The Hackamore


This is a mechanical hackimore, with a rope nose and a curb chain.

 

A hackamore is a type of bridle without a bit. It is designed to control the horse via pressure points on the nose and chin, instead of using pressure in the mouth like a bit does.

The hackamore is derived from a Spanish tradition, and thus more often seen in western events, although they are also seen in show jumping, eventing, and endurance riding.


There are three main types of hackamores: the mechanical hackamore, the side-pull, and the bosal.

 


A horse wearing a bosal hackamore. Source: Wikipedia

The bosal is a mild and "true" hackamore, meaning it does not work off of leverage. It balances on the horse's nose and uses pressure on the nose and jaws to direct the horse. It is often used on young horses because it is very mild. The bosal consists of a thick, stiff noseband with a knot at the bottom where both reins attach. The reins on a bosal are traditionally called mecate, and are often made of horsehair. Even though it is mild, a bosal is best used by an experienced horseman with light hands.

 




Example of a mechanical hackamore. Note the sheepskin that pads the chinstrap. Source: wikipedia

The mechanical hackamore is sometimes not considered a "true" hackmore because it works off of leverage.

It consists of a stiff rope or leather over the nose, with two metal shanks, and a chin strap or curb chain. Like a curb bit, the severity of the hackamore will increase with the length of the shanks.

The mechanical hackamore is one of the most harsh, because it works off of leverage unlike other "true" hackamores. A rider must be gentle and use soft hands since this type of hackamore works off of leverage and can easily injure a horse's sensitive face. A mechanical hackamore with a sniff nose or curb chain should always be wrapped in a soft material to provide padding. Vetwrap is often used over rope nosebands or curb chains. A mechanical hackamore is not a good choice for an inexperienced rider because it requires more subtlety.


An example of a sidepull, this jumping cavesson has a leather loop over the nose that controls the horse. Source wikipedia.

The side pull is a very mild hackamore which functions much like a halter with a lead rope clipped to each side.
The sidepull

is a simple hackamore that consists of a loop of material over the nose and reins that connect directly to the side. It uses direct pressure to control the horse, not leverage, and thus is very mild. The noseband is often leather and has a strap that goes under the jaw of the horse. Because a sidepull is very mild, it is good for inexperienced riders so they do not injure the horse's mouth.
A jumping cavesson is a type of sidepull hackamore that is used often used in English jumping events.



Some horses prefer hackamores to bits. Horses that will not tolerate a bit, or that have had injuries in the mouth, are often ridden in hackamores.

Some riders feel the hackamore is less harsh because it does not involve pressure in the mouth, however a hackamore must still be used with care. Hackamores, if used improperly, can cause just as much damage as a bit can.

Ultimately the choice to use a bit or a hackamore it is up to the horse. Some horses work very well in hackamores while others do not. Some horses however are so sensitive in the mouth that they cannot be ridden in anything other than a hackamore.

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