The History of the Hackamore and Mecate

Posted by John Brand on

The hackamore was used by the Vaquero's in the beginning for horse training The Vaquero's quickly learned that this piece of horse tack was a must for every day riding too. Today, the hackamore is wildly popular among natural horseman and women and horse riders still true to the Vaquero ways.

The unique part of the hackamore is that it does not have a bit. It uses a braided noseband called a bosal. The bosal is a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the horse's face, nose, and chin. 

The mecate is the rein portion of the hackamore.The mecate is a rope made from horse hair or soft feeling rope. The mecate can act as a lead rope too.

The traditional mecate used by the California Vaqueros was made from the long hair of a horse's tail and was hand braided. Modern mecates are made with horse hair and synthetic rope with a horse hair tassel at one end and a leather popper at the other end.

The history of the hackamore and mecate goes all the way back to 4,000 BC. The first hackamore was probably a piece of rope placed around the nose or head of a horse, not long after domestication. These early devices for controlling horses may have been adapted from equipment used to control camels. Over time, this means of controlling a horse became more sophisticated.

The Persians in 500 bc were one of the first to use a thick plaited noseband to help the horse look and move in the same direction. This was called a hakma. On this hakma was a third rein added at the nose, which allowed the rider to achieve more power from the horse. Later this third rein moved from the top of the noseband to under the chin, where it is still part of the modern bosal style hackamore with mecate reins. 

The hackamore used in the United States came from the Spanish Vaqueros in California. From this, the American Cowboy adopted two different uses, the "Buckaroo" tradition closely resembling that of the original Vaqueros and the "Texas" tradition which blended some Spanish techniques with methods from the eastern states.

Bosal Hackamore Style

These types of hackamores include the bosal and side pull. The bosal hackamore uses the Vaquero's tradition of the braided noseband and the mecate rope.

The mecate is tied to the bosal in a specialized manner that adjusts the fit of the bosal around the muzzle of the horse and creates both a looped rein and a long free end that can be used for a number of purposes.

For the mounted rider, the free end is coiled and attached to the saddle or tucked under your belt. When the rider dismounts, the lead rein is not used to tie the horse to a solid object but used as a lead rope and a form of lunge line when needed.

A properly tied mecate knot allows wraps of rope to be added to the knot in front of the rein loop in order to tighten the bosal noseband on a horse or the rope can be unwrapped to loosen the bosal.

This Vaquero style of hackamore is used in western riding and is an indispensable part of the Vaquero way of making a California reined horse. It is also used with horses that have dental issues, where a bit would be painful. Some riders also like to use this style of hackamore in the winter instead of a frozen metal bit. 

Sidepull Headstall / Hackamore

The side pull hackamore or headstall is a modern design inspired by the bosal style. This style has a heavy noseband with side rings that attach the reins on either side of the head. This allows very direct pressure to be applied from side to side.

The noseband is made of leather, rawhide, or rope with a leather or synthetic strap under the jaw. It is held on by a leather or synthetic headstall.


Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.