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Old 12-24-2012, 06:24 PM   #11
Baquero
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Originally Posted by Jimmy View Post
Well, for those first few rides, Ray Hunt would tell people that they were just leading the horse from his back. The horse at that point understood that. It didn't mean you were pulling on them. The problem is when people go to advance their horse. They just continue to lead from the horses back, and they don't know how to improve things from there. They get their hands and arms all out to the side, out of balance, and things degenerate from there. But I don't know how you are going to get your signals to have meaning in the beginning, unless there is some directing and leading involved a little bit.
Jimmy, while I agree with your post I also feel it is important to clarify a few things. We need to remember that Ray Hunt started his horses with the snaffle and was known for his colt starting. When you are working in a hackamore you don't want to ever pull on the horse. In my experience pulling only creates a heavy horse and makes him brace against my cues. The hackamore needs to be clear precise signals in order to be effective. I think this is another one of the issues that creates trouble when people try and ride in the hackamore like they do in the snaffle. The way you handle a hackamore is fairly simple, but is distinctly different then how you would ride with a snaffle.

In the beginning with a hackamore the term "pulling" is interchanged with the word "doubling." This is the process of taking the horses head away, and is essential in making a bridle horse. You never pull steadily, instead it is a pull and slack. And to clarify that even further, as you can see in the videos Jeff has his hands centered and lifts the reins and slacks. Lots of people today confuse the word pulling with what you referenced when you stick your hands out wide to the side in a snaffle and plow rein them the direction you want to go.

A horse needs to be doubled in the beginning, he needs to know that you can take his head away from him at any point in time. And in the first few rides they should be able to see your hands as you point them in a direction. But they are picks and slacks instead of constant pulls. I was taught that when starting a horse in the hackamore the first few turns were always into the fence. This makes the horse turn short and makes it so you only pull and slack short as well.

Then comes the advancement part you were talking about, as you start the horse your hands are more out wide and gradually come into the center. But the signals remain the same, pick and slack, with one rein at a time.
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Old 12-24-2012, 07:03 PM   #12
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Well, I don't ever recall Ray ever saying to pull on a snaffle! There is nothing, in my opinion, inherently designed into a snaffle that says you must pull on it to be effective. I have been experimenting with signal based training in a snaffle. It takes just as much discipline, skill, and tact with a snaffle, as it does with a hackamore, if you want to do things with quality. The hackamore definitely feels different to the horse than a snaffle. But if you lift your snaffle rein upwards, you can talk to the corner of his mouth, with little lifts and releases, and that can have a lot of meaning and signal to a horse, without ever having to plow rein. As with everything else, it depends on what you add to that and with that, legs and seat, etc.,as to what you have to offer the horse. I always approach my riding as if I am making a bridle horse right from the start. I don't like the modern excessive bending and flexing you see so much these days, especially from some of the top clinicians...
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Old 12-24-2012, 11:58 PM   #13
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Well, I don't ever recall Ray ever saying to pull on a snaffle! There is nothing, in my opinion, inherently designed into a snaffle that says you must pull on it to be effective. I have been experimenting with signal based training in a snaffle. It takes just as much discipline, skill, and tact with a snaffle, as it does with a hackamore, if you want to do things with quality. The hackamore definitely feels different to the horse than a snaffle. But if you lift your snaffle rein upwards, you can talk to the corner of his mouth, with little lifts and releases, and that can have a lot of meaning and signal to a horse, without ever having to plow rein. As with everything else, it depends on what you add to that and with that, legs and seat, etc.,as to what you have to offer the horse. I always approach my riding as if I am making a bridle horse right from the start. I don't like the modern excessive bending and flexing you see so much these days, especially from some of the top clinicians...
Excellent discussion, I am not opposed to the snaffle. I rode a horse in the snaffle today in fact. I agree with you about the excessive bending and flexing that goes on today. You can either flex them over and over or you can double them a few times. What some of the top clinicians don't teach, (I understand why they don't) is that it is possible to overflex a horse.

I have found that I get different results in a hackamore then I do in a snaffle. I am not saying that it isn't possible to get similar results. I just haven't experimented in the same way with the snaffle. That's not to say I haven't achieved great results with the snaffle, and use them regularly. I know some incredible riders who achieve incredible results with the snaffle bit. I don't intend to make this into a snaffle vs hackamore thread, because the topic originally was about "signal based riding in the hackamore"

I do think that the points that have been brought up are important in signal based riding. The small lifts and slacks of the reins is the basis for the signal. The Vaquero's used a lot of pre-signal in the things they did. The hackamore and spade bits are designed to work off of balance. This allows the lifting of the reins to become a signal long before contact is ever made. When working with a snaffle, I always use a pair of slobber straps or really heavy leather reins for similar reasons. I think too many people have been taught that the snaffle is the least aggressive bit and they aren't taught how to use it properly. People see-saw the reins, they pull down below the pockets, etc etc. Someone's improper riding should not discredit the tool. Instead the teaching of better riding and how to develop better hands is what is needed.

I will say that it is a lot harder for me to ride incorrectly in a hackamore. The hackamore in principle is designed to work off of balance. As the heel knot moves it changes the balance of the hackamore and the horse responds. I will also add this in relation to bridle horses. To have a true bridle horse you need to have the horse looking for neutral, and searching for the rider. As Ray said "you feel for the horse, you feel of the horse, and then you feel together" I have found this to be hard to do with a snaffle. As a rider I am trying to create an environment where the horse is searching for me. This keeps the horse very light, and responsive, instead of merely working off of cues or systems of pressure. The horse is now responding to something different, it is responding to you and is almost as if you are picking up the horse and floating it around by movements in your body and hands. It is an incredible feeling to achieve this. In order to reach this level you have to think of training your horse to stay in the center of your reins as one of the neutral positions. You want the most comfortable place to be easy to find, you shouldn't have to pull or drag the horses head or body around in order for them to find it. As a rider you have to know what that neutral place is and it will help the horse to search for it. As Ray Hunt used to say "you make the wrong thing difficult and the right thing easy" But you have to know what the right thing is before you start to teach it. And the right thing might be something you want to achieve when you hang the bridle on the horse, not the results you are getting on a 4 year old. There is a lot more to making a true bridle horse than just placing a spade bit in it's mouth.
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Old 12-25-2012, 12:14 PM   #14
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I have a quote from Ed Connell on the wall at my barn that says "Blind prejudice will destroy reasoning power, the powers of observation, and will close the mind."

