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Bosal and mecate reins

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  • Bosal and mecate reins

    Does anyone ride with a bosal? If so, do you like it? How does your horse respond? Does it have to be measured and fitted?

    I have always loved how a bosal and mecate reins look on a nice horse, and have always wanted to ride my QH in one, as I thought, he was trained in a hackamore and has been in one all his life, is responsive to neck reining and also works off the leg.

    Can anyone share with me their experiences? If there is a web site to read up on a bosal I would love to read it if you want to share. Thank you!

  • #2
    There are different kinds of bosal. I used one on a young horse years ago when I was riding western and since it was rawhide with a little abrasiveness at the nose I had to be very gentle. It was enough to team pen in. I think of them for starting a youngster and getting them light with a good stop. They can be more severe than they look. I still have my bosal and mecate reins. Used to use the mecate with a snaffle bit and slobber straps but found that it was a lot to gather up and ride with for every day. They are pretty, but long.

    Once I saw sets of mecate reins at a ranch rodeo made from human hair! Yuck!


    • #3
      Originally posted by SmokenMirrors View Post
      Does anyone ride with a bosal? If so, do you like it? How does your horse respond? Does it have to be measured and fitted?

      I have always loved how a bosal and mecate reins look on a nice horse, and have always wanted to ride my QH in one, as I thought, he was trained in a hackamore and has been in one all his life, is responsive to neck reining and also works off the leg.

      Can anyone share with me their experiences? If there is a web site to read up on a bosal I would love to read it if you want to share. Thank you!

      martin black is one of the few with a website...look also into the doma vaquera...lots of nice stuff on you tube...

      it is the last of a dying art and yes it us a wonderful way to ride and train

      Tamara in TN
      Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
      I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


      • Original Poster

        Hmm okay, the nose band on the one I am looking at has rawhide wrapped around it...can you use it for a finished horse who has had tons of riding time and experience and is 17 years old?


        • #5
          Originally posted by SmokenMirrors View Post
          Hmm okay, the nose band on the one I am looking at has rawhide wrapped around it...can you use it for a finished horse who has had tons of riding time and experience and is 17 years old?

          no real bosals are only for horses broken to them as colts....they work differently than sidepulls or bits or the cheapie stateline tack things...

          there are as many different type of bosals as their are saddles in the world and each is made for a seperate thing...

          they are weighed and balanced under the chin between the knot and poll to give the horse some front end balance

          rough coarse draft thinking horses are started in what you describe....hotter horses more prone to "misunderstandings" are started in the stiff horse hair, never ever ever rawhide....

          the bosal is not about the "bosal" really but about the rate and flow of the animal between the seat and leg....by the time you are up to (or down to depending on your way of thinking) the bosalito (24-36 mos on) then you go up to the four reins and the spade....and then main focus is the bosal and the further refinements of the face/mouth....

          the easiest way to think about it is,until you can speak everything you need to the horse with the seat and legs you cannot speak to the inside of his mouth w/o damaging it...hence the bosal....

          Tamara in TN
          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


          • #6
            I suppose any horse that respects the aids to stop could be ridden in a bosal, but training one to be ridden correctly takes time and a lot of consiousness and consistency in one's riding.

            A bosal has to be not so much fitted, as shaped to the horse's head. Rawhide is (generally) pretty stiff, so a poorly shaped bosal can rub. You also don't want too loose, nor too tight; but that, too, varies horse to horse. There are bosals made from softer materials, intended for more well-developed horses with increasingly better feel (but perhaps preferable for someone starting out who already has a well-broke horse). You do want to find one with a rawhide core; there are cheaper ones made with plastic cores, but they cannot be shaped and thus tend to be a bit rough under the jaw.

            The horsemanship that the bosal comes from has a lot to do with feel, which can only be developed over time and with experience. Which is why so little of it is written down, and why it loses so much in the attempts to write it down. The horsemanship is making a bit of a comeback as it is the foundation of some of the so-called natural horsemanship. But a lot of the richness of the horsemanship is also being lost in the marketing and glitz that has grown up on the edges of the true horsemanship--actually, in part, from an attempt to make it accessible to those who have not invested the time to develop their feel, or want a "recipe" to follow, or, god forbid, want a quick fix for the fact that their horses are not human.

            Anyhow--riding with a bosal is more than just bitlessness, though on a well-broke horse, it should not be a big issue to get by with one.

            If you're interested, check our eclectichorseman.com Buck Brannaman has an excellent video series on making a bridle horse (of which riding in a bosal is an intermediate period). But even at that, a video can show the process, but cannot teach you how to do it.
            "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

            Spay and neuter. Please.


