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“The biggest benefit I got from the hackamore was cooperation with my horse. She had lots of opinions about things and didn’t want to be totally under your thumb. In the hackamore, she felt free enough to go her own way and yet it still managed to provide me with enough control in some critical moments.”


2014, including her first senior Nation’s Cup experience. “I cannot take credit for building the mare myself as Kelly did most of that work, and when she generously gave me the ride, it was up to me just to take some time with her and form our own unique partnership,” Chris says. From the beginning of his relationship with Choco-


late, she always had a bit of a ‘funny’ mouth, he says. “For the most part, she would tolerate a normal snaffle bit for flatwork but really resented the control a bit would pres- ent over fences. By the time Kelly had handed me the reins, she had tried many different bit/bridle combinations with medium success. One day she tried a hackamore and suddenly everything kind of came together; Chocolate was much happier and her performances improved dramati- cally,” Chris explains. The hackamore wasn’t Chocolate’s only bridle,


however. “I schooled her on the flat and over some small fences with a pretty regular snaffle bit. Sometimes at competitions, for our morning flatwork session I would ride her in the hackamore so that we were both back in that mode for jumping later in the day,” Chris explains. But he had to be careful as Chocolate’s issues with a bit


Bit and Hackamore Combinations


At the 2012 London Olympics, many people were shocked at the bitting arrangement eventer Karen O’Connor rode Mr. Medi- cott in for their show jumping phase: a snaffle combined with a very long shanked mechanical hackamore. Great Britain’s show jumper Robert Whitaker rode his two- time winning puissance horse Finbarr V to clear 7 feet 4 inches in the combination of a hackamore and snaffle. He was inter- viewed about the choice by Horse & Hound in August 2008. “Finbarr is a big horse, and the more he knows what he is doing the harder he is to ride to fences,” he explained then. “He is quite sensitive and doesn’t like strong bits. The combination he wears is a German hackamore with an eggbutt snaffle, using leather roundings and one rein.” In Finbarr’s case, he continued, the two gave him the right


tended to be with her tongue. “On the flat, she had a pretty decent mouth in a bit, quite sensitive and light. But she was the master of getting her tongue over the bit! You always had to be very careful with the amount of pressure she was under; a little too much here or there, or a poorly ridden left to right lead change for example, and the tongue would become an issue,” he adds. By the time Chris took over the reins, Chocolate had


plenty of experience in the hackamore—but his was limited. “Chocolate was the first horse I consistently rode in a hackamore and it definitely took some getting used to on my part,” he continues. “I found that sometimes she would really drop off the hackamore and fall behind me quite suddenly if the connection went too long without being broken. For example, the odd time when she was getting strong towards the end of the course she could tend to lean down on the hackamore and with the tech- nicality of the courses and her big stride, it was tricky to find places to really soften the connection, which would normally work to bring her back up. Occasionally it felt a bit like water skiing and I wasn’t sure she was really look- ing for what was coming next! Thanks to her incredible


combination of steering and control, as the hackamore and snaffle have different actions. “My uncle Michael Whitaker has used this combination, and I’ve also seen some of the German show jumpers use it—I was just playing around with bits one day and found the hackamore and snaffle worked for us,” he said. Undoubtedly this type of bridling is quite advanced and not recommended for less experienced riders. “Their [the combi-


LEFT: Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott at the 2012 London Olympics. RIGHT: Robert Whitaker and Finbarr V win the puissance in May 2007 in Madrid with his combination bit and hackamore.


nation bit’s] success relies upon the skill of the person implementing them,” said British bit expert Tricia Nassau Williams. “I can understand how a combination such as a hackamore and snaffle works for a very experienced and talented rider; one with an independent seat, expert balance and rewarding hands.”


Warmbloods Today 19


jorisdebrabander.be


Shawn Hamilton


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