I thought of this discussion as I passed under this quote this morning. I would be interested Jimmy in hearing more about what you have learned about incorporating signals into your riding. All the discussions I have ever heard about snaffles have been related to pressure based instruction.
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Old 12-25-2012, 02:31 PM   #15
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Henry Wynmalen says in his book, that when theory in the art of riding is elevated into dogma, "it becomes a straight-jacket wherein the art itself will finally be strangled".

In the last few years, I have given the subject of signal, and pressure/release, and the differences, quite of bit of thought and experimentation. It's not like I didn't have some things working for me. But I am always curious. I was further encouraged by being introduced to a fellow from Portugal who rode with Nuno Oliviera. It is really a study of the French School of the later years of Baucher. Anyway, the main conceit is in the separation of the aids. You don't use legs and hands at the same time, or even each rein at the same time. You teach the horse to balance himself to carry us better, and to learn to stay collected. You use little upward motions with your reins to elevate the horses poll and the base of the neck. This in turns allows the horse to elevate his withers, and begin to transfer his weight back to the hindquarters. The form the horse takes is closer to the classical position of the dressage horse, the battle horse, and in this case, the bridle horse, through teaching self carriage. It is about developing impulsion with a straight horse, while acheiving lightness. Simple, huh? Not.
I have tried to tie everything good I have learned over the years together, without throwing everything out, just because I am on to something new. There are a more similarities than there are differences.
On an interesting side note, I heard from someone who rode a lot with Tom Dorrance, that he never saw Tom take a horses head around.
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:32 PM   #16
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For me, this has been a work in progress. Every horse I get for training, ends up being just a little bit of a guinea pig. Don't tell anyone. It is hard to imagine a horse that you couldn't take his head around, if you wanted to. But maybe you got all that done in the halter to start with anyway, but all we are talking about is being able to control the horse enough to avoid some trouble. But we don't need to use it if we don't have to.
You know, we all watched Ray with the rope around the hip, moving the hindquarters over, on both sides. The horse tips his nose that direction. When we start riding, we can use that inside leg back just like its our rope. Being careful at first to just use one leg at a time. So maybe all we need to do his tip his nose, and that can be done with a little signal with the snaffle rein, as we swing our leg back. That way, we untrack the hind feet, and we start to get some movement by moving the feet. He is more inclined to move forward. It also helps by getting a little bend in him, which will also help when thing start getting western. That's how I start anyway. But we don't need that horses head at our knee. This still doesn't mean I won't double one if I have to. Anyway, pretty soon, a little wiggle with the rein, and our leg swinging back, we get a response, and the horse can move forward. It is almost like steering him from behind. I don't look at it as "disengaging the hind end". What I get is the beginning of a horse on a circle. So he can learn to follow the circle, without taking our hand out wide. He simple learns it by the position he is in, through habit and consistency. But it means we have to give up some control, and wait for the response, give it time to happen. I would rather have a horse keep his neck straight, with just a little bend and just his ear and his eye, so his shoulders stay straight up. With impulsion, the horse works better this way, I think. Even in a turn around. Especially in a turn around. His spine will stay perpendicular to the ground as we circle. That's balance. I try to get it from the start. I said try...
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Old 12-25-2012, 09:59 PM   #17
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Nearly a year under saddle now, I've noticed this same exact thing with my green pony. I think it's a question of how much "help" a young horse needs at the beginning to learn to guide, but what I seen develop is more accuracy and she has better control of her own feet, working up from the hocks and into the bridle. It takes less and less "reining" to get a proper response.
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Old 12-26-2012, 11:07 AM   #18
Rex Easley
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Originally Posted by Maverick_73 View Post
I'm curious Rex--did you start your colt on the hackamore? I know people that have only ridden in one, but the way I'm being taught to start horses is to start them out in the snaffle bit then transition to the hackamore once they get really soft, that way they can understand the direction coming from the reins when they become unsure of what your seat and legs are asking, and use the reins as support. What's yall's opinion?
I start my horses in the hackamore. I never use a snaffle bit on any of my horses. In my opinion a snaffle has no signal it is based on pressure and release. You can usually tell if a horse was started in the snaffle and moved into to hackamore, they will have a much lower carriage at the withers.
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Old 12-26-2012, 11:22 AM   #19
Rex Easley
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I personally dont double a horse unless the are spoiled or outlaws. I try to use rein movement and balance from day one. I have found that time and the job will help this all make sense to a horse.
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Old 12-26-2012, 11:28 AM   #20
Jimmy
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I have a hackamore and a snaffle laying on the table. Neither one has any life at all. One is steel and the other is made of dead cow parts. One is not pulling, one is not signaling. They are inanimate objects. The only life or signal they have comes from a mind through the hands down the reins, to the horse. The rest is knowledge. There is nothing about a snaffle that would in itself compel a horse to be lower in the withers, nor a hackamore compel his horse to raise his withers. It is how we ride them.
That being said, there is a reason men like Bobby Ingersol have said, that there is something about ridding good horse in the hackamore stage that develops a quality like nothing else.
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