            • #7
              long stuff

              below follows random exchanges over the years RE bosals from back in the day...I have tried to make them easier to read and added the year published


              me in Bold

              You will also want the

              > horse to drop its head some but not level like a QH as the conformation of a
              > TWH doesnt allow that.

              actually a level topline (except in stub necked padded horses) is possible
              ....preferable and is the only way to lock in a gait naturally....

              > A Bosal is definitely contraindicated here. The Bosal normally follows a
              > snaffle and only if the horse is flexing and on the bit. The bosal is used to
              > lighten a horse but it has to have the prepatory training prior to using it
              > this horse doesnt have that training.

              no.... bosals work wonders in gaited horses and are employed at our farm
              regularly on these very animals......doubling and fence work bring the
              flexion and bending....that a bosal follows a snaffle is an incorrect modern
              notion... that has come from the show world...for an example of our work
              with gaited horses and bosals please visit
              [url]dead link/url] The left photo is Caj winning
              the WGC as a two year old .....the second is Caj in a bosal bareback (well
              blanket<G>) after only five weeks here.....level topline relaxed face and
              back....happy guy... we follow the teachings of Ed Connell and Verne
              Albright....(very pre - horsewhisperer-guru nonsense)

              > TWH are hot horses anyway

              again I must disagree.....the very nature that allows then to be
              mistreated in the show ring causes them to be the MOST docile of the horse breeds...second only to drafts in my opinion....(and I have trained Arabs,
              QH's ,drafts and walkers successfully)

              Tamara in TN

              my pal Phetsy in Bold

              Benedicte Bascle wrote:
              > Someone recently said bosals were reserved for experienced riders, as
              > were hackamores. There, a small neurone fired in my brain, and thus I
              > ask: is a bosal a hackamore?

              Benedicte, you get the Semantic Question of the Day Award!
              I discourse:

              The English word "hackamore" comes from the Spanish word "jaquima"
              (hah-KEE-mah), which word means something between "halter" and
              "headpiece." "Bosal" (boh-SAHL) means "noseband."

              When the Spaniards brought their training methods to the New World,
              they brought along the use of the jaquima and the bosal. They became the
              standard horse-training items in the parts of New Spain that would later
              join the U.S. (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, parts of
              Wyoming). The Anglo[parlante], or English-speaking, horsemen of the
              area turned 'jaquima' into 'hackamore,' and used the later term to designate
              the complete headpiece (loosely, 'bridle') of bosal, hanger, and mecate
              (mare hair reins). 'Jaquima' came to be used for a specialized piece of
              equipment, namely a headpiece knotted out of rope or light cord.

              In the last 15 years or so, 'hackamore' has become a common phrase for
              any sort of bitless bridle, and 'bosal' has come to be used for the braided
              leather, rawhide, or hair rope noseband.

              So, if all that detail has not caused you to go on to the next post, a bosal is,
              correctly speaking, a part of a hackamore, but is commonly used to refer
              to the entire headpiece.

              >Why does it require an experienced hand?

              It is extremely easy to fit or use incorrectly. Please note that
              I am speaking here of the 'bosal' or 'Spanish hackamore,' the braided
              noseband/hanger/mecate combination.

              The most common way to misuse the device is to use it ineffectively, usually
              by trying to use both reins at once. The bosal is, of all the devices, the most
              completely lateral device. It effectively has no curbing (longitudinal) effect.
              Thus one can use it to best effect when stopping only by taking care to shorten
              one rein more than the other.

              Because of this lateral bias, the device cannot be used with any real effect
              unless the rider is capable of moving the horse into the bosal with her
              seat. Actually it would be better to say that the seat works with the hands
              to direct the horse in all motions. This also has to do with the fact that it
              is actually a lifting device, and has effect when the lifted reins bring the
              jawpieces into contact with the jaws of the horse. At the same time, the
              rider should ride the horse forward with his seat. These cause the horse
              to lengthen his neck. The nosebutton of the bosal then presses gently on
              the front of the horse's nose, which causes him to flex slightly. The rider
              must then immediately lower the reins or the horse will not learn that

              One must also be aware that each bosal rein works on the opposite
              side of the jaw, i.e., picking up the right rein works on the left jaw.

              > I have always believed from what I have heard on this forum that it
              > was meant for young horses, and thus I have assumed it was very
              > gentle.

