Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bit or a Hackamore

AshSnapClick asked on question on the FH YouTube channel which I'll have to answer here due to length restraints on YouTube replies. "Re: Bosals and Hackamores: Does a hackamore give you the same amount of control a bit would? My boy doesn't like the bit but he's also kind of a trouble maker. I would love to switch over for him to be happier but I also don't want to give him an opportunity to take advantage of me."

AshSnapClick, I would try to find out why your horse doesn't like the bit. It usually is a process of elimination. Often when we change from one bit to another, or from a hackamore to a bit or vice versa, we are often trying to treat the symptoms rather than the problem(s).

But assuming you are riding in a fairly benign bit like a snaffle, or broken bit with small shanks, or a grazing type bit, there are many reasons why the horse is uncomfortable, including:

~ Bit seated too deep. Check for more than just one wrinkle in the corners of the mouth which may indicate bit seated too deep. I like the bit touching the corners of the mouth without any wrinkle.
~ Wolf teeth still in, or coming in, or other teeth problems that make carrying a bit painful.
~ Rider too quick or harsh with their hands. The horse maybe expecting or anticipating pain or discomfort with every slight change of tension with the reins.
~ The horse hasn't been afforded the opportunity to learn to carry the bit.

In addition to eliminating the possible reasons outlined above, if the horse has not been taught to give to pressure by getting a timely release from that pressure, then you are going to see problems that may lead you to believe he is fighting you. This would be a very common reason.

There are seven places of pressure on the horse's head that we can use to get a response:

~ pressure on the tongue, bars of the mouth, and corners of the mouth all coming directly from the bit....I am calling this three separate places of pressure. 
~ pressure on the roof of the mouth - using a bit with a high port called a spade bit.  Some horseman will spend years getting a horse trained for a spade bit and it should be used only by very experienced horseman......for a novice to use this bit would be like giving a razor knife to a two year old baby.     
~ pressure under the jaw from using a curb chain or curb strap - comes into play when using a shanked bit.
~ pressure on the nose or side of the nose - such as using a halter, bosal (hackamore) or even a noseband.
~ pressure on the poll- the portion of the neck just behind the ears, that allows the horses head to swivel and bend, usually comes into play with a shanked bit.

Using a Hackamore really only gives you pressure on the horse's nose or sides of his nose. There are different diameter bosals or nose bands in a hackamore, and different material as well, usually either rawhide or rope. The smaller the diameter, the more pressure. The material of the bosal (rope or rawhide usually) and it's finish or smoothness can enhance that pressure if it is of a rough finish. The hackamore is not something I would go to, first off, just because the horse is hard to control in a bit. I think I would first try figuring out why he is hard to control and uncomfortable in a snaffle.

Hope this helps. Let me know what you figure out. Safe Journey.

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