What Is A Hackamore?

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Last Updated on March 20, 2022

There are many different types of horse tack available, and you may hear someone suggesting that you use a hackamore on your horse. But what is a hackamore and what is it used for? Let’s find out!

What Is A Hackamore?

A hackamore is a type of bridle used when riding a horse. The bridle is the piece of tack that is placed on the horse’s head and is used by the rider to control the direction and speed of the horse. The rider can communicate with the horse via a set of reins, that extend from the bridle to the rider’s hands.

In most types of bridles, the reins are attached to a hard piece of metal or rubber that passes inside the horse’s mouth – this is called the bit. There are many different types of bits, some of which are very gentle in the horse’s mouth, and others that can be quite harsh. When the rider pulls or squeezes the reins, the horse will feel the movement of the bit in his mouth and should slow down or turn accordingly.


When a hackamore is used, there is no bit inside the horse’s mouth. Instead, the reins are attached directly to the bridle, and the rider’s hand aids create pressure on various points of the horse’s head. You may hear a hackamore referred to as a bitless bridle.

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Are There Different Types Of Hackamore?

There are three main types of hackamore bridles: mechanical hackamores, bosal hackamores, and sidepulls. Each type has its own specific purpose, and is designed for a certain function or type of equestrian activity.

Mechanical Hackamores – What Is A Hackamore

A mechanical hackamore has solid shanks that sit between the reins and the bridle. These shanks create a lever action – when the rider pulls on the reins, pressure is created on the horse’s head. The longer the lever, the greater the amount of pressure that is created.

This type of hackamore can be quite severe and is only used for certain styles of riding. It can only be used to slow or stop the horse and has no capacity to give the horse the signal to turn. Instead, the rider must give directional aids by neck reining or through the seat and legs.

Mechanical Hackamores

You will often see mechanical hackamores on horses used for trail riding and barrel racing. The reins should be held barely any tension or contact, and gentle pressure is only applied when the horse is required to slow down or stop. The pressure must be released immediately as soon as the horse responds to this signal.

A mechanical hackamore is not suitable for young or inexperienced horses. These must be trained using a different type of bridle or hackamore before progressing onto a mechanical hackamore.

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Bosal Hackamores

A bosal is a type of noseband that makes up part of a specific type of hackamore bridle. The noseband is held in place by a simple headpiece, and it has a heavy knot under the chin. The reins are connected directly to the bosal noseband.

This is a gentle type of hackamore bridle and can be used when training young and inexperienced horses.


This is the most basic type of hackamore, and the reins are attached directly to a halter-type bridle. There is no additional pressure on the horse’s head when the aids are applied, and the aim is to get the horse to move towards the tension when asking the horse to turn.

Weaver Leather Hackamore with Gum Rubber Covered Bike Chain Noseband

What Is A Hackamore

A sidepull hackamore is the best option to use when learning to ride, as the horse will not be harmed if the rider has unstable hands. This is also a good option when teaching a horse how to be ridden in a bitless bridle.

Cross-Under – What Is A Hackamore

A cross-under bitless bridle applies even pressure all around the head of the horse, rather that at any one specific point. It is designed to be pain-free, and is ideal for young and inexperienced horses.

When the rider applies pressure to the reins of a cross-under bridle, it will tighten around the jaw and poll. As with any type of bridle, the pressure must be released as soon as the horse responds to the aid.

What Is A Hackamore Used For?

Many riders feel that a hackamore is a kinder option than a traditional bridle with a bit. They are also very useful for horses with dental issues or other mouth problems.

A hackamore is often used for young and inexperienced horses, enabling them to become accustomed to the basic aids of a rider before progressing onto a gentle bit such as a snaffle. A rider using a hackamore must ensure that they use the correct riding style, with soft, sympathetic hands and minimal pressure on the reins. Unlike most bitted bridles, a contact is not maintained on the reins when using a hackamore.

What Is A Hackamore Summary

So, as we have learned, a hackamore is a type of bridle that does not have a bit. The horse is controlled by pressure applied on various parts of the horse’s head, depending on the type of hackamore. There are four different types of hackamore, to suit a range of different horses and equestrian activities.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what is a hackamore! Have you ever ridden a horse in a hackamore? Or maybe you have a question about how to teach a horse to use a hackamore? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!


How Do Hackamores Work?

A hackamore bridle works by applying pressure at specific points on the horse's head when aids are applied via the reins. This tells the horse that the rider wants him to turn, slow down, or stop.

Are Hackamores Harsh?

Like any bridle, a hackamore can be harsh if used incorrectly. Different types of hackamore have different levels of severity, but all can cause pain if the rider is not sensitive with his hands.

Why Would You Use A Hackamore?

Hackamore bridles are popular in certain types of riding, such as Western and trail riding. They are also useful for horses that find a traditional bit uncomfortable.

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