Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

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Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by Wyrdhorses on Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:07 am

Anyone ever used a natural hackamore under their usual bitless bridle to aid in extra 'brakes'?

My boy goes well in his usual bitless bridle (and LG bridle), and I ride him occasionally in a natural hackamore which he is fine in (can't go far in it though as its not got his nose net on), but still gets very excited when cantering on fields, or we see another horse out on an endurance ride.

I have been toying with the idea of putting him in an english hackamore, but I don't really want to increase severity, just have an extra 'please slow up and conserve your energy' aid.

Anyone done this?
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by FlorayG on Wed Sep 24, 2008 6:34 am

I don't think this will work. The more gear you put on, the more likely he is to fight it. And an 'English' hackamore is very severe, I wouldn't use one on a horse that was excitable - I used one for years before I learned better, but on a horse very responsive and unlikely to run off with me, and she still was resistant to it and carried herself hollow.
You would be better I think to put time into training him not to do it - when another horse is going off, stand still (better if you can get help on this, get a friend to ride off but not so far that he gets freaky, then wait for you until your horse is quiet). When cantering in a field and he gets too fast, ask him to canter in a small circle, don't try to slow him at all, he will slow himself, then go on and repeat it every time he speeds up. This way he learns what you mean with your signals, which he doesn't entirely at the moment. If your training is sound, it won't go out of the window as soon as a new situation presents itself. I may be preaching a bit, but I feel I'm entitled, I've been through all that 'more brakes' stuff (different horse to the hackamore one, this one wore a pelham!) and had to learn the hard way too about real communication.
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by Sydney on Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:49 pm

I totally agree with FlorayG. Bigger is never better. I think the whole thing of bitless that we try and get across is it's not the bit you use, not the bridle, saddle, halter, riding boots etc... it's the way you train and handle your horse.

Any bridle that has a curb chain such as a hackamore uses leverage. A curb chain when pressure is applied to the reins presses on one of the most sensitive nerves in a horses face: the facial nerve. This nerve supplies sensation to the lower lip and gums and is VERY close to the surface which gives a curb chain it's bite. It can increase the pounds of pressure you are pulling on the reins by 5 to 10 times depending on what shank, type of chain etc.

I've trained a lot of horses that had their motors stuck in hyperdrive.

Serpentines work best: If your horse sees another horse up ahead and gets all excited do serpentines. As soon as he/she calms down let him walk strait. Soon ol clip clop will realize that walking in a strait line gets him to the other horse faster than jigging in a serpentine. Same thing if he gets too excited at the canter, do serpentines. If you feel you can't slow your horse by pulling on both reins pulling on either rein separately usually does the trick for speedy horses.

I would do the excersize with a friend first. Have him or her go ahead of you on the trail a little bit with their horse. Let your horse follow. I would start at a walk. If he walks let him. If he jigs make him work by doing serpentines. Any horse I have done this with has chosen less work.
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by Wyrdhorses on Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:18 am

Thanks for the replies,I am sorry, but I disagree.

A hackamore, or any bitless, or any bit is only as strong as the hands that use it, and my hands are very light, and very weak, as I have carpal tunnel in one hand and nerve damage in the other arm.

First thing I teach my horses is to wait whilst other horses walk away, and back up.

My boy is an endurance horse, so I really don't want him to lose his edge that keeps him going after the horse in front, but I do want extra 'listen to me' after 20 miles and my wrist is killing me and I can no longer hold the reins, I would much rather have a slightly harsher, or more severe, or whatever it is you like to call it, bridle/bit and have my horse come back to me, then have to keep asking.
I used to ride him in a bosal and a sidepull until I developed the carpal tunnel, but now it is just not possible as I cannot stop him in a bosal/sidepull in a situation that could be unsafe ( I was riding in a bosal when the person I was riding with fell off and her horse took off, my boy followed and I had to pull him up as there was a road, he would not stop, I did one rein stop and nothing was happening, he was in flight mode, I finally managed to stop him and my hands were bleeding) In a situation like that I need for mine and his safety a stronger bitless.
When a horse goes into full on flight mode chemicals are released in the brain and it is very hard to change that, most training goes out the window and they are in instinct mode.

