November 14, 2011
Are you ready to move your horse to a hackamore?
Respectfully responding to just a hair’s feel on the reins, the finished bridle horse is a masterpiece.
Creating the sensitivity and response of a spade bit horse begins in the hackamore.
If you are in a hurry, don’t count on finding perfection.
AQHA Professional Horseman Benny Guitron of Merced, California, says it takes “consistency, time and patience” to train the ultimate bridle horse.
“In the process of training a horse, we use the hackamore to develop the sensitivity and the lightness of the horse,” Benny explains. “Horses must get a reward – when they respond to pressure, they get the release. A spade bit is a bridle that gives a signal before it takes effect. The horse feels the signal coming from our hands as we develop communication with him, beginning with the hackamore.”
The endgame is the finished bridle horse; and it begins with making a hackamore horse.
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Where the snaffle bit works from a direct, inside pull from the corner of a horse’s mouth, the hackamore brings the face from the outside to the inside with indirect rein pressure. Benny clues his horses into this vaquero-style reality from the ground up.
“That (indirect pressure) is the confusion a horse has in the early going,” Benny says. “Allow the horse the time to understand what is being asked of him. Before I get on and ride him with the hackamore, I work him in the round pen. It gives him more time to think, things are slower, and a horse needs time.”
Benny reaches over the saddle and, being very soft and forgiving with his hands, works the reins as if he is atop the horse. He asks the trainee to give to the pressure on both sides, being sure to reward any compliance. When the horse does not give to pressure, Benny waits it out and does not worry if the horse backs up during the pause.
“Ask for a lot, be satisfied with a little,” Benny says. “Ask a little bit at a time, and the horse will find that release.”
Benny works on the lateral give on both sides before asking a horse to give straight back. This, he says, avoids a lot of pulling and helps the horse flex at the poll. You don’t want him learning to hide from the pressure by burying his head in his chest.
A neck rope run through the hackamore, working off the hackamore and acting like a longe line, prevents the horse from turning back as Benny gyps him around the pen. The trainer wants the horse to look where he is traveling, not where he has been.
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“Groundwork should simulate being on the horse’s back,” Benny says. “You have control, the rope through the hackamore acts like the rein pulling on the hackamore. You need to keep your hand active as if you are working the rein – don’t hang on his head. He only needs to bend enough (so you can) see the (inside) eye in the direction he is going.
“Watch the eyes and ears of the horse,” he adds. “You’ll notice when he is comfortable and relaxed. Don’t throw too much at a horse at one time; that will only confuse him. You want him to continue to develop sensitivity and an understanding of the hackamore.”