              It is exactly like any other head-signalling device, in that the harshness
              or gentleness of the item lies only in the hands using it. It is of course
              perfectly harmless to the mouth, because it sits around the horse's muzzle.
              For the most part, it _is_ a very gentle device, as long as one bears in mind
              the following points:

              *Although it has no bearing surface in the mouth, the bosal bears on a
              area about 1/2-in in width that completely encircles the horse's muzzle
              except for a small area directly behind the chin.

              *One must take care not to abrade large areas of the jaw through the action
              of the bosal.

              *The bosal must not be fitted too tightly or it can numb the sides of the
              jaw, just as a tight-fitting shoe can temporarily numb the foot. This makes
              the horse unresponsive to the rein.

              *It is imperative to avoid causing a callus bump on the front of the nose
              (usually a result of using too heavy a bosal or working the reins too often)
              because this will teach the horse to stick his nose straight out. I know that
              sounds strange, but that position moves rein pressure from the nose to
              the sides of the face. Once that happens, the horse has "outsmarted the
              hackamore," and you might as well get out the snaffle.

              *Riding a bosal on "contact" is tricky because you have to let the reins
              rest in
              your hands such as to move the jaws up into contact with the
              horse's jaw, but with enough slack so the hackamore will drop down off
              the jaw with the rhythm of the horse's gait. You can't maintain a "pull
              contact" on the nose.

              So basically, you have to have an independent seat before you can make
              much use of a bosal, and you have to know the basic training exercises
              (involving a special form of circling called "doubling") to make it effective
              and the principles behind them, and you have to understand the needed
              rein-handling techniques. And you really do have to take the time to
              do the basic, boring, wearying schooling exercises.

              In other words, you can end up in a hell of a jackpot if you use a
              hackamore and you don't know how it works or what you're doing.

              Phetsy Calderon

              Phetsy in Bold

              >>(much snipping of Juli Thorson's post on bosals...

              >To which Phetsy responded in part with...

              >>The jaquima (knotted rope halter or "Parelli" halter) is sometimes used
              >as a preliminary step to allow the handler to do some groundwork.

              > MM- in my training the 'jaquima' was the spanish word for the bosal
              >itself which was then bastardized (excuse me - anglicized) into
              >'hackamore'. Maybe this difference can be credited to the regions where we
              >were educated.

              Nah--I pretty much agree with you, I would just rather people use a
              more-accurate term than 'Parelli' halter, and since jaquima _literally_
              translates as 'halter', I prefer that useage. By the way, I picked up my
              bosal teaching in Merced, so I speak 'la lenguaje de los vaqueros del
              valle de San Joaquin.'

              > Also the 'Parelli' halter can be found in tack catalogs from the 40s
              >and even earlier. They were for pack mules and horses

              Yeah, I keep saying that Parelli has done a great job of teaching new
              people old methods, but he didn't invent the knotted rope halter. We *did*
              use a very light little bosalito knotted up out of very fine cord, such as
              parachute line, to start the most promising colts. I think the knotted
              halter is a very good introduction to the use of the bosal *for the
              handler.* I do find it useful for doing a bit of preliminary groundwork--I
              think the hackamore needs to work with a rider to be correctly effective.

              >>Problems arise not from the nature of the bosal, but rather from a lack
              >of understanding of its use. The horse must be allowed to move freely
              >forward, there must be absolutely no attempt to "bit" the horse, and it is
              >imperative to understand that the bosal is a completely lateral device
              >which imposes a certain set of exercises to develop the horse.

              > MM- In some situations one will get more vertical flexion out of the
              >horse than 'normal'. Usually it is one of those awesome naturally bridly
              >horses who carry themselves very light in the front end and are very light
              >in your hand.

              Yes, the ones that naturally are close-coupled with a long hip, and are
              naturally supple, will just set right back and round themselves in the

              >But you are certainly on track that one doesn't try to 'bit'
              >a horse in the hackamore. All that will result is a pulling contest and
              >running a horse through the hackamore.

              It will also result in one very embarassed horse handler who has to go get
              herself a snaffle bit ;-).

              >>Mr. McDowell? Mr. von Gease? Any other points I should cover?

              > MM- Nope . Well done, you move to the front of the class! As your
              >reward you are invited as my guest to the Paso Gathering the first weekend
              >in November in Paso Robles.

              Paso Gathering? As in Paso Robles rodear, or as in gaited Paso horses? I
              want to hear about this! This wouldn't happen to involve exhibits of things
              silver-mounted or braided, would it?

              I have silver on the brain--I've just been visiting a friend who had just
              taken delivery on four (yes, four) Garcia bits. She has one very happy
              Peruvian Paso who just loves his new Salinas mouthpiece with the S-shank
              conco cheeks.

