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What Is... A Horse Bosal

A bosal is a piece of equipment put on a horse's head for riding. A bosal, when used with a hanger and mecate, is called a hackamore. The three main parts of a hackamore are:

  • The hanger (sometimes called a headstall, this is the part that goes over the horse's head, behind the ears).
  • The mecate, or reins. Traditional mecates are made from horsehair but some may be made from nylon or other synthetic materials. The nicer horsehair mecates are made from mane hair, but some are made from tail hair, which is coarser.
  • The bosal. The bosal goes around the nose of the horse and has a knot at the back, underneath the horse's chin.
A horse bosal with the parts labeled
 

Above: A hackamore.

Typically, a hackamore is used for training and as the horse progresses he or she will usually move out of the hackamore and into a bit. Although every horse trainer has their own way of doing things, it is common for an unbroke horse to be started in a snaffle bit, then moved into a snaffle and a hackamore together. The horse then usually graduates to a hackamore alone. When the horse reaches an advanced stage in the hackamore, it will often then be ridden in both a hackamore and a curb bit, then ultimately ridden in a curb bit alone.

Bosal Construction and Diameters

Bosals are commonly made from rawhide braided over a core also made of rawhide. You can sometimes find a bosal with a metal core, but most professionals despise these as being too rigid and wouldn't consider using this type. Bosals have a large knot at the back, behind the horse's chin. The knot provides weight so that when a rider touches the mecate the shift in weight is noticeable to the horse. Bosals come in a variety of diameters, with the largest diameters usually used on the greenest (most inexperienced) horses and the smaller diameters on more advanced horses.

"Hackamore" vs. "Mechanical Hackamore"

To most horse people a true hackamore is made up of a hanger, a mecate, and a bosal. However, there is another piece of equipment that is also often called a hackamore. This other hackamore, though, is more correctly referred to as a "mechanical hackamore." A mechanical hackamore is also put on a horse's head for riding, but it is considered a piece of equipment best used on a broke horse, not a horse in training. A mechanical hackamore works off of leverage, whereas a bosal does not, so a mechanical hackamore can exert more force upon a horse by the rider, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When talking to other horse people and the term "hackamore" comes up, you may need to listen closely or even ask a few questions to find out exactly which piece of equipment they are referring to.

Mechanical hackamore
 

Above: A mechanical hackamore.

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