To Bit or Not to Bit: Hackamores Explained


What is a Hackamore?

Hackamores are a type of bitless bridle which work by applying pressure to the nose, poll and chin groove. Unlike a traditional bridle with a bit, there is no pressure or leverage on the mouth. There is a common misconception that bitless bridles are kinder than those with a bit. However, horses have many sensitive nerve endings in their face which the hackamore applies pressure to. As a result, the severity of it depends on the hands of the rider, similar to a traditional bit, so a sympathetic contact and correct fit is key.


Should I Use a Hackamore on my Horse?

Hackamores can be a great option for horses with physical issues in their mouth, such as tongue damage or a fractured jaw, which means they are not accepting of a bit. Behavioural problems like head shaking, excessive salivation and rearing may also be improved by using a hackamore.   Hackamores are seen in a wide range of disciplines, both Western and English, but are not currently permitted in dressage competitions.     When introducing your horse to a hackamore for the first time, we recommend some groundwork such as long-lining or in-hand work. This will give your horse time to adjust to the aids given through different pressure points. Start slowly when mounted as you may have a different level of control than you are used to and may need a lighter contact. 



Hackamore Bridle

Types of Hackamore

There are different types of hackamores which apply varying levels of pressure. You can use a hackamore with your current bridle but if it has an all-in-one style headpiece, you may have loose noseband straps that you no longer have a use for. The Hackamore Bridle is specifically designed for use with hackamores with only two straps, so could be a good addition to your tack room if you make the switch.





Mechanical Hackamore

This classic design of hackamore has shanks which create a leverage system to apply pressure to the poll, nose and chin. With a fleece lined leather noseband, the Chrome Plated Steel Cheek Hackamore will adjust to fit most horses. For a gentler action, the Hackamore Bit with PVC Nose is a good choice as the padded contoured noseband is lined with comfortable waffle to distribute pressure evenly and reduce the risk of rubbing.




 S Hackamore

S Hackamore

The unique shape of the cheeks reduces the severity of the S Hackamore compared to a mechanical hackamore. This shape also allows the horse to eat and drink more easily when bridled, making it a popular choice with endurance riders. Some riders have reported improved steering and sensitivity, leading to a reduced amount of pressure needed. It also features a contoured noseband with waffle padding for comfort.


Flower Hackamore

Flower Hackamore

Super versatile, the Flower Hackamore has a unique cheek design that allows multiple adjustments to increase or decrease poll pressure. For a standard fitting, leave one ring open between the noseband and headpiece. Then, attach the reins to the lowest ring for a gentle leverage effect. Attaching the reins to a higher ring will create a more direct sidepull action. Feel free to experiment with different ring settings to work out what level of leverage your horse responds best to. The Flower Hackamore comes with a synthetic chin strap which is ideal for most horses but can also be switched out for a curb chain for stronger horses. The Flower Hackamore offers great adjustability for both size and positioning. As the flower sits in front of the cheekbone and higher than a traditional bit, the bridle cheekpieces will need to be shorter. The noseband should also be fairly high to avoid the sensitive nasal bones with space for just one finger under the noseband and two fingers under the chin strap. It is important for the hackamore to fit snugly to avoid rubbing and to ensure the bridle is secure. 


Well will you be giving a hackamore a try? Let us know how you get on, or if you’ve already made the switch to bitless.

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