The bosal hackamore is a traditional piece of equipment that the Spanish horseman or vaqueros used. Unlike some of the modern hackamores, it does not use leverage of any kind. Its entire design is unique in the way it sends signals to the horse from the rider’s reins.
All together the bosal, the hanger, and the mecate reins make up the hackamore.
Mechanics and Signals
The reason bosals work so well at sending strong signals to your horse is the release the horse feels. The combination of the bosals design, the lightweight hanger, and the weight of the mecate reins gives an instant release when you drop your reins. They make a great tool for young green horses.
Before making the switch, there is a lot to learn about riding and using a bosal hackamore.
The bosal is made of braided rawhide. A well-made bosal will also have a rawhide core, which is the traditional method. It’s pliable, much like a stiff garden hose.
As previously mentioned, the bosal comprises of braided rawhide and they typically come between 9-16 plait. Nine would be the lowest quality and not as common. The 12 plait is pretty common and the 16 would be the most expensive. The reason being is the more plaits, the more time it took to make the bosal.
There are three main sizes that the bosal comes in.
The 3/4 inch is the largest size and mainly used when starting colts. It has a heavy and bulky feel.
The 5/8 inch is the more all around size and the most commonly used.
The 1/2 inch is the smallest, sometimes referred to as the pencil bosal or bosalita. Once you’ve worked your horse in the 5/8 and they have become quite advanced, you could then size down to the 1/2 inch.
Shaping and Fit of the Bosal
When you order your bosal it naturally has a more tear drop shape to it, but actually it will need to be shaped to fit your horse’s face better. You can buy shapers or use items around your house to help shape it into a more rectangular shape. You want it to fit your horse’s face more like a hat fits your head without gaps. Some people keep it in a shaper when not using it, but the rawhide does have some memory and will keep shape.
The Mecate Reins
The reins are also an important part of the hackamore. Traditionally, mecate reins are made from twisted mane hair. They also come in alpaca hair as well, which I’ve heard can be a little softer. Another option, which is a little more budget friendly is double braided yacht rope. The reason for this is it has a similar weight and feel as the mane hair mecates, but are far less expensive. If you opt for the mane hair mecates they are supposed to have an unsurpassed level of feel and communication.
The most important part is matching your reins with the bosal. So, if you were to have a 5/8 bosal, then you’d want 5/8 mecate reins as well. Same goes with the other sizes.
Tying Your Reins
The mecate reins come in 22-foot length. You’ll tie them on at the heel knot of the bosal to make a loop rein with the length of your choosing. You’ll also have some extra length left out that is tied to the saddle horn. Also referred to as the get down rope. There are several ways to tie the mecates. But the most important part is to always untie your mane hair mecates when not being used. It will make them last longer.
As you can see, there is a lot to learn about the bosal before you purchase one. If you’re going to invest it one, then I recommend buying a well-made bosal. The cheaper ones will break down quickly and won’t fit your horse properly and cannot be shaped like the true rawhide one’s can. If well cared for they can last two to three generations.
If you decide you are ready to invest in your own bosal hackamore I recommend starting with a 5/8 inch bosal with 5/8 inch mecate reins.
Where to Purchase
Here are a few businesses that carry rawhide hackamores.
If the hanger sits too close to the eye, you can get a jowl strap to help pull it away from the eye some, but as long as you have 1 finger width from the eye, it’s fine.
Make sure your bosal doesn’t sit too low on your horse’s face. 7 fingers from the top of nose is just right.
Once a year make sure you clean and oil your bosal.
Do not confuse a hackamore with a mechanical hackamore, which adds leverage and causes pain. A true hackamore has a 1:1 ratio, meaning it is not a leverage device. For every 1 pound of pressure you use, your horse feels 1 pound. Much like a snaffle bit.
This was just a brief overview of the bosal hackamore and there is so much more to learn. I recommend continuing your reading and knowledge with books and videos.
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