              Phetsy Calderon

              me in bold (my friend in this conversation is an Alabama horse trainer,now dead, RIP Bill...)

              > Are you saying the horse is having problems assimilating training or that it is
              > a bit "stingy" and you had better be quick LOL?

              he's a baby stallion and his attention span was about 30 seconds every
              5 minutes<G> as time progressed so did attention spans

              > >so....with the amount of natural "suck back" he has and coupled with his
              > complete lack of fear of humans..(to the disrespectful stage even)

              > Oh geez .... I hate when that happens .. I tend to slow down with this type. I
              > know that the ones I dealt with it is an enlarged sense of self-preservation
              > and too much pressure and they are leaving. I didnt feel that it was a lack of
              > respect then ... although it can develop into such.

              he had been petted and wallered on before Bill
              (not the RIP Bill but another client)got him...and kept in a
              typical subdivision set up (small dirt lots with run ins)..with very
              little leading about...and then he came here with constant activity and
              three other stallions...

              no pals to play with and saw "whoooo-mannns" as lovely play
              fellows....his suck back is typical gaited stuff..most are like this if
              not mistreated...(hence the notion that gaiteds are for old fat people
              who cannot ride)

              > >he have concentrated on moving forward NOW stopping NOW and moving
              > over NOW....

              > Hmmm and what is his attitude when you are insisting on NOW? Is he calm and
              > accepting with lip licking and a big sigh after a bit or is he agitated and not
              > sure which way he is going?

              he's calm....hell he don't even grap my arm in his choppers
              anymore...it's a "well alright" attitude...almost a sense of "I've got

              > > I've got a nice trigger on him finally....and I think that we need to go the
              > bosal /riding route as opposed to the driving /bit route...

              > >I'm inclined to believe that he'll try anything to avoid going forward....and
              > ..as it's not my style to fight with one....I figured
              > that this would be easier on him mentally....

              > > what do you think???

              > Does he rear?


              Have you sacked him out?
              yes.....no fear of much of anything..he ain't shy...he'd just "rather

              What are you doing for ground

              > training? Have you done any in-hand training?

              yep....he won't be mounted for a while....so it's all in hand...and
              free lunging

              > The following is what I do and is in no way considered a recommendation:

              > I try to ensure that I have the calmest most accepting horse that I can get
              > before I even think about stepping up on one(I dont bounce well) and I also
              > introduce giving to the rein/leg pressure from the ground as part of the
              > in-hand training(this allows you to move the horse without having to encourage
              > with crop or spur).

              done.....he moves both fore and aft and sideways....

              > For me a bosal is the way I would go. If you are comfortable with using one
              > then its a good choice IMO.

              I love them.....

              > Im curious as to what criteria you are using to make the decision as to whether
              > to pursue training of the horse with a bosal as opposed to training with a
              > snaffle.

              kinda a gut feeling I get from him that less of a fuss will be raised
              than in a snaffle...(which could spark the endless....It's all your fault how
              they react debate)

              and I also think that a bit is a wall that slows progress in some
              horses....and while Bill has been kind enough to give us a year to
              impress him...I don't need things moving any slower<G>

              perhaps if he were a more forward thinking colt I'd need a wall up...

              I can't explain it any better than that...

              Tamara in TN

              wow....lotsa typing there hope you can follow it along

              best regards
              Tamara in TN
              Last edited by Tamara in TN; Dec. 28, 2009, 02:00 PM.
              Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
              I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


              • #8

                These are all sites for Doma Vaquera. Especially watch the youtube clips, the animals are sure good looking...and the horses aren't bad either!


                These are sites for the bosal and mecate reins. This information is good but it's best to get a knowledgeable person to help you, in person.


                • #9
                  [QUOTE]the garrocha is the height of beauty IMO

                  I forgot about JS Ryan....he does a good job also

                  Tamara in TN
                  Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                  I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                  • #10
                    Here is some information on using bosals, true hackamore, correctly:


                    Here is a picture of the ones we make out of used grass ropes for nose and we use to start colts with:


                    The idea of a hackamore is to have a horse that works in self carriage and the horse learns to listen to all your aids, seat, balance and legs, the hands just a mere, light indication of direction or collection with the lightest touch, without contact in front, so you never use a hacklamore to pull on a horse's head.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by SmokenMirrors View Post
                      Hmm okay, the nose band on the one I am looking at has rawhide wrapped around it...can you use it for a finished horse who has had tons of riding time and experience and is 17 years old?
                      Yes, you can. As noted it's a wonderful training tool for transitioning from snaffle to curb, and that is the essence of vaquero training. But yeah, you can also use it on any made horse- I ride both of mine in a bosal from time to time (they are young enough that I 'intend' some training in it but just plain old trail riding or basic arena work gets done spasmodically).

