Hackamores are a type of horse headgear that does not have a bit. Horses have very soft faces and many areas with sensitive nerve endings. The hackamore pressures the face, nose, jaw and/or chin areas to control the horse.
The earliest and still popular Bosal Hackamore is comprised of a headstall and a leather “bosal” noseband with a knot under the chin to which the mecate reins are attached. (Bosal Hackamores do not work off of amplified leverage as Mechanical Hackamores do).
The knot provides weight so that when the rider picks up the reins, the bosal weight shifts and the horse is “signalled”. (see Signal) It is also very important that when the rider is not on the reins, the hackamore fit comfortably with no pressure whatsoever. It should “spring” back to a comfortable, no-pressure position as opposed to laying its own weight against the horse’s sensitive face – refusing to release. If the hackamore is properly designed and fitted, the horse should feel instant relief when he tucks his nose and flexes at the poll. (see Release) (see Poll)
Most Bosals are made from leather that is over-bound with soft, braided leather. A soft surface with no rough, dry leather is best so that the horse’s nose and jaw are not chaffed or rubbed. Most trainers would not use a leather Bosal with a metal inner core as it is inflexible and will not keep good contact in the right places.
Some rope Bosals can be effective and are softer than leather. However, an oval shape is desired, and rope sometimes does not hold its shape well enough.
Position the Bosal about half way between the horse’s inner eye and the end of his nostrils. If the headstall seems to run too close to his eye, use a throatlatch to keep it tied back away from the eye. Renowned horse trainer Benny Guitron suggests, “about 10-1/2″ – 11″ long from inside the heel knot to inside the nose button with two fingers width between the horse’s chin and the first wrap of the mecate reins”. He also prefers that “the hackamore first contact along the nose, then the chin.”
Many young horses are started in Bosals (sometimes called a Breaking Hackamore) before progressing to a snaffle bit. It prevents any bitting issues as their teeth change. It also prevents any mouth issues from too much pressure in their mouths at an early age. They are also popular for horses that “fight” a bit, have dental or mouth problems, or to avoid putting a cold bit into a horse’s mouth in winter.
A hackamore also tends to help a horse to flex laterally leading with his face (tipping his nose and breaking slightly at the poll) instead of a direct flex from the withers. The softer poll makes the horse better balanced and softer in the face at all times.
As training progresses, some horses move to a mechanical hackamore or a mechanical hackamore with a bit incorporated.
use strategic pressure on the face, nose, chin and poll to control the horse, applying pressure to those sensitive areas by virtue of a curb chain, shanks, and the reins.
When the rein is pulled backward and upward, the bottom of the shank comes backward and upward. It moves the curb forward and tightens the chin pressure, which also puts pressure on the nose. The backward movement of the shank pulls the bridle loop down and brings the poll down. With a little practice, he will learn where the comfortable position is and carry his head there.
The hackamore is an excellent choice for horse with damaged mouths. Many trail horses wear them.
As with curb bits, the length of the cheek on a Mechanical Hackamore is important, as the longer the cheek, the more pressure is applied to the horse’s chin and poll with less rein pressure. However, if the curb is adjusted properly, longer shanks must rotate before applying pressure, and in doing so give a horse “warning” of the needed action BEFORE pressure is applied. Thus, a horse can be sensitized to light cues.
Mechanical Hackamores and the Quick Stop (below) are not for novice trainers or handlers. They can apply severe corrections if not properly used. Light hands, and short tugs are needed as opposed to hauling back on the reins or sharp jerks.
Because this Quick Stop has no mouthpiece, it is often confused with a Mechanical Hackamore. It certainly has leveraged cheeks that apply pressure to the chin bar, which is forced up onto the sensitive, non-muscled area of the jaw bone. The cheeks magnify the pressure to encourage a very fast whoa. Neither this “bit” nor a Mechanical Hackamore are for a novice rider or trainer, as both can be very severe.
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