Hackamore Questions


These are the coloured rawhide strands (e.g. red, black, tan, natural) which are threaded through the braided rawhide to create a decorative finish. However decorative patterns are also created by braiding coloured strands of hide as an integral part of the braiding.

Bosal - Sensitivity

The use of the bosal works on placing pressure on the trigeminal nerve network in the horse’s head (bridge, cheek and lower jaw). The three branches of the trigeminal are (1. ophthalmic nerve, 2nd maxillary nerve and 3rd mandibular) nerve.

Trigeminal Nerve Structure
Trigeminal Nerve Structure
Bosal - Selection

Various considerations including; bosal size (diameter), inside length, inside width, flex (a stiffer bosal may be used for a greener horse to communicate a more direct pressure), core construction rawhide twisted or braided, color, nose band length, plait, for training, for show,or everyday use. The hackamore is the ideal solution for starting a horse and preserving their tender mouth; 2 years – permanent teeth start revealing, 3.5 years to 4.5 years - incisors start breaking through, year 5 full set of teeth.

Bosal -Sizing

The nose button and selection is dependent on the level of proficiency both of you and your horse whether that’s a green colt or you are in the two rein transition stage prior to going into the bridle.

  • 3/4” for potentially larger horses
  • 5/8” size normally tended to start horses
  • 1/2” transition into the two rein
  • 3/8” - 1/4” (bosalito) inch for two reining

The average length of a bosal 11.5 inches, however significant adjustment is possible with the use of a shaper and the wrapping of the mecate which can be used to shorten the bosal however this will impact on the balance.



Bosal - Fitting

The position of the bosal is approximately halfway between the horses muzzle and eyes (the button of the bosal sits on the nasal bone above the soft cartilage (near the muzzle) not beneath). Once the mecate are attached and without contact the bosal and bars are angulated coming behind the corner of the mouth and close to the jaw line with the heel knot resting close to the chin of the horse. The bars of the bosal should rest lightly on the side of the upper and lower jaw. The lower the bosal is positioned amplifies the point of flexion, the higher the bosal and closer to the poll reduces this along with the sensitivity and feel for both the horse and rider. When contact is taken the bosal should roll evenly across the nasal bone of the horse with the bars coming into contact with the lower jaw. The horses profile will determine the ideal fitting. A bosal can be shaped to the contours of the horse however if the horse has a deep jaw then certain bosals may be too small and prohibit any movement. If a horse has a smaller jaw and the bosal appears too large then the cheeks can be shaped accordingly and the mecate used to reduce this depth, there should always be space between the mecate knot and the horses lower jaw. Additional wraps of a mecate will impact on the balancing, angulation and release of the bosal as the heel knot will be carrying a greater weight and therefore result in a quicker release. The selection and fitting of the hackamore is a much discussed topic and we would like to state that the criteria may differ from one area to another, where different concepts of how the hackamore is traditionally used. However at the end of the day it is paramount that it does not incur any damage to the horse, we fit and advise the purchase of our hackamores and how we believe it works best for the ideals of our passive horsemanship.

Bosal - Shaping

Due to the nature and refinement of our bosals under no circumstances place them in a bucket of water and try to shape around a can. The correct way to shape our bosals is through the natural give in the material over a period of time. This retains the integrity of the bosal (braiding and core) whilst creating a profile that suits your horse. Saturation of the bosal will simply undo the braiders fine work!

Bosal - Nose Buttons

The average length is 6-7.5 inches enabling a close fit around the bridge of the nose thus displacing load. The length of the nose button will determine the position of the hanger. A shorter nose button will increase the height of the hanger intercepting the eye line thus some riders will incorporate a latigo / thread similar to a throat latch pulling the hanger downwards. With the pivot point of the bosal being higher up the cheeks results in a quicker release when a contact is taken. The nose button is braided with a higher number of plaits to achieve the greater circumference and smoothness.

Bosal - Side Buttons

These are the 2 small buttons which are at the end of the nose button on each side. Normally higher quality bosals will weave the top button into the nose button with the button beneath being separate. The space between these buttons is where the latigo or headstall is secured. As well as support they provide a contact pressure point.

Bosal - Cheeks or Shanks

These are the bars either side of the of bosal which contact the lower jaw line as the secondary contact point.

