Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mechanical Hackamores or More Control?

Kacie made a comment on a post concerning Bosals and Hackamores: "I have borrowed a mechanical hackamore to try on my Haflinger. I am riding her in a wonder bit now. She plow reins and you really have to keep some hard pressure on her mouth just to keep her along the side of the road. She also can be ridden around the yard and drive way in just a halter and lead. So I am hoping that with this mechanical hackamore that I can get more control with less pressure as I normally have such as bad neck and shoulder pain from the pressure applied in her mouth the with whole ride. "

Kacie, you should NOT be experiencing pain in your neck and shoulders from managing your reins. This is mostly likely from fighting with your horse to direct her head, or trying to control her hed tossing as she is demonstrating a high level of discomfort with the bit.  I don't need to tell you that this makes for a miserable ride for both you and your horse.

I am not a fan at all of gag bits which it what your wonder bit is, upon rein pressure the mouthpiece will slide up further into the horse's mouth. These wonder bits come with many different mount pieces from a broken bit, like a snaffle mouthpiece, to one piece twisted wire of loose chain mouthpieces.

Sometimes when a rider has an issue with control it is not necessarily a good idea to go to a harsher bit or a device like a mechanical hackamore which can cause the horse greater pain. Lack of control may be from the horse trying to avoid the pain. I wonder if your Halfinger mare is bracing for the envitably pull on the reins and pain in the mouth. There could be a number of problems with your mare, and to be frank none of them her fault. The bit could be seated too deep, giving her no release when the reins are slack; could be a bit that is too loose and banging around on her teeth or bars; it could be she is just green broke to a bit in her mouth.

I also wonder if you have any issues with her when you ride her with a halter and a lead line. If she is okay with this maybe you can try a side pull, which is a bitless bridle with a noseband, where the reins attach to the side. 
While most of the side pull bridles will have a rope noseband, stiffer than a rope halter and therefore a little more harsher which will to aid in the pressure the horse, there are side pull bridles available that incorporate a snaffle bit to help the horse get used to carrying a bit and receiving pressure from the bars, mouth and tounge.  This would allow you to give clearer signals when "plough reining" or direct reining and work to be more subtle or lighter in your rein cues.

The mechanical hackamore can be a very harsh piece of equipment as it has a nut cracker effect between the noseband and the curb chain under the jaw. I have seen nosebands of mechanical hackamores range from plastic tube covered chain or wire to stiff rawhide. Usually mechanical hackamores have a significant shank where the reins connect providing the rider with a great deal of leverage. This can be a disaster for a green broke horse and/or a rider with left than soft hands.

What I would do is basically start her over in a snaffle bit and work her in round pen or arena.  If you are soft with your hands and provide clear signals, she ought to learn quicky to carry this bit and understand your cues.

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