                      You do need to understand how it works- first of all it needs to be high enough on the nose to not be hurting the cartilage. And second you need to know that just hauling on it, as if to stop a runaway horse, will simply rub raw spots on the jaws.

                      I know some teenager qh's who go very happily in bosals, it's all their owners use. One according to her owner was always a little fussy with a bit, but loves going down the trail in the bosal.

                      I do have a mecate on one bosal- the other has the split cotton braided reins intended for use on colts, but I just plain like riding with split reins in general when riding western.


                      • #12
                        I am going to save this post. For the references and for Tamara's fabulous posts...

                        At the risk of needing kevlar...

                        You can also find some very lovely bosal *type* riding halters. Tamara's snips hint at this... the jaqima...

                        I generally stat my babies in halters--even if they are carrying a bit, there is more understanding of the halter pressure, and if you do have to get a head around or up (rare, but does happen) you can pull without worrying about mouth damage etc. I also tend to ride in the winter with a halter when it's too cold for a bit. I've used plain old well fitting normal halters the past decade or so, but found a person who makes fabulous rope halters to order not for very much $$.

                        I recently re-started the SillyFilly after a scare upon first mounting (my fault--too soon after wrecking knee, knee gave, scared the crap out of her.) and this time going the whole way in a plain rope halter. She's LOVELY 'in the bridle.'

                        A WELL MADE rope halter, made to fit, with a 'bosal wrapped nose' can be wonderful. It's softer than a true bosal, but with some stiffness. It is more forgiving (from) the rider... they have a similar balance too, when made with a real fiador and used with mecate style rope reins. (here's an example of what I'm talking of--I use this seller as she is wonderful, and will customize everything--even if the spelling isn't the way *I* spell it http://cgi.ebay.com/LG-horse-sz-Rope...item518edb7f17 )

                        While I rode real working ranch horses in a bosal (a softer one, stiff waxed rope with a leather wrapped nose) and did my share of Western Eq & reining time... I really do like 'playing' in the rope halter, and am ordering a rope 'bosal wrapped nose' halter with two extra nose knots for my little medicine hat mare who is 9 or 10 now and is sadly finding out there is more to life than broodmarehood.

                        Just another thought. I don't mean at all to take away from the really excellent posts about REAL bosals. But for trailriding or just having fun, it's an option.
                        InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

                        Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


                        • #13
                          In short, yes. I ride several of my old horses in bosals, especially in the winter. My old qh (almost 29) loves a bosal and isn't picky whether it is thick or thin. His favorite is a cheap rawhide and leather wrapped one, its more flexible even though its ugly.

                          My fjordX likes that one, too, and goes very nicely in a thin flexible rawhide bosal. The finishing type. More like the halter, but stays in place better and is more solid.

                          I have the heavier solid rawhide, but it is the most severe and none of my horses like it.

                          You might consider a loping hackamore, the reins come out differently and you have better turning...at least more like a snaffle. I think better communication than a side pull, too.


                          Buckaroo leather makes beautiful heastalls and bridle sets. They even make large horse and draft sizes. I have 3 of the large horse, yes with 17" browbands, and love them. I have a fjordX and daughter has a perchX and these fit perfectly. He will even put 17" browbands on regular length or arab length cheeks, or custom length browbands for wide forehead arabs, haffies, fjords...etc.

                          He has a variety of bosals, headstalls or just bosal hangers. I would have one with a fiador, it keeps the bosal at the correct angle and from bumping the horse.

                          Also, no affliation with Buckaroo leather, just a satisfied customer.


                          • #14
                            Oh, on the wrapped halter thing, I bought a wrapped noseband with knots and rings and love it.

                            I thought it would be nice to lunge in, and it is, but it is fantastic on a horse that wants to lean on the rope while leading, lunging or whatever.

                            My daughter's 5 yr old perchX had no groundwork, and would lean against the rope. I found I can do ground work with the lead run through the fiador to attach to the sidepull ring. It takes that backward thing right out. It lets me turn his head easily and the backing evasion is disappearing quickly.

                            It would be a very nice set up to ride in, too. Can do lots of pretty colors, too.



                            • Original Poster

                              Wow...all such great information! Tamara...very informative postings for sure! The bosal and reins come in end of the week, so I will go from there and continue to read and learn and ask. I want only the very best for him....