I am going to try the rope halter under his bridle and will let you know how I get on if you are interested
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by bohohorse on Sun Sep 28, 2008 1:25 am

I can quite understand your fear of loss of control. I actually think you have two options and all is certainly not lost for what you are trying to achieve. Here are my thoughts on the matter for what they are worth.

Wyrdhorses wrote:When a horse goes into full on flight mode chemicals are released in the brain and it is very hard to change that, most training goes out the window and they are in instinct mode.

Training won't go out the window if it is set in stone. What WILL go out of the window is the response to pain. Believe me I know. Richard Maxwell talks about repeating cues and getting the responses off pat so well that the horse will respond no matter how much adrenalin is flooding his body. He likens this to drilling soldiers to reload and fire weapons even in a battle situation. As someone who has been shot at and had bombs chucked at them believe me I know about terror and what it does to the body. In those situations, all you have is what you know. If all you know is to run, that's what you will do. I did what I knew to do. But you could have kicked me up the backside a few times and I wouldn't have felt it!

Our problem is, that horses are hardwired to run. So it's our job to write in some new lines of programming.

That's not to say that I think your training isn't adequate. When your arms were stronger, the cue you gave with the sidepull was obviously understood and respected. Lets say you could apply a cue of 5lb (for the sake of argument) with the rein. He knew that meant STOP and he did.

Now you can only apply 2lb (again, figures for example only!). He's been well drilled into understanding that 5lb means stop, but that hasn't happened. So as far as he's concerned, nothing has happened and he can keep going.

Now your choices are:
- Use something stonger in order to replace that '5lb' pressure that your arms can no longer manage or
- Teach him to respond to a lighter pressure

However I can't stress it hard enough, that neither of the above will work unless you get it absolutely set into his brain that the STOP cue means STOP no matter what, even if he is literally sh*tting himself with adrenalin. There is truly no other safe way. I say again: what will go out of the window is his response to pain. Watch a horse continue to gallop on a broken leg or one wearing a severest gag tear the reins out of his riders hands. If he is truly in instinct mode as you say then sidepull, hackamore, barbed wire bit it's all background noise to him. So if you aren't wired into this tiny pea brain then you've got no hope against the massive muscles. He doesn't have to lose his edge. Far from it, the lighter he can be to the touch, the sharper you can get him.

Quick anecdote: I had terrible trouble with my horse being afraid of cows. I've talked on the bitless group about it. A while ago, we were hacking and came across a field of them. He stopped, his eyes bulged and he began to shake and sweat. He swallowed repeatedly, lifted his tail and defecated with sheer fear.

I got off and started asking for turn on the forehand, haunches, back up, anything to cut into his brain circuits. He did them, but mechanically and his eyes would always swivel back to the hated cows. I suddenly remembered his favourite trick. I picked up a branch from the verge and touched his leg with it and asked for Spanish walk. Instantly his eyes left the cows and he stared at me. His whole expression said: 'Are you mad! I'm in mortal danger and you are asking me to do tricks!' But his leg was lifting off the ground. And the other. And again. We'd practised so often, he literally couldn't help it. We Spanish walked (albeit clumsily) down the road, he sighed, the mist faded and he was back again. So engaging the brain won the day. What I couldn't have done is get him back with force: pulling his reins no matter what they were attached to - he was too far gone. I could have beaten him over the head with a brick and it wouldn't have made any difference.

Best of luck whatever you do - stay safe.
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by Sydney on Mon Sep 29, 2008 2:01 pm

Well said, it made me think of my WOAH training, Indigo and my pony keebler.
My friend and I were riding down the road last spring. It was the first day that wasn't cold and icy. We were gone for about two hours and just as we were about to head back down the driveway a dozen motorcycles that were out for a ride went by and about half of them HONKED! Indigo, now shes never done this before and never done this since was fighting me at the moment for the urge to get home and it scared the living daylights out of her. She bolted. I'm only a 120 pound girl, there was no way I could stop her by force. I was in the big open field so immediate stopping wasn't a big concern but her bolting was. I tugged on the reins as my first instinct. Indigo is usually the easiest horse to stop, literally one pound of pressure and shes at a stand still. I was hauling on both reins as hard as I could. Suddenly it kicked in for me to say WOAAAHHHH really loud and thats just what she did, parked her butt in the dirt huffing and puffing and looking around anxiously for the evil honking motorists.

