Hackamore and horse behavior - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 02:08 PM Thread Starter
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Hackamore and horse behavior

Last Sunday night I created a thread about my first experience with a used hackamore bridle my trainer bought me at an auction.


The reason for going to the hackamore has to do with my horse needing to have his teeth floated. For several weeks we have been dealing with him flopping his tongue around, tossing his head while under movement with a bit in his mouth. We experimented with different bits because we upon examination of his teeth, everything felt fine. Finally, early last week, we were able to get an examination that indicated teeth.

We scheduled an appointment for next Tuesday to have his teeth floated and I have not put him back in a bit since.

Over the weekend, my barn owner saw this hackamore at the auction and purchased it as an interim solution for us. It is SIMILAR but not the same as the picture. My chin strap is chain with a nylon sleeve over it.The nose piece looks the same, but mine is flexible and very bendy.

When we tried it on Sunday, Sam responded well. For the first time in weeks I felt I could control him because he was engaged with me and working with me, rather than focused on something else. He reacted very quickly and smoothly to gait transitions, halts, and turns.


I rode him in the bridle again on Monday and Wednesday. Both short sessions did not go the same as on Sunday and I am absolutely confident I am using a light touch and there is plenty of slack in his reins.

What he is doing is still some head tossing, won't keep gait (jog, slow and fast trot) and won't move in a circle around the pen.

Before the teeth issue, I was able to jog and trot him around the pen in large and small circles without him breaking stride. Last night he would start at the trot and within 6 steps turn into the center instead of hanging out on the wall and then break stride.

I even let the reins (one continuous) lay on his neck and give him free choice and he wasn't interested in maintaining his trot.
In addition, I am struggling with his turns. Like I said we were doing small 360 degree circles at a jog or better with very little bit pressure and now I can't get him to turn left or right without what feels like force to me.

The bridle is resting on his face correctly. I hate the idea of not riding him until his teeth are floated but I don't want him to develop bad habits or make riding unpleasant for him. I thought the hackamore would be a great tool for me to ride and work him indoors without the bother of a bit.

Could the jiggling of the shanks while he is moving cause this problem? Should I stop all riding until after Tuesday? I guess I can still lunge him to keep him working, but I will miss riding greatly.

Is this typical of a horse with a new setup?

Last edited by AQHSam; 01-26-2012 at 02:11 PM.
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post #2 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 02:23 PM
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Even if the bit is not in his mouth there could still be a great deal of pain depending on where in the mouth the teeth are hitting. My little mare was pissy every day of the week before she got her teeth done, turns out she had the tiniest of tiny little sharp (I mean cut yourself and bleed sharp) teeth in her mouth, and it didn't matter if I rode her with a neck rope she was gonna be pissed off and witchy the entire time. After her teeth were floated? No problems. It took her about a week to realize there was no longer any pain, but it was an amazing step for us.

I, personally, would spend this time doing groundwork with him. It would be best, because even without the bit he could still have pain and you working him with it won't improve his attitude. So wait for his teeth to be floated, give him a brief adjustment period, and THEN assess his attitude.
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Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #3 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 02:56 PM
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Sorrel horse is correct! If he has issues with his teeth and cannot take a bit even the slightest pressure from the hackamore could be causing him pain. These types of hackamores are meant to be used as only an aid on a finished horse. Your horse must also neck rein using a mechanical hackamore. direct reining is NOT meant to be used with a M.H.

That said, I wouldn't want anyone on my back pulling on my face with anything if I had a sore mouth. If you have ever had a sore tooth you know what I'm talking about. His behavior might just be his polite way of telling you that he feels too bad to work. If you ignore him he may decide to tell you in a stronger way.

I would also use this time to work on his groundwork also and not worry about his unwillingness to work and attitude until after you have his dental issues fixed!
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post #4 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 03:10 PM
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I have a story from my Vet Tech vault for you to consider.

We had a 20 year old cat that came in because she had started to unpredictably attack any person within 10 feet of her. She was also growling constantly and was off her food. the owner thought that she was becoming senile and was prepared to put her to sleep.

If you have never seen a cat in fight mode, screaming, hissing, and growling have a look at a few online videos to give you an idea. Now this cat could not be handled without Kevlar gloves and a net.

We had to sedate her for an exam. We found that she had 2 teeth with cavities . The owner was willing to have those teeth pulled and give her kitty a chance. After the extractions kitty woke up, I was the lucky one assigned to her. I opened the cage fully expecting to get my face eaten off!! Miss Kitty stood up, walked over and began rubbing her head And body all over me purring asking for lovin! I was blown away by the complete change in her behavior. All that evil, aggressive behavior was her way of expressing that she was in pain. Miss Kitty went home with her grateful owner and I learned a very valuable lesson that day.
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post #5 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 04:31 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you everyone. I will stop riding tonight and work strictly on ground manners and bonding. As I say, a good grooming session is just as fulfilling as a good riding session.

Thanks for confirming what I should have realized on my own.
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post #6 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 04:59 PM
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If the issue does not resolve after his teeth are floated, please post a video of him under saddle.
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post #7 of 7 Old 01-26-2012, 05:47 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bubba13 View Post
If the issue does not resolve after his teeth are floated, please post a video of him under saddle.
Thank you, I will.

I bought him in mid-November and he was very well mannered in both a snaffle and argentina snaffle with short shank. Responded well with little pressure and carried himself nicely.

The deteriation was gradual over time and there was always another "sound" excuse.

The first time was chalked off to temps on the trails and he was a bit hot. Then there was a horse he didn't care for. And the list goes on until 2 weeks ago when he gets this crazy thing with his tongue going on.

I'm really hoping the teeth floating returns him back to his state in late November.
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