Sunday, January 17, 2010


I came across an old picture the other day of something that made me cringe. The picture was taken almost 30 years ago at the start of my “horse career,” and at the time I thought nothing of it. I have learned a lot in the ensuing years and now as I look at the picture I realize how the fit of the hackamore is all wrong. Do you see?

There are a few different types of hackamores – bosal, sidepull, jumping cavesson and the mechanical hackamore. All of these are designed to act on the nose and jaw of the horse, rather than the tongue and bars of the mouth as with a bit.

The bosal comes in varying sizes and weights and is used many times to start a young horse. It consists of a noseband with a large knot to which is attached a mecate – a long, braided rope that when tied on correctly has a closed loop rein and a leadrope. Some bosals may also have a throatlatch piece, called a fiador.

The sidepull has a noseband that fits tighter and has rings to attach reins. As the name suggests, this type of hackamore is used for lateral movements of the head.

A jumping cavesson is similar to a sidepull but is usually attached to an English bridle and the noseband is an even tighter fit than the sidepull, giving it more subtle control.

A mechanical hackamore is not really a true “hackamore” as it has shanks and a curb chain, giving it quite a bit of leverage and can be very harsh in a rider with rough hands. It doesn’t have a lot of ease in turning a horse, unless the horse is trained to neck rein, but it does have considerable stopping power.

With all of the above hackamores - as with any bridle - the fit is all-important. The nose band should ride on the bone of the nose, not on the soft tissue below the nose bone as pressure there can cut off the wind of the horse, or can break the tip of the nose bone if it is sitting just on the edge of that bone.

So do you see why I cringed at the picture? With a strong pull, how would this horse be able to breath?

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