Monday, March 8, 2010

Farah DeJohnette - Questions from the Editor

The article just came out- click on the link to see the full article!
Check it out: The Versatile Buckaroo Sidepull

Farah DeJohnette gives her insight into the Sidepull, listening to your horse, and where to start when introducing a new piece of equipment to your horse. You can view Farah's videos at These questions came from the editor at Today's Horse Trader magazine - look for the article in May.

In discussing sidepulls versus hackamores with my son, he believes that a hackamore (properly set up) pushes, while a sidepull... well, pulls. Do you have thoughts about the differences/benefits between the two?

Well, this is not a simple question because there are so many types of hackamore designs and Bosals and sidepulls. Everything from completely rope to mechanical. They all have somewhat different feels to the horse and the person. And then there's how they are fitted to the horse. My personal opinion is that each horse is different and you should pick the equipment that the horse seems to be the happiest in and gives you a feel you both like. I am not really able to comment on the push versus pull because again that goes to how you ride and use the individual piece of equipment. There are literally hundreds of rein handling techniques and styles. Some people ride in a pushing manner and some people ride in a pulling manner. Some people do neither.
As for technical differences, The obvious feel differences would be soft rope which is unstructured on a horses face, All soft leather like a side pull with a leather nose (or add a different nose material for another feel), rawhide has a more solid and stiff structure on the face, Mechanical hackamores have a lot of metal so they can have a more rigid feel, and then there's hybrid variations and millions of others in between.
As for the benefits, of side pulls? I feel the less you can use to communicate the better your horsemanship. So if you don't need a bit? Why use one? Bitless is good for horses with dental issues, or facial injuries, it's a suitable way to start a young horse or re-school a horse who's unconfident, frustrated or resentful with the bit. I have found that Side Pulls offer me a feel I really like and my horses seem to as well. Their opinion counts to me the most and so I answer to them. That's why I use a Side Pull over other bitless options.


So one more question, if you don't mind - how 'fool proof' is this side pull? Like, if I have very little skill as a rider, is this a good choice or like Pat Parelli always says, "It depends."

How Fool proof is it?
That questions denotes a lot of variables as well. A well trained horse with a learning rider would well be protected by a leather nose Side pull from inexperienced hands.
As a big believer in setting yourself up for success and not failure, I am doing short video clips about how to introduce the feel of the Side pull to your horse which will be on youtube soon. This starts with ground working in it to help the horse get accustomed to where and what the communication will feel like. At this point you will be able to evaluate how your horse responds, good or bad, from the relative safety of the ground. Then possibly work with them until you both feel confident. If it works well, I decide to mount up and try it, I do so in a round pen or arena enclosure.
When I introduce any new piece of equipment, I first try it on the ground. Then if I feel it is working positively, I will try it mounted in an enclosed area, always practicing the same things I do in any other equipment to make sure my horse and I are in sync. Then if I feel good about that, I will go out in fields or trails depending on the individual horse and our readiness.
I ask the rider to ask themselves honestly how confident they feel about going to the next step. Whatever that step may be. And of course never to be in a hurry to get there and to seek help if they are unsure or feeling unsafe.


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