine.

    Many trail riders use them because they don't ask anything from their horse that it goes on down the trail and that they can stop the horse when they want.
    Those riders don't use the reins at all, except to stop the horse and for that, the mechanical hackamore works fine.

    Here is a beetle hackamore:

    http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...2-00b0d0204ae5

    Since you have a trainer there, have her help you choose one, better try several first in a small place, be sure your horse goes well with it.

    Comment


    • #3
      You are talking about a mechanical hackamore. What you see on jumpers is an English hackamore, you can find them easily at places like Dover and SmartPak. Some horses love 'em, some don't. Huge Oldenburg mare at our farm goes beautifully in one. My gelding is simply confused by it and doesn't like it. But there are a lot of pluses to them if it works out for you.
      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

      Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
      We Are Flying Solo

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      • #4
        Some hackamores can be more nasty than a bit. I have seen a few that only a very experienced rider should ever touch the reins of... Just do your research.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks for the input! I looked at the catalogue pages & found what I saw in the photo:
          http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...7-4c0fc34e5d87

          You can see how it would put light pressure on the poll when you squeeze the reins. I also really liked the padded noseband, not so crazy about the curb chain, although I realize a necessity.

          I am fully used to using a loose curb chain very lightly from years of driving with a Liverpool bit-I can't imagine hurting my horse with this unless inadvertently yanking the reins as I fall off.

          My mare needs very little rein command these days, she's really more responsive now that she "gets" what I'm asking. (ok so our rides are "routine")
          The reins really only remind her to slow down and round up when she anticipates rushing to the next thing.

          Does anyone here think this might be lighter & easier for a horse to work with? Or just a bad idea-like riding in a halter?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by TikiSoo View Post
            Thanks for the input! I looked at the catalogue pages & found what I saw in the photo:
            http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.h...7-4c0fc34e5d87

            You can see how it would put light pressure on the poll when you squeeze the reins. I also really liked the padded noseband, not so crazy about the curb chain, although I realize a necessity.

            I am fully used to using a loose curb chain very lightly from years of driving with a Liverpool bit-I can't imagine hurting my horse with this unless inadvertently yanking the reins as I fall off.

            My mare needs very little rein command these days, she's really more responsive now that she "gets" what I'm asking. (ok so our rides are "routine")
            The reins really only remind her to slow down and round up when she anticipates rushing to the next thing.

            Does anyone here think this might be lighter & easier for a horse to work with? Or just a bad idea-like riding in a halter?
            I have seen some jumpers using those in competition, so they evidently work well for some horses.

            As far as hackamores go, that one is a light one most horses should not object to, with short shanks and purchase.
            I don't think you can expect any mechanical hackamore to be putting much pressure on the poll, if that is what you are looking for.
            For that, you need to go to gag and modified gag bits and, honestly, I have seen straight gag bits cause more problems than they solve, as they give conflicting signals and some horses don't like them at all.

            That one light mechanical hackamore would be a good one to try to ride without a bit, in a safe place.

            Always remember that control and guidance, communication with a horse thru our aids is not only about what we hang on it's head, but how we train the mind.
            We tend to focus on headgear, when some times what we need is better training in general.

            Comment


            • #7
              A mechanical hack is just not going to work right with a super-loose curb chain. It needs the curb for stability and to put pressure in the right places to function correctly. If it is very loose you are going to have to pull too much to get the same action. Better to put it on right and ride with a light hand. If you don't have light hands, don't use a mechanical hack. They are very strong, though the one you posted is about the mildest as it is not a covered bicycle chain/curb chain one.

              I have used all kinds of hacks. My pony jumper went in a noseband with reins, no curb pressure. She was extremely well-trained and I used it because sometimes if I started to turn too early in the air she would have a rail down behind with a bit, she was so sensitive-mouthed. The noseband with reins made sure I did not interfere and produced more clean rounds. On the other hand, I worked to correct the problem as well, which was fundamentally a flaw in my style and not the horse.

              My junior jumper spent some time in a leather-nosed mechanical hack similar to the one you posted but with slightly longer shanks. He jumped great in it but turning was an issue. If you have a horse that is the least bit independent, it can be hard to turn in a mechanical hack. They are really not good for horses that run out, etc. though my horse did not have that problem, he was just not as responsive for the turns and it made me miss distances which I generally looked for and saw in the turn, so when he didn't go on the line I saw I had a hard time making last-minute fixes. I agree with Bluey, it is not a bit that lends itself to refined changes.

              Overall, can be useful but try it in an enclosed space first and adjust it properly. My current jumper doesn't like the action and will just run through my mechanical hack, the nutcracker feeling freaked him out. He's the ultra-sensitive though. He does whoa on voice command so it was fine, but be careful.

              I like a hack in the bitter cold in the winter because you don't have to put a bit in their mouths. I use that or a Duo/nathe when the temps are in the teens.

              I agree that they are not going to provide poll pressure, for that something with gag action would be better, like a 2-ring. My jumper goes in a 2 ring french link happy mouth with 2 reins and I love that bit -- you can use it just like a snaffle but have the poll pressure if you need it. I have never found a need for a 3 ring, seems like too much, but the 2 ring is great.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by fordtraktor View Post
                • try it in an enclosed space first and adjust it properly.

                • I like a hack in the bitter cold in the winter because you don't have to put a bit in their mouths.

                • I agree that they are not going to provide poll pressure, for that something with gag action would be better, like a 2-ring. My jumper goes in a 2 ring french link happy mouth with 2 reins and I love that bit -- you can use it just like a snaffle but have the poll pressure if you need it. I have never found a need for a 3 ring, seems like too much, but the 2 ring is great.
                Funny, I just peeked into tack room #2 at the barn and spotted one. I'd like to borrow it for an hour just to try it in the indoor.

                I use a nylon bit in winter or give it a wrap with vetwrap. Some horses like the chewy texture.

                You know, we currently use a 3 ring happy mouth. I put her in the main ring about 6 months ago and that's when her head started lifting. She transitions down hard from a canter with her neck bulging out and I completely give her all the reins to help her balance.
                I thought maybe I'd try bitless to bring her head & neck into a balanced position to help her transition better. She slows down & rounds up like a little champ in a sitting trot but loses her mind cantering. (I know, it must be my lack of balance)

                Maybe I could try putting a spare set of reins in the lower ring of her HM and pick them up when I feel she's losing balance or getting too excited/fast and lightly nudge her poll.

                Ugh double reins! What a concept!

                Comment

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