Bit vs. Hackamore

Hey guys! No updates on Red because I couldn't make it to the barn last night. My family does foster care and we have a meeting at our house, we had to clean. :) :) Anywho, Dixie has a cast on her leg and is doing good. The vet's said they think her blood vessels are clogged. They have her on a couple medications and they think she will be fine. The cast thingy gets taken off either today or tomorrow, today I think, and they are hoping for the swelling to have gone down. If it hasn't, they'll put the cast thingy back on and then continue what they were doing before.

The cast.

 I've been told that Red's cut and swelling on his chest area is improving quickly, and from what I say the day before yesterday I'd say he'll be completely 100% back to normal in a couple days at the most. I'm hoping to ride this weekend.

I can't write long because I have to go get dressed, clean up my part of the house and make my bed etc, check on the animals, feed the chickens and all that.

I did want to discuss the ever-popular bit vs. hack argument. When I got into this sport, I had no idea so many people hated bits.

First, for those of you who don't know, a hackamore is a bitless bridle that presses on certain pressure points on the mouth.

As you can see from the pictures above, they are completely different from bits! The bay horse with the neon nylon reins is my horse, Red, with his Hackamore.

I love the above picture because it shows two of the different kinds of bits you can use, and also the different hacks. Red uses a mechanical hackamore.

There are many styles, but the classic hackamore is a design featuring a bosal noseband, and sometimes itself called a "bosal" or a "bosal hackamore." It has a long rope rein called a mecate and may also add a type of stabilizing throatlatch called a fiador, which is held to the hackamore by a browband. Other designs with heavy nosebands are also called hackamores, though some bitless designs with lighter weight nosebands that work off tension rather than weight are also called bitless bridles. A noseband with shanks and a curb chain to add leverage is called a mechanical hackamore, but is not considered a true hackamore. A simple leather noseband, or cavesson, is not a hackamore; rather a noseband is generally used in conjunction with a bit and bridle.
Like a bit, a hackamore can be gentle or harsh, depending on the hands of the rider. It is a myth that a bit is cruel and a hackamore is gentler. The horse's face is very soft and sensitive with many nerve endings. Misuse of a hackamore can not only cause pain and swelling on the nose and jaw, but improper fitting combined with rough use can cause damage to the cartilage on the horse's nose, or even break the fine bones that protect the nasal passages.

The mouthpiece of the bit does not rest on the teeth of the horse, but rather rests on the gums or "bars" of the horse's mouth in an interdental space behind the front incisors and in front of the back molars. When a horse is said to "grab the bit in its teeth" they actually mean that the horse tenses its lips and mouth against the bit to ignore the rider's commands (although some horses may actually learn to get the bit between their molars).
Bits are designed to work by pressure, not pain. Depending on the style of bit, pressure can be brought to bear on the bars, tongue, and roof of the mouth, as well as the lips, chin groove and poll. Bits offer varying degrees of control and communication between rider and horse depending upon their design and on the skill of the rider. It is important that the style of bit is appropriate to the horse's needs and is fitted properly for it to function properly and be as comfortable as possible for the horse.
In the wrong hands even the mildest bit can hurt the horse. Conversely, a very severe bit, in the right hands, can transmit extremely subtle, nuanced signals that cause no pain to the horse. Commands should be given with only the quietest movements of the hands, and most steering is done with the legs and seat. Thus, instead of pulling or jerking the horse's head to change direction by force, a skilled rider indicates the desired direction by tightening and loosening the grip on the reins. The calf of the leg is used to push the body of the horse in a certain direction while the other one is used as a pivot and to provide the correct amount of impulsion required to keep the horse moving. Likewise, when slowing or stopping, a rider sits deeper in the saddle and closes their hands on the reins, avoiding jerking on the horse or hauling back on the reins in a "heavy-handed" fashion. Change of position of the seat and the pressure of the rider's seat bones are also extremely useful for turning, speeding up and slowing down.

By reading those things, you can see the differences fairly easily. One works on the pressure points on the mouth, one basically steers the horse. I myself don't have a thing against bits. When people see me using my hackamore, they automatically think I have something against bits and hate them. Obviously, both things can be used badly for the horse and they can become harmful. My mother once owned a horse that was so severely bruised by a bit and someone who used it too roughly that he would NOT let a bit even near him. He had to use a hackamore. Red is just stubborn, and he seems to be even more stubborn with a bit. My aunt previously owned him, so I asked her tons of questions about why he didn't use a bit and she told me that he worked much better with a hack and seemed to dislike bits.

By holding the reins lopsided or too tight, the ends of the mechanical hack can pinch the horse's cheeks and etc, making it painful.

I personally would rather use a hackamore, but that's also the only thing I've ever used other than the first time I rode a horse.

RIP Squeeky.

There I am with my cousin, who also rides horses, and Squeeky. Squeeky was the first pony I ever rode. As you can see on my face, I was very excited. I've always said the passion started there. :) Right in that same spot was where I rode Red for the first time and I fell in love. Funny how things work.

Squeeky recently passed away, he was a very loved, tiny little pony, and he'll always be special to me. While I'm not a big pony lover, he's what started my riding career and etc.

Question: What do you prefer? A hackamore or a bit? What do you use?


  1. I use different things on different days for Big T. If we are doing barrels or trail or just relaxing I use a mechanical hackamore. If I am doing any on the bit work or jumping or anything technical then I use a snaffle. I NEVER use a curb. Unless you are doing reining (and even then) I just don't think they are necessary. If your horse isn't light enough to work in a snaffle then you need to do more ground work, softening, and basics. I don't understand the Western world's obsession with these bits...

    1. I don't understand it either. I'm really just a trail rider, I've never shown. I've never had a reason to use a bit. But people really are obsessed with it. I hate all of the super harsh bits, they seem so unnecessary.

  2. I use a bit, but really every horse is different. It all depends on what you do and what they like.

    1. I totally agree!! :) Red replies a lot better to a very soft touch, if I'm harsh with him it makes him want to be even more stubborn. :)) He's a ham......