SHOW jumper Robert Whitaker uses both a snaffle bit and a hackamore on his puissance specialist, Finbar V. Indeed, combining a hackamore with a bit is becoming more common in show jumping. We find out why.

Why does Robert use this combination?

AS joint puissance winner at both Olympia in 2006 and the 2007 British Open, Robert Whitaker and Finbar V cleared 7ft 4 3/4in — but Robert admits the horse has his own style of jumping and sometimes has an unconventional way of approaching fences.

“Finbar is a big horse, and the more he knows what he is doing the harder he is to ride to fences,” says Robert.

“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.

“I find they give me the right combination of steering and control, as the hackamore and snaffle have different actions.”

As the points of control on the hackamore are vertical and not lateral, it does not provide good steering — Robert uses the snaffle for this purpose.

“The hackamore holds the horse ‘together’, as Finbar often puts his head up and back on the approach to big fences,” adds Robert.

“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.”

Do experts recommend using a hackamore and snaffle together?

TRICIA Nassau Williams of the Worshipful Company of Loriners says bits are only a communication tool.

“Their success relies upon the skill of the person implementing them,” she says.

“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.

“However, in the hands of an inexperienced or less talented rider, this could be an option of bridling and bitting that is too advanced. Less experienced riders are best guided by advice from a qualified riding instructor and bitting expert.”

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (31 May, ’07)