Bosal - Heel Knot & Plug

Acts as a counter balance to the nose button and provides the stop point for the mecate reins. There are different shapes of heel knot depending on the braiders preference including the pineapple and the more elongated pear profile. Dependent on the design of the bosal a gap may be visible above the heel knot and between the bars, this is sometimes referred to as the “plug”.



Bosal - Plaits

Our bosals are extremly refined both the button and cheeks are far smoother compared to the heavily textured lower plaited bosals which can cause excessive abrasions to the horse. So there will be no requirement to try to soften the bosal by adding a cotton wrap, tape or similar. Remember though light hands are the key and heavy hands and ill fitting tack can always cause damage whether a high/low plaited bosal, snaffle or ported bit are being used. Plaits vary including 12 plait cheeks and 16 plait nose button, 16 plait cheeks and 24 plait nose button, 24 plait cheek with 32 plait nose button to 60+. A common concern with bosals and other rawhide tack is the curling of the hide over time which can occur on cheaper products. However with finer braided goat hide, curls never occur due to the strand width and thickness being of a close ratio. With lower plaited items incorporating a wider strand the edges are bevelled thus preventing any curling.

Bosal - Flex/Stiffness

The flex of the bosal is determined by a variety of criteria including; a.type of hide and preparation, b. braided rawhide or twisted rawhide core, c. braiding technique.

Bosal - Maintaining your rawhide

If your hackamore becomes very wet it is best to leave it to dry naturally at room temperature (warm). Depending how wet the rig is it may also be preferable to remove the mecate and hang in long lengths and invert the bosal and suspend by the heel knot with a piece of non coloured thread and leave to dry. The only product which should be applied to any rawhide bosal or tack is rawhide cream. It should be used to clean and preserve your tack. When cleaning use three clean soft cotton cloths. First use the cream to loosen the dirt on the bosal gently massaging the braid, then remove this with the second cloth and then finally reapply the rawhide cream using the third cloth. Depending on how dirty/wet it gets will really dictate how often it needs to be cleaned or proofed.

Fiador - (Fee-ah-dohr) from Spanish meaning; gurantor/surety

The fiador is the name of the knot which forms part of the rope throat latch attached to the headstall. It provides added strength and security and thus prevents the horse from jostling the bosal and headstall of its head or from pulling it off. If a bosal is used with a fiador it is important that it is always hangs loose enough to allow the bosal to locate in its free position. The throatlatch loops around the heel knot of the bosal with the use of a ‘hackamore knot’ the four strands (shank) then extend upwards beneath the cheeks of the horse, this is where the fiador knot is located. The ends are then passed over the horses poll then pass through the loop end and are secured with a bleed (halter) knot. The distance between the hackamore and fiador are dependent on the horses head size and should be adjusted accordingly. This distance will influence the movement of the bosal. If the shank is too short it will pull the heel knot up and not allow the free movement and subsequent release, if it is too long it will not provide the stop should the horse pull the bosal off. The hackamore knot should be snug when tied and not over tightened on the heel knot of the bosal.

Does it dampen the signal?

If a horse can feel fly on its rump then the sensitivity within the muzzle, nose and jaw is even more sensitive in terms of the cluster of nerves running through it. If the bosal is shaped and rolls across the bridge of the nose and the fiador tied correctly allowing free movement then communication will not be impaired. In reality it is the level of contact you take through the mecate/bosal and the speed of release, which determines the signal and its clarity combined with the correct body position.The horse will already feel the weight of the bosal and the slightest movement (roll). The key to this is, is to start your conversation with your horse at the lowest level possible, taking the lightest contact, retaining it and releasing within an instant as soon as the horse gives. In my opinion which I hasten to say is only my opinion it is absolutely paramount on a green horse you have some form of security whether you are hitching them to the rail for the first time, riding them out solo with another horse or in traffic. Without a fiador and a simple hanger you are relying on the horse not reacting to either the hackamore but more importantly the environment you are in. For me security is key when starting young horses both for you and him ...or even riding a more advanced horse. I am not saying riding without is wrong but a degree of snobbery can exist due to the fact of the aspiration or claim of the person riding the horse. You see people riding horses which are well broke in a latigo hanger without a fiador which is their choice and leads me to believe they have 100% confidence in the fact their horse will not blink at anything, whether a chasing dog, moving cattle, crack of the whip, a floating bag in the breeze or a gunshot. However there are always combinations or circumstances, which can turn what people think, is the most broke horse (hackamore or bridle horse) into a spinning top and for this reason irrespective of whether it appears more lowbrow a fiador is a safe choice.

