Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price
Following the snaffle bit, the hackamore plays an important role in traditional reined cow horse training. No matter what discipline, you can include a hackamore in your training program.
Hackamore lets you use direct-rein cues just like a normal snaffle but introduces the concept of neck reining. This concept is further refined with the two-rein setup, and finally the bridle. The hackamore doesn’t just apply to reined cow horse horses.
Proper cueing with a hackamore is as important as the adjustment. My methods are in keeping with the traditional horse training techniques I learned from legendary trainers like Benny Guitron, a hackamore master and reined horse legend. My method of using a hackamore differs from how a Western pleasure coach might use it to show a 2-year old on the rail. As you read my tips, keep this in mind.
Keep your knuckles flat when riding with a hackamore. Your horse will respond more efficiently if you keep your knuckles flat. You can cue him to move left or right by using a direct pull. Follow it up with a neck rein cue from the other side. You can loop the excess rein of your hackamore and then hold the coil in your lefthand so that you can feed more rein or remove any excess. Your hands should be close together to ensure that your cues are more like what you will use when riding in the bridle one-handed.
For romal reins, a hand position that looks like it is holding an ice cream cone is great. However, this is not a good hand position for hackamore. You’ll be more likely to pull towards your knees and thighs if you have your hands up. This motion only affects your horse’s nose, it’s not what the hackamore is about. The correct hackamore action works on the horse’s nose , his chin. Flat hands and pulling towards your hips and buckle are acceptable.
Your horse will respond more well to a pull from your hip if you hold your hand flat with your knuckles. Now I raise my left hand to grab my horse’s left shoulder. Then, I flex my nose to the left. He responds in a soft, willing manner to my slow, gentle pull to apply pressure on his bridge and chin. My outside rein and leg support my cue, and my horse responds. My right hand is kept low so that I don’t restrict my horse’s forward motion. It then comes to my left to support my cue.
Another example of how my hand position can elicit the response I want is here. My right hand pulls towards my hip and directs my horse’s spin to the right. My right hand is close to my right, supporting the direct-rein cue. This pushes my horse to the right. My hands work together to help my horse become more comfortable with one-handed riding.
My hands should be in neutral. I am loping a relaxed circle around the arena. My hands are close together and my knuckles remain flat. My tie rope is properly adjusted–not too long or too short. HorseandRider.com explains how to adjust your tie rope.
This is an example of my horse “loping” his own circle. You’re not doing enough work if you are lifting your horse’s shoulders and driving with his feet. He should be able, so long as you are guiding him along the path of travel.
You can use one-handed riding with a hackamore to move from two-handed to one-handed. Your horse will respond well to these cues.
Do your research. Take one hand and hold the reins. Ride like you would in a bridle, but with romal reins. To check his response, steer one-handed. Are you seeing him improve from the time you first met? Is he dependent on you to keep him under control? This will allow you to gauge his progress towards riding him in the bridle or two-rein as he matures.