By Kristen Spinning
Whether using a hackamore as a training tool at home, or getting a young Western Pleasure horse ready for the show pen, having it tied correctly and adjusted to your horse will either make or break your success with this piece of tack.
Bosals are made with a variety of sizes, thickness, and pliability. Hackamore experts agree that what’s appropriate for your horse depends on his preference and individual needs. The mecate is a 22’-23’ long rope that’s tied to the bottom of the bosal in a fashion that not only adjusts the size, but also provides both reins and lead rope. The traditional Vaquero-style mecate is made of horsehair. Mecates can also be made of cotton, nylon, or a blend of fibers, each offering a different weight or feel.
While it seems fairly straightforward, all too often hackamores are tied incorrectly. Simple mistakes in tying can affect both form and function. A twist while tying the mecate means that your reins won’t drape nicely. A bosal that sits too low or too big can be agitating to the horse. When it’s too tight, it applies constant pressure with no room for release.
AQHA Hall of Famer and legendary horseman, Bob Avila, understands the hackamore very well from its Vaquero origins as a colt-starting tool through its current use in high dollar competition. “Just because you have a horse and you have a hackamore, it doesn’t mean you have a hackamore horse.” Though Avila has been sharing that wisdom for years, he laments that his mantra has only become more obvious with the passage of time. He says, “There are so many people who think they’re going to put a hackamore on their horse. There’s so much more to it than that. You have to take an incredible amount of time and teach them how to bend and how to give to the hackamore. You have to get to know how they feel with it.” He believes that deep understanding is important to knowing how to tie this piece of equipment.