For two or three years now I’ve been going to clinics and watching some of the riders use a 5/8 hackamore and mecate. The hackamore is the part with the noseband and head stall. The mecate are the horsehair reins.
Jeff Sanders explains the origins:
“The hackamore is a braided rawhide nose band (bosal) with a mecate attached for reins that has traditionally been used by Vaqueros for starting young horses. The bosal part of the hackamore comes in varying sizes depending on how far along a horse is in its training. A young horse will be ridden with a larger bosal than one that has been transitioned to the two rein. With a two reined horse a smaller bosal goes under the bridle and helps the Vaquero to transition slowly to the use of the bit.”
Last November at a clinic in Germany, all the horses were wearing these, mainly 5/8 sizes which is the one you begin with, and to be honest the level of horsemanship they were displaying was beautiful. While a great horseman will ride well in any gear, I was curious to know why these people seemed to prefer the hackamore to a rope halter.
One kind lady explained that the hackamore was like a more subtle rope halter. You can do small movements and the horse will still feel them. That sounded good to me. The more subtle my aids can be the better.
It works on pushing the horse, instead of the rope halter which involves a greater pull action. The rider needs to have very good & sensitive hands to use one. It’s not a beginner / intermediate rider tool. If it goes wrong it goes badly wrong.
As these are quite a sophisticated tool, first I needed to get one made that was of a high quality and fit my horse exactly.
You can get ones that are stiff and soft. You do not want one thats really stiff.
When you hold both ends of the hackamore in your hand and squeeze then, you should be able to create a little wave in the hackamore (noseband) part. Too stiff = not good.
You shouldn’t buy these in a shop, they have to be handmade for your horse.
You not not want a cheap one of these, as its likely to start hurting your horse if the quality is not perfect. Do not go down that road.
My German friends recommended Micha in Germany (there is 4 month waiting list). I contacted Micha, figured out colours and then got to measuring my horses head. The hackamore should be snug, but not too tight.
With everything set, I left it with Micha and about 3 months later I got a message to say it was completed. Once week after that it arrived in the post!
When you’re hackamore arrives, you MUST get someone experienced with hackamores, like Steve Halfpenny or Isi Brenner (both teach in Ireland once or twice a year), to fit it for you the first time, show you how many wraps it needs and how to tie it, and also then you teach you the technique about how to ride in it.
Do NOT get a hackamore / bosal if you cannot meet all this criteria as otherwise you’re walking yourself straight into serious problems.
Here is a video about how to tie the mecate to the hackamore.
So a week ago Isi came over, fitted the hackamore on my horse and we had our first ride.
I really had to focus to move my hands a lot less and be waaaaay more subtle. My horse is very sensitive, but he had no problems in it at all.
At the beginning, we just walked around with it, while I rubbed his neck to relax his body and mind while he got used to the different feel (note – he is used to working in a halter so its very similar. It is not that similar through to a bridle).
Looking forward to doing more with it!