Bitless and barefoot proves best for Conor Swail’s ride Vital Chance De La Roque

  • Conor Swail’s 13-year-old gelding Vital Chance De La Roque – aka ‘Vinny’ – has an unusual comfort zone, which sees him competing with no shoes and a simple hackamore at the Winter Equestrian Festival this week.

    “There’s not much tack there so it’s a good system that he’s in and he goes very well. He seems to like that the best,”said Conor.

    When he acquired the horse, Vinny was already accustomed to having no shoes and as a result, Conor stuck with it.

    “The person we bought him from just asked me to leave them off because it was working well,” he said. “I don’t see a reason to change it if the horse is healthy and sound and doing well. The horse has stayed that way with me and it’s been over a year now.”

    Conor has two supposedly identical hackamores, but he only rides in one – and it is treasured.

    “They’re supposed to be the same, but when I ride in the other one I don’t like it as much,” said Conor. “I just go with the other one, so it travels everywhere or it’s at home on my couch.”

    For Conor, the hackamore is something of a go to option.

    “I try to be more simple with bits,” he said. “With Vinny, he’s quite a hot, strong horse or he can be, so when he’s charging and I’ve a bridle I have to correct his movements.

    “And I found with a bridle when I had to steady him down a bit he found it hard to jump big jumps because I was nearly taking too much energy away, whereas with the hackamore, it’s more pressure on the nose, so even if I’m pulling he’s still able to jump through the bridle and get to the other side easier. That’s how I feel it works really well with him.”

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