In Search of Hackamore (Bosal, Bosalita) Placement
Throughout the stages of the California bridle horse process (whether you find yourself on the Pacific Slope or other horse country), one of the main goals in working with your horse is to practice preservation, court curiosity, rejoice in responsiveness and cultivate a willing attitude as a future partner.
To position the starting 5/8" or 3/4" hackamore, start by running your index finger and thumb down the top of your horse’s face following the raised boney surface.
Traveling toward the nostrils, you will feel your digits drop in slightly. Stop at this point. This is the top of the important “V” where the bone thins and transitions to cartilage. Even lightly exerted pressure on the cartilage is not comfortable for the horse. If care is not taken, it can be damaging. The traditional hackamore is most certainly not for strong-arming, balance or excessive bumping.
Make certain to position the nose button portion of the hackamore above this critical V. Seeking more control, some riders start at the lower end of the range above the cartilage for a short introductory period and later raise the position of the nose button. Lower placement exerts more leverage and flex; however, this can backfire causing overreaction. We discourage this.
Horses have personal preferences as to where the hackamore sits on their faces. Study and evaluation help to gain your horse’s best response and increased performance for tasks at each level of training. These can also improve your handling of the mecate and overall riding.
The bosal’s flex front to back AND flex out of the heel knot should be firm enough to transmit your message clearly. Inflexibility or too heavy of a heel knot make for a severe hackamore more akin to a club. Many do not understand this dual direction flex since often bosals are made stiff without “give” (except front to back). The horse should be comfortable and engaged. This encourages listening which cultivates desired responsiveness.
The fit of a well made bosal should conform to the face on the top and sides, akin to a custom hat. Nothing should be tight, but there should be as little space as possible in these areas to avoid wobble, rubbing and lag time to receive the next signal.
For the horse's comfort and to promote real progress, we want no pain or built-in points of pressure. The entire inside of the hackamore's body must be smooth and properly made. The hackamore needs to be tied up correctly with the mecate and the hanger adjusted appropriately. The mecate should be untied and allowed to hang loosely when not in use.
There must be room enough under the jaw for the lift and release action of the hackamore. Any further lift than
parallel to the ground, is too much and should be avoided. The space will vary from horse to horse. This is vital since a horse learns in the easing of pressure and is then set up for the flow into the next maneuver. Function and fit are critical for success. This idea carries over throughout the bridling process.
If a fiador is added to a hackamore, then more adjustment at various stages will be needed. The fiador acts as a sling to support the bosal. This added support helps prevent the transmittal of confusing signals to the horse in training. This is particularly true for a horse exhibiting animated gaits or if you have a heavy heel knot on your hackamore. It can be helpful in retaining the hackamore and saving the rider from a long walk home.
However, the use of a fiador can make restraining the latigo hanger near the eye and tying the mecate reins/lead a little more problematic. In this instance, a throat latch with adjustable button and browband serve to aid in retaining the hackamore. These components are all easily adjusted to achieve a comfortable and effective positioning.
The hackamore, bosal or bosalita should be specifically adjusted to support what you are doing that day with that particular horse. Don’t be slow to raise or lower the bosal position by half an inch or so several times before the end of your riding day. This can be helpful when first riding out, if messages are not getting through clearly or if the horse is distracted and fussy. The horse will have to make small adjustments in response to the gear rather than building frustration or reacting to any pain at all. The area of contact is kept from becoming irritated and desensitized to the impulses or signals you are using (along with your body) for communication. It also retains his interest. More progress is made with a comfortable, willing horse.
The 1/2" bosal helps the horse and rider to prepare for the two rein phase. It is often skipped, but is really an integral part of the process. If possible, try not to “cheat” your horse. The smaller diameter begins to focus light pressure signals in a specific area.
By the time you and your horse are well into the transitional two rein stage, you will raise the nose button to a higher position, as its main purpose then is for correction and leading.
Each horse is different. His conformation, environment, level of education and temperament make him a unique individual. This is true of the rider with his talents, experience and character as well. The relationship between the two - the “fit” - does make a huge difference in a mutually satisfying partnership, as does selecting gear designed to enhance both of your riding experiences.
Have questions or need information?