Girls Horse Club Blog

Bits vs. Hackamores

Published by • Mar 30th, 2009 • Category: Riding Advice

by Allison, age 13

I’ve heard many arguments claiming bits are much harsher than hackamores, or hackamores are cruel compared to bits. Which one is right? That’s what we are going to find out!

A hackamore is like a bridle without a bit that uses a chain or noseband to apply pressure to different points on a horse’s head. Many riders use a hackamore in winter instead of putting a freezing cold bit into their horse’s mouth. Other horses wear hackamores because of dental issues that cause a bit to be painful. Other horses just will not accept a bit!

Why doesn’t everyone use hackamores then? What could be more comfortable than a “bitless bridle”? A hackamore can be very painful for a horse when used incorrectly, through cruelty or ignorance. A horse’s face is very sensitive and tugging on the hackamore can cause sores and even break small bones! My friend’s horse has always worn a hackamore, simply because the horse will not accept a bit. Her previous owners were too harsh with the hackamore and caused her to have a large sore on her nose.

A bit is usually a metal bar placed in a horse’s mouth. The bit, like the hackamore, uses pressure to control a horse. But instead of applying pressure to pressure points on a horse’s head, the bit puts pressure on different regions on the horse’s mouth. Most horses I have seen use a bit. In the well-known book Black Beauty, the bit is despised by the horses and held in contempt. Is it really all that bad? People say it all depends on how “severe” the bit is. But really, I believe it depends on the person who uses a bit.

So what did you decide? Which is better for a horse — a bit or a hackamore? I came to my own conclusion. I think it all depends on the horse and the rider. If a horse is more comfortable with a bit, a bit is best in that situation. If a horse hates the feeling of the bit, then a hackamore is a good choice. In winter, if my horse was comfortable with a hackamore, a hackamore would probably be a better choice than a frozen bit.

Whatever you use, a bit or a hackamore, be sure to always be gentle!

7 Nickers »

  1. Its one of those things where it depends on whether or not it is used correctly…the are both humane if used the way they should be. Good blog!

  2. I like your blog!

  3. I couldn’t have said it better myself! But with bits, most horses like them because if they’re the kind of bit that has a “twirly” thing, horses use their tongue to roll it around. It’s like a little game for them. Also, if hackamores can be “used” incorrectly, think of what it would be like for a beginner rider… poor horsey…

    Awesome job, Allison! I really liked the blog :)

  4. Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the rider and the horse’s needs. My horse for example is terribly unhappy with a bit, but is a perfect angel with a hackamore. And my green broke pony is the opposite. So,ya, it all depends.

  5. It depends… the harshest bit in the world could be gentle on a horse’s mouth if it was in the right hands.

  6. I totaly with you. I usually use a bit, but thats just becouse the stable I use tought me to use a bit and I just never changed.

  7. Well, there is not one that is better then the other. They can both be harsh. It depends on how the rider uses them….. So I really don’t think there is anything to argue about. Just be carful in all cases!