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What Should I Look For in a Good Mecate?

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We want to select mane hair from healthy horses that have had plenty of good quality feed to make the protein needed for strong hair making durable mecates. A solid core acts as the base for better mecates. The core is twisted in one direction around which the most desirable 6 or 8 strands of mane are twisted the opposite direction to create the rope. “Mecate” comes from the old Aztec word “mecatl” (silent "l") for “rope.”

The popper end is not only useful for moving a horse or cow, but it helps to keep the strands twisted together. The Turk’s Head knot end with the tassel (“mota”) on the opposite end does as well. Cheap four strand mecates or those with no core are often made from cow tail and/or some are made with mane with the tail. You can check with a “spongy” feel and counting the strands.

The degree and uniformity of twist and the amount of fiber used in each mecate are important. Why? Weight and feel are factors of communication not only for the rider, but for the horse as well. “Feel” is often an over-used word without clarification of specific meaning, but it has communication significance on another level aiding in increased perception and performance.

The mecate and the 3/4 or 5/8ths bosal tied up as a hackamore are large in diameter. They are used to start a young horse or for re-education. This spreads the pressure signals over a larger surface area (obviously a little more crude in execution until the fundamentals are mastered) which may take a little more time than with a snaffle. The horse is also more comfortable this way so behavior issues tend not to develop.

Today, this is generally a 5/8ths inch since most horses have had some experience with human contact and are often brought along more slowly and are often not half drafts or Warmbloods. The mecate should echo the diameter size of the bosal bars.

There are a few exceptions. If a woman or child has very small hands we may drop down to a 1/2 inch used with a 5/8ths bosal especially when roping. Some trainers drop one size before changing to a smaller diameter bosal but after the horse has achieved a considerable amount in communication and overall understanding. There are other arena trainers who use mane and tail hair combinations in mecates for training. They are available and cheaper.

As time and experience develop, the next progressive step is the half inch bosal and mecate. The smaller area receiving signal pressure and the weight is reduced. When the horse can do just about anything required in balance at any speed with a touch, then we begin to transition to the 3/8ths bosalita with a little one hand work. Then, the next stage of refinement with the CA style bit is introduced, but it is not used for communication for some time yet.



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