Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Still mulling over the bridle choices

I want to thank all who commented on my last post about bitless options. You gave me good things to think about. Zach - if you find the reasoning behind not using an s-hack comes to mind again, please share it, I'd love to hear. Everyone brought out some good points. I'm not convinced that bitless is for every horse/every rider - as Aarene pointed out, a harsh noseband in the wrong hands can be just as damaging and painful to the horse as a bit. I also agree with E.G. that it should not be the bridle that stops the horse. I think the only way a bridle actually can make the horse stop is if the horse is trained to respond to the pressure, or if the rein is tied to a solid post! For me, the goal is to quide Arabee with seat and legs and voice, and use rein pressure only to remind her I'm up there if she gets spooky, or if she needs to turn right NOW to avoide slamming my knee into a tree.

I rode for the first time again on New Year's Eve, and after that it became bitterly cold - too cold for me to ride in the stuff I have. The lined carhartt overalls I have are too stiff and immobile for me to consider riding in. For Christmas I received as a gift a pair of insulated riding pants, which unfortunately were too small, so I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of the right size so I can ride soon, hopefully. (or else temperatures above freezing!) So, I've been taking Arabee on walks along the road. I'm fairly certain all of the cars passing by think I'm absolutely nuts, judging by their faces. I walked her on New Years Day, Monday, and Tuesday too.

One of those days I tried on the old English Hackamore I have. Unfortunately, the headstall I have to hang it with is too big, and I have no room to adjust it. The nosepiece of the hackamore rested right on her nostrils, so I had no way to really even get a feel for how Arabee might respond in it. So that means I'm looking at having to get another headstall. I really like the idea of the kind that the browband has an extra loop that snaps around the halter, so you can leave the halter on all the time. But, even with the too-big headstall, I didn't really like the way the shank of the English Hackamore laid right along Arabee's lips - seems it would be very easy for her to grab it, rendering any rein aids useless. So if the S-Hack and the English Hackamore operate on the same principles, I'm leaning towards the S-Hack because of the shank design. I feel pretty leery of trying the halter bridle I talked about. I'm certain it would be fine to ride her in something like that on a steamy hot summer day, or in an arena any time - but I'm just concerned that the halter bridle may not be attention-getting enough on the trail if some horse-eating monster comes along.

I have a return that I will get store credit for as soon as I mail item in. So I have a few days yet to decide what it is I'm going to do. I think my husband is right - no matter what it is that I get, I won't really be happy with it. He says I'm too particular about what I want. I'm taking that as a compliment - shouldn't I be particular about my horse's comfort and my confidence that I'll be able to control her in all situations?


Mel said...

I personnally don't find that hackamores are very good for the "you are going to slam my knee in the tree so turn now!" senerio. Not enough side to side control in any of the s-hacks, english hacks etc. I ride in a Sliester mechanical hackamore when I do ride in a hackamore and I really like it. Yes, the shanks look evil, however it's very light and the shanks don't seem to bother her and she isn't one to play with them. I don't need the amount of stop that it provides, which is fine, because as long as my hands are light and she doesn't pull on me, it doesn't engage. However, if I need it, it's there. If something goes horribly wrong, I MUST be able to stop her, even if it means pulling her and I to the ground to do it. I will NOT injure innocent bystanders at an event (not thinking endurance here, but like a civil war reenactment) because something really wacky happened and my hrose went into a crowd....which is why I really don't like most of the bitless bridles out there. If things really got out of control, I'm not sure I could do what I needed to do.

BTW - I LOVE my snap on bridle that I got for xmas. Works with a variety of different bits, and my hackamore. Comfy and easy to put on - even with gloves.

Anonymous said...

Dear Nicole,
Good luck in your quest to go bitless-I order my biothane from distance depot and the quality is outstanding.It's good to get something that you can hose off because when you train ten hours a week you tack is going to get yucky!I started competing when my son was about sixteen months and now he is twelve!
I incorporate "family time" and try to do other things(visit historic landmarks,eat in new places)so my son and husband are willing to go with me.You can e-mail me at with any camping or training questions.

Alicia Marshall
South Florida

Anonymous said...


I've had people tell me they don't like the S-hacks because of "control issues". But I've found Phebes to be very responsive when I decide to put on the brakes. Initially I had no lateral control (like Mel mentioned), however, after some schooling exercises I found that my legs got me off of those trees. I want to revisit her lessons in the spring if possible to get her tuned up. When lessons left off we were working on moving her with leg and rein and it was working! Nothing is perfect though...I'd like a better nose band on mine eventually. Mine works great but isn't pretty like some.

Running Bear has a clearance going on with their old model headstalls as low as $38.00 for endurance bridle model that has the built-in halter. I'm itching to grab one before they are GONE. The downside is they are not returnable so I'm a little concerned about them sizing down small enough. Like you I'd like to have that halter on and not have to fiddle around with it.

Snow.... I don't like it.


Anonymous said...

I got the endurance bridle/halter from Running Bear I believe. It is a seperate halter and headstall. Both are beta biothane so you can hose off both halter and bridle. The bridle has a browband that snaps onto the halter, no throat latch. I LOVE it. No putting a halter on and off at every vet check.