The Benefits of Starting Colts in a Hackamore

Over the years Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a method for training horses regardless of their age, history, or any behavioral issues and past traumas. Join him on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, we watch as Clinton explains the benefits of starting colts in a hackamore.

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There are several different pieces of equipment you can use to start a horse under saddle. While the underlying method should be the same, many of the tools come down to personal preference. Today, Clinton shows us the benefits of using a hackamore or bosal. He begins the lesson explaining that during the first 10 to 14 rides, he likes using a little rope hackamore or bosal. However, you don’t have to start a colt in a hackamore.

Clinton explains that he prefers using a hackamore for several different reasons. First, the pressure the horse will feel from the hackamore is very similar to the pressure he’s used to feeling from the halter and lead rope. When you introduce the hackamore to him, it’ll be an easy transition. Once the horse understands is comfortable responding to the hackamore, then transitioning him to a bit is an easy process. The hackamore is a way to set your horse up for success.

The second reason Clinton uses a hackamore is because it’s much more forgiving than a bit. This means that if you’re a green rider—not as experienced—and you lose your balance and jerk back on your horse’s mouth, it won’t hurt your horse. If you’re using a bit and you jerk back, it will hurt your horse’s mouth, which could cause your horse to rear up in the air or flip over. Horsemen want to avoid this as you always want to avoid causing your horse pain and you don’t want your horse to lose any confidence in you or your training tools. A hackamore prevents this.

Clinton explains that usually, he’ll use the hackamore for the first 10 to 14 rides and then switch the horse over to a snaffle bit. While you don’t have to do this, Clinton says after about 14 rides, he’ll start working on vertical flexion. It’s when Clinton begins to work on collecting the horse and working on more body control exercises like Shoulder-In/ Shoulder-Out and Two-Tracking that he moves the horse into a snaffle bit. While you can certainly keep riding your horse in a hackamore after 14 rides, you certainly can. It just makes your job more difficult.

Just as every carpenter has tools for different stages of building a house, horsemen need different tools for different stages of training. You’d never build a house with the same tool from the first nail to the last, so why would you try doing so with a horse? Instead, using several tools will help you effectively train your horse with the least amount of effort.

The little rope hackamore that’s sold at Downunder Horsemanship is a great tool that’s very handy in the beginning. However, Clinton recommends upgrading your tools as training progresses. If you want to get into real horsemanship, where you’re getting your horse to bridle up, soften, collect, and move their body parts, a hackamore won’t get the job done. Again, it’s great in the beginning, but then it’s time to move on. Don’t make your life any harder than what it needs to be.

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