reining horse sliding to a stop wearing a hackamore
Photo Courtesy of Dennis Moreland Tack

Introduction to California Hackamores (Bosals) with Dennis Moreland Tack

“The fine points of handling the hackamore have been handed down from generation to generation by the early Spanish Californians, who took great pride in their horses. Although it requires extra time and patience…the results are worth it” Ed Connell, from his book, Hackamore Reinsman*.

A California hackamore has 3 parts: the noseband or bosal, the headstall or hanger and the mecate or McCarty. Traditional bosals are built in a variety of diameters from 1 inch to approximately 3/8 inch. Trainers start with a larger diameter hackamore, and as the horse progresses in its training, transition to successively smaller diameters. Noseband size is measured from the inside of the nose button to the inside of the heel knot. Learn more about bosal diameter: and hackamore fit:

Each bosal is braided around a core of coiled rawhide or rope and this accounts for the stiffness of the hackamore. Hackamores range from stiff to soft. The hackamore a horse is started with will depend on his personality and what he needs, to respond well, without being scared. All hackamores should be firm but flexible and have life and spring to them.

World Champion cow horse trainer Matt Koch says “using a hackamore allows a horse to find its natural headset. They carry that with them into the bridle and through the rest of their career. It gives them time to mature. It lets their mouths mature, and lets them mature mentally, to go for a year or more in a hackamore. The hackamore makes a better, more confident, bridle horse.”

Hackamores, when used correctly, work by applying give and take pressure to the nose, the sides of the face and the chin. Unlike a snaffle which results in a direct pull on the same side of the mouth that the pull was initiated, the hackamore functions by applying pressure from the noseband to the opposite side of the face. The heavy weight of the heel knot allows a quick release of the pressure on the nose when the mecate is released. Hackamores also help horses learn to give at the poll when you keep your hands actively working the mecate to apply pressure to the nose and chin.

Training a horse in a hackamore takes time and patience. When a horse has learned all he needs to know in a hackamore he can begin to be transitioned to a bit. You need to be sure your horse has learned how to work with lightness and sensitivity in a hackamore. He needs to understand where his feet are during each maneuver before he is advanced to the bridle. If hackamore training has been successful you shouldn’t have to be correcting your horse by pulling on one or both reins. This will help your horse’s mouth stay soft. He should stay balanced through his maneuvers, perform correctly and be a joy to ride for the rest of his career. All because you took the time to add the hackamore phase to his training!

If you are new to hackamore use it can be a wonderful talent to acquire. We recommend getting instruction from horsemen experienced in the successful use of a hackamore and the transition to a bridle.

Dennis Moreland Tack bosals and hackamores are available in assorted sizes, diameters and core stiffness levels. Mane hair and nylon mecates are also available in assorted sizes. Call Dennis Moreland Tack at 817-312-5305 or email [email protected] and we’ll help you find just the right hackamore for your horse.

We’re a full line handmade tack manufacturer and we’re here to help you!

*Hackamore Reinsman by Ed Connell, Lenoche Publishers, Wimberley TX: