California hackamore on a horse

How to Choose the Right California Hackamore (Bosal) for Your Horse

California hackamores or bosals are made in diameters from 3/8 inch to 1 inch says Dennis Moreland of Dennis Moreland Tack. The 3 parts of a hackamore are the noseband or bosal, the headstall or hanger and the mecate (rein). Traditional nosebands are made with a stiff or soft core of twisted rawhide or rope and it’s this core that determines the diameter of the finished hackamore. Beveled rawhide or leather strips are braided over the core to form the body of the hackamore. A nose button is braided over the body. The nose button should be about 7 inches long, balanced in weight and proportion to the body and heel knot of the hackamore, and tapered at the edges. Also braided on each side of the body are side button knots. The hanger or headstall is attached between these and the nose button to hold the hanger in place.

Traditionally, trainers start colts with a large diameter hackamore, and as the horse progresses in its training, they transition it to successively smaller diameters. The choice of diameter, core, and materials the bosal is braided of also depend on the response of the horse to the bosal. This can make it a challenge to know which hackamore to start a colt in and when to transition to a different diameter.

Hackamores work by applying pressure to the nose, the sides of the face and the chin. When the mecate is pulled vertically the nose button puts pressure on the nose. When the mecate is pulled laterally the buttons apply pressure on the sides of the nose and face. The heavy weight of the heel knot allows a quick release of the pressure on the nose when the mecate is released.

A horse head with a california hackamore

Two-time AQHA Working Cow Horse World Champion trainer Matt Koch of Koch Cowhorses says hackamore training really gives a horse an advantage. He recommends starting a horse in a large diameter soft cored hackamore and “just let the horse pack the hackamore around for a few days. Go really slow and don’t train on the horse during this time and see how the horse responds to that hackamore. Some horses prefer rawhide on the nose button and side buttons, and some prefer leather. Some will respond better to a softer, looser hackamore and some like a stiffer cored hackamore. Just ease around in it left and right at the start, then ease into maneuvers. You’ll know by the way they carry themselves, and if they respond with suppleness when you ask for a turn, if they like the way the hackamore feels. If not, try something a little different until you get that response. And don’t forget, left and right is way more important than gathering up at the start” says Koch. The ¾-inch diameter hackamore works well for starting most horses. It’s a good idea to get both stiff and soft cored hackamores so you’ll have what you need for each horse you ride.

Good hackamores are made of high quality, properly cured, hides. Excellent hides will produce a hackamore that’s firm but flexible. When you take it in your hands and bend it, the hackamore should instantly snap back into shape. A hackamore that droops or doesn’t snap back will not function properly.

My handmade California bosals (hackamores) are built in traditional diameters and sizes, of both rawhide and kangaroo leather, with stiff or soft cores, so you’ll have what you need to train your hackamore horses. Call 817-312-5305 or email [email protected] with questions.

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