Honour, Betrayal, and Worthiness

I realize there might be some folks who read this who would like more knowledge about horses. I’m no expert but I do know about us and how we do things. Someone had a question about hackamores. I thought I might include it here along with my answer:

“About the hackamore… If the horse is used to one, will he accept a bit?”

Most of our horses go in both and can be switched back and forth. A hackamore is especially nice in the winter because there is no metal to warm in your hands before you put it in the horse’s mouth and no chance of slobbered lip corners freezing to it, just a small bit of kindness in the cold.

We start young horses in a metal bit called a snaffle and when they are doing pretty much every thing we want we switch them to a hackamore.

When we had Skippy, he was in a snaffle.

Hooch got switched to a hackamore real early. He was ready and willing.

hackamore is mostly just a bluff. You really don’t have a lot of control with one. If a horse goes to run away with you, there’s not much you can do. That’s why they need to be to a certain point before we put one on them. They seem to really like the hackamore and try to be good so they can keep it.

I always tell everyone that for the first 2 weeks you won’t like using one because you won’t feel like you have the same control partly cause it takes the horse a while to sort out the different feel of it. But give it a chance. They are awesome when you get it right.

We start with a bigger diameter bosal (the hoop part around the horse’s nose) and gradually decrease it till it’s the size of your pinky finger, called a pencil bosal for a reason. That’s what we use on Wilbur. Awesome to see so big a horse work so well with something so small.
The goal is to have a real bridle horse. That’s like the Cadillac of horses with the ultimate power steering. It involves using an awful looking metal (spade) bit that you never really use because you respect the horse and his mouth that you have spent so many years training and protecting.
All that is ever required is a slight movement of your hand and the horse understands. It’s like an art as opposed to a skill.
For at least a year they just carry this bit in their mouths while you cue them less and less with the hackamore they wear at the same time; called two reining because essentially you have 2 bridles and 2 sets of reins.
This is a clip that you can see a little of what I’m talking about.YouTube – Californio, Buckaroo, Vaquero – Art of the Traditional Vaquero Two Rein video
It’s not a hurry-up type of training. It takes lots of time and a real love for the horse. Some people try to push it but we figure it’s at least a year in a snaffle, a year in a hackamore, a year in a two rein. It’s as much about training us to patient and kind and to have good hands as it is about a horse learning to work for us.
You will never see a true bridle horse raise its head when you pick up on the reins. They have never once been betrayed and trust you totally not to hurt them. And you would just as soon cut off your own arm as betray your friend and partner. You might see that bit on horses but there are few true bridle horses or horsemen in the world.
It’s a way associated with the word Vaquero or anglicized to Buckaroo. Ian Tyson sings “Hey Mr Vaquero, put a handle on my pony for me, teach me the mystery, . . . hands as fine as a dealer in Reno.” My cowboy has those kind of hands; I’m working on mine. For us, it’s all about honouring and never betraying your horse.
It’s my greatest shame that in my push to get the work done I forget. Someday I hope to have the patience, kindness, and trained good hands that will make me worthy of a true bridle horse.

7 responses to “Honour, Betrayal, and Worthiness

  1. Thank you for stressing the most important part of your post – KIND HANDS 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this. A hackamore is a kinder gentler way. I shiver thinking about the poor horse having a bit frozen into it’s mouth. ~Ames

  3. I wish the same thing for myself. It takes a lot of time to learn, a lot of time to teach but it’s all so worth it.

  4. Quincy's Keeper

    Making a bridle horse is truly an art form. You explained it perfectly 🙂

  5. I have to admit that when I first saw a spade bit I was a tad horrified, they look so cruel. Then I read up on them and their use and my opinion has changed to one of respect. Anyone that can use that bit properly is quite a horseman (or woman).

    Question about the hackamore noseband sizes… are the pencil ones a bit ‘stronger’? Kind of like how a thinner snaffle is stronger than a thick one. And is a hackamore the same as a bosal?

  6. Thanks for the in depth explanation!

  7. I likke the video, the horse is moving softly asnd well, I start in a snaffel, then have eitrher left it at thjat or slipped a curb in when they seemed ready,I do like the sounds of the type of bosal you use, I have been more familiar with the harder ones (if you are not careful with them you can have a horse in your lap) Guess I will just have to make it down there in the spring/summer and go for a ride with you if you will have me

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