The other day Keebler and I were driving in the field and the neighbor kid started throwing and shooting clay birds. Pony who has never heard gunshot took off like a bat let out of hell across the field with the first shot and kept on going with the other 15 to follow. Keebler has only been driving with the cart for about 5 weeks. I honestly thought at one point I was going to go flying out of the carriage it was so bumpy. Again it clicked in to ask him to woah and thats just what he did, slowed down and stopped. Not as quick as Indigo but he still stopped before I had a complete heart attack.

I like to imprint the word WOAH into my horses brains and use it rather than pulling. I always imagined I would have to use it driving if a rein snapped or harness piece broke but the two circumstances I have had an emergency they have come to more use than I thought.
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by FlorayG on Tue Sep 30, 2008 11:50 am

Wyrdhorse, you are arguing against yourself. In your initial post you said you wanted better brakes without using a more severe bridle. So you already were saying that the brakes are not in the bridle. then you say

'A hackamore, or any bitless, or any bit is only as strong as the hands that use it, and my hands are very light, and very weak, as I have carpal tunnel in one hand and nerve damage in the other arm.'
so. if you have light hands, it doesn't make any differrence if you

' have a slightly harsher, or more severe, or whatever it is you like to call it, bridle/bit and have my horse come back to me, then have to keep asking.' because light hands are just that, and the bridle will be used no more severely whatever type it is. So will make no difference. Then you say

'I used to ride him in a bosal and a sidepull until I developed the carpal tunnel, but now it is just not possible as I cannot stop him in a bosal/sidepull in a situation that could be unsafe ( I was riding in a bosal when the person I was riding with fell off and her horse took off, my boy followed and I had to pull him up as there was a road, he would not stop, I did one rein stop and nothing was happening, he was in flight mode, I finally managed to stop him and my hands were bleeding)'

That is not having light hands. Sorry if you don't like this post, but I think you need to think more deeply about whether or not your hands really are light, and if your horse has a built in stop - being scared notwithstanding, although another horse running off is no reason for him to be scared. I don't think he does have a stop, and that is what you need to work on otherwise he will get more and more difficult to control and you will end up using harsher and harsher bridles. We're all here to help so please don't get annoyed with me!
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Re: Natural Hackamore for extra brakes

Post by PiePony on Tue Oct 14, 2008 7:27 pm

Hi, I am new and have not frequently ridden bitless.
My old horse was homebred on Northern Dancer lines and trained for racing. If another horse was upsides I expected him to have a contact on the reins and quicken to get past. Yet if I was riding with my little nephew and his pony a slight lossen on the rein, upright posture and weight down spine, closing thigh not calf muscles and we slowed and stopped.

My horse was a fast and capable jumper, but his signals for whoa were simply not to pull against him and not to adopt a forward seat. If my body was still, he could stand without fidgeting. If my mind and body were busy, so was he as a reflection of me.
When I attended sponsored rides for charity my race horse would walk alongside a shetland pony, or canter ahead or wait behind.
Training from a foal, in hand walking, visual and audible cues and then transfering to ridden work.

My current pony is only just about to begin some ridden work, but has done walk, halt and back up at liberty. This needs much more practice on my part to ensure safety later when he has to understand tack.

My personal belief is that when we think we need a more severe restraint then the block is usually a mental fear on our part. I have had arthritis in my neck and spine for 17 years, I do have carpal tunnel problems, and managed to chop the top joint off my left middle finger this year too.

Just means I need to relax and breathe more and my pony will take care of me, if I tense then he will worry, I only get on my unbacked boy on days I feel invited, hence have not planned it and don't have tack or hat to hand. If I thought it may cause me injury I would n't get on and my body language, adrenalin, heart rate and breathing would tell him something was frightening and he might need to react.

Just a few rambling thoughts for consideration, but it is late and I have finished work, so forgive me.
Love Susie xx PiePony
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