More often than not, a horse rider does not need to exert too much pain and pressure on the horse to force him to obey on every command that is made. The horse’s mouth is very sensitive. Using harsh horse equipments, most especially a bridle with a bit, can hurt and may even damage the lips, tongue and jaws of a horse. Can you imagine what can happen if the horse has a very sensitive mouth?
Sensitive horses may still be ridden. Indeed their mouth can be a little more delicate, but there is still a horse equipment that may be used for them: the hackamore.
The hackamore is a bitless bridle that provides an alternative to snaffle and curb bit bridles. What most people don’t know is that hackamore is the oldest horse control equipment. Ancient Persians have already used them around 500 BC. Spreading this practice to Spain, the bridle was named hackamore, after the Spanish “jaquima” that literally means bridle. The Spanish vaqueros soon influenced the Western cowboys; and thus today, this bitless bridle is used on horses, most especially show jumping horses, if they decline to accept a bit into their mouth.
This device acts on the nose, chin and face of the horse, instead of its mouth and bars. That is why it is very advisable for horses that have mouth injuries, deformities and damages caused by previous harsher horse bits. In horse training, before a beginner horse used a snaffle bit, a hackamore is sometimes worn on him just to teach him a few commands.
While the word “hackamore” is usually used for any bridle that acts on the nose (instead of the mouth), there are actually three categories of bitless hackamore bridles : the bosal hackamore, mechanical hackamore and the sidepull.
Bosal hackamore has a noseband with a determined diameter that employs pressure and release to control the horse. This bridle is placed in the middle area of the nasal bone and cartilage. This spot may be easily felt by the hand. When intermittent pressure is applied on the bosal, the horse learns to stretch and be light in the bridle. If, however, a constant pressure is applied, the control could be lost because the horse might be unable to find comfort from moving away from the pressure that causes the pain. Today the bosal hackamore is famous in western horse riding as a popular bridle for beginner horses.
The mechanical hackamore, also known as the German hackamore, more or less acts like a curb bit because it uses leverage. But the leverage acts not on the horse’s mouth, but on the nose. Also, a curb chain presses and gives pressure behind the chin. This bridle has a shank as well. Shorter shanks are much gentler than longer shanks ― that’s why it is more preferred by many hackamore users.
In contrast to the mechanical hackamore, the sidepull functions just like a snaffle bit because it does not have leverage. Though it provides better side signals than bosal or mechanical hackamores, it provides less effective flex signals to stop a horse. Two famous kinds of a sidepull are the Jumping hackamore and the rope halter. Albeit a jumping hackamore has shanks, it functions more like a sidepull than a mechanical hackamore. This sidepull is considered to be one of the mildest sidepulls of all. The other type, the rope halter, is made of rope (as its name implies). The ropes have varying thickness and all of them may still cause horses potential harm.
One of the common misconceptions about the hackamore is that it does not hurt or harm a horse. Actually, it may still possess this harmful and destructive characteristic if the rider does not use this equipment properly. As a matter of fact, bitless bridles could still hurt horses just as much as a bridle with a bit. It still all depends on the positioning, leg pressure, and discipline of the rider to ensure the comfort and well-being of his horse.