Hackamore - (Hah-key-mah) : from Spanish word Jaquima

Refers to the complete rig - headstall or hanger, mecate, bosal and fiador.


A hanger is a single piece of tack which may be braided rawhide with button adjustment or a latigo with/without a bleed knot or buckle adjustment which is positioned behind the ears of the horse.The position of the hanger will be determined by the nose button width on the bosal, with a shorter button the hanger may cut close to the eyeline and therefore a separate latigo or thread can be used to pull this downwards.


The headstall may refers to a piece of tack that fits over the ears of the horse either with a loop or browband and which may or may not include a throatlatch,

Mecates - (May-kah-tay) from Spanish meaning; rope

Mecates can either be hand or machine twisted with an average length of 22ft (although longer mecates exist upto 30ft). The length allows you to create single looped reins incorporating a single small coil in one hand to increase slack when required and a length to serve as the lead/get down rope which can be tied to the horn, looped in your belt or tied to a saddle latigo. The mecate normally corresponds to the same size of bosal you are using; 5/8” mecate to a 5/8” bosal, 3/8” mecate to a 3/8” bosal, 1/4” mecate to a 1/4” bosalito (pencil bosal). Matching the diameter and bar size help ensure that the weight corresponds with that of the bosal. This will have a direct impact as to the speed of release of the bosal and the sense of feel that that you receive through the reins from either a lighter bosalito or heavier 5/8” bosal. The weight of the mecate can vary even if the diameter is the same, this can be due to the fineness/coarseness of the fibres, number of strands or the tightness /density of core and weave. A useful guide for the measuring the length of the looped rein can be done by holding the bosal by the heel knot in one hand and extending the reins at the top of the loop in the other and subsequently stretching your arms out, this arm span should provide an adequate loop rein size. The reins will take a little while to break in however they should retain a firmness to them as it is this characteristic which helps transfer the movement of the horse into your hands. If you need to coil the mecate always coil in the direction of its natural lay and not against, as you would any other rope or cable.If your hackamore becomes very wet whilst riding out it may be preferable to remove the mecate and hang in long lengths (to avoid kinks) and leave to air dry. We do not supply yacht rope reins although frequently used as a substitute for traditional horse or yak hair mecates. They are very much an all weather product which can be easily maintained however we feel it lacks the life that comes with the body and lay of a traditional twisted hair mecate. N.B In conditions and where usage permits, we would suggest unwrapping the mecate to release any tension and to prevent any permanent fixing of its structure i.e kinks. However, if you are using the same rig, for the same purpose (training, roping) and potentially the same horse then the removal may not be necessary on such a frequent basis. If you are limited in available rigs and differential (sizing, level of training, purpose) between horses is great then you will need to do so. Like a shoe lace, it will normally break at the point of greatest fatigue and stress (where the bend/knot occurs). The mecate is the same. If you are the only rider on the same horse doing the same thing and continually remove and then replace the mecate everyday you will be stressing the same parts time and time again, hence fatigue will occur and consequently the strands within the mecate will gradually break as the wraps will be formed in the same area due to the fact your loop rein size and bosal weight/wrap set up will be the same. This is one reason why many riders have a broad range of rigs. Mecate characteristics

  • 8 strand weave
  • 6 strand weave
  • Made from Horse Hair (mane softer than tail)
  • Mohair, Yak,
  • Alpaca ( very soft feel)
  • With raw hide, hitched knots and leather poppers
  • Single and blended colours including; black, white, sorrel, chestnut, buckskin, grey


Mecate - Wrapping

When wrapping the mecate do not over tighten around the bosal. The higher the position of the loop rein above the heel knot results in increased lateral movement whilst the lower the loop rein, closer to the heel knot results in greater vertical flexion from the poll. The lead rope may also vary in position and can either extend from the front, rear or side of the bosal. The number of mecate wraps will also greatly influence the speed of release of the bosal, increased wraps equal more weight. If a bosal has a plug then the knot of the mecate can be placed through this. If a bosal does not have a plug and the bars enter the heel knot in a flush fork position then an alternative is to make one wrap around the base of the forks and then place the knot of the mecate through so it rests on top of this wrap, then continue with the additional wraps and loop rein. This prevents the mecate being compressed too much, either method can be used.