Bosal vs. Bits vs. Hackamores - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 2 Old 02-15-2009, 05:19 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Oklahoma
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Bosal vs. Bits vs. Hackamores

Could someone please expain the advantages of each, disadvantages of each? Please also explain the physical differences in usage for each.
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post #2 of 2 Old 02-16-2009, 12:01 AM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Warning this might get long

I wasnt sure what type of bit you wanted an explanation for so i just picked a snaffle

The snaffle is an excellent bit in the hand of someone knowledgeable in its use and device of torture when used by someone with rough hands. Actually, in rough hands, the snaffle has the potential of being more severe than some curbs.
The snaffle, when used correctly, is a very mild bit that can be used slowly and patiently to introduce training to the young colt. Because it has no shanks, the snaffle gives direct instruction to the young mule without undue leverage that leads to resistance and confusion. Initially, the snaffle teaches the colt simply to give to pressure without the distortion of the leverage from shanks and curbs. In addition, because the snaffle is so versatile with many different mouthpieces, it can be used to reeducate an older spoiled mule. For the older, difficult mule who has learned every bit evasion ever devised by the equine, a return to a snaffle can help the mule to learn to trust both the bit and rider again. Such a mule who has been the victim to rough and unforgiving hands in a rider, harsh and painful leverage bits in its mouth, will benefit greatly from being schooled in the basics in a snaffle and at the hand of a patient, qualified trainer.
The snaffle is a great instrument for teaching lateral flexion and bending. With quiet hands, the rider can encourage the mule to give to both sides and increase flexion in both directions and on the vertical. In response to the pressure, the mule learns to give to be rewarded.
The mule is driven by the rider=s leg and seat into the snaffle where the contact with the bit makes the mule give to the pressure and keep on the vertical. This allows the mule to round his back and achieve the collection the rider wants.
The broken mouthpiece snaffle in heavy hands always has the potential for the nutcracker action. It is designed for use with light contact. It should no be used with a slack rein because the possibility of a sudden jerk on the reins in a panic situation can result in an effect far greater in severity than the curb bit.
Since it designed to be used with two hands, it is not a bit that will teach neck reining. In addition, when the snaffle is over pulled or when pressure is put on both sides simultaneously, it tends to raise the head of the mule teaching him to get above the bit to relieve the pressure. His nose will stick out and there will be little control. In some Western disciplines, the snaffle will only take the mule so far and then the curb bit will need to be used.


The bosal is the classic hackamore and is seen primarily in in western-style riding and derived from the Spanish tradition of the vaquero. It consists of a fairly stiff rawhide noseband with reins attached to a large knot or button at the base--the bosal. The reins are made from a specially tied length of rope called a mecate (may-CAH-tay), which is tied in a specific manner to both adjust the size of the bosal, and to make a looped rein with an extra length of rope that can be used as a lead rope. In the Texas tradition, where the bosal sets low on the horse's face, and on very green horses in both the California (vaquero) and Texas traditions, a specialized rope throatlatch called a fiador (FEE-a-dor) is added, running over the poll to the bosal, attached to the hackamore by a browband. [1] The fiador keeps a heavy bosal properly balanced on the horse's head without rubbing or putting excess pressure on the nose. However, it also limits the action of the bosal, and thus is removed once the horse is comfortable under saddle. [2] The bosal acts on the horse's nose and jaw, and is most commonly used to start young horses under saddle in the Vaquero tradition of the "California style" cowboy. The bosal is a very sophisticated and versatile style of hackamore. Bosals come in varying diameters and weights, allowing a more skilled horse to "graduate" into ever lighter equipment. Once a young horse is solidly trained with a bosal, a bit is added and the horse is gradually shifted from the hackamore to a bit. While designed to be gentle, Bosals are equipment intended for use by experienced trainers and should not be used by beginners, as they can be harsh in the wrong hands.


The biggest disadvantage of the Hackamore is the fact that the art of using it correctly is the knowledge of a very few. Finding a true Hackamore reinsman is difficult. However, for those of us who are not proficient in its use, we still can enjoy some of its allure if we remember some of its shortcomings.
The Hackamore is a poor stopper in the beginning, so teach this in the snaffle and establish it before putting the mule into the hackamore. It's not safe on a green mule who might have the tendency to run away. Run*aways require doubling, and that is best accomplished with a snaffle unless you are a very good rider. It is only a fair device to teach backing and neck reining. Since it does not work well with a steady pull, it is not the best equipment to teach the mule to stay at a steady speed. It takes some initial train*ing before it can be used on the mule and it takes a lot of time and patience to teach the mule to work in it. Some mules who have already been harshly bitted or had the chain used severely on the nose may not be good candidates for Hac*ka*more training. It is best to use on a mule trained to be light and responsive with a great deal of time spent on the basics in the snaffle. It is not for every mule, especially those who have the tendency to runaway with their rider.
Of course, if you are in a hurry and want quick fixes, you will find the Hackamore not to your liking. It requires the trainer to be slow and accurate in training. To some this may seem as a disadvantage, but to the mule it is the best thing that can happen in the breaking process.

The hackamore is a good device to teach the mule to keep his head and neck down and stay on the vertical. If used with the pull and slack method, it does teach him to be light and natural in his way of going.
It en*courages natural balance with good deep hock engagement because it teaches the mule to collect and move in frame correctly. This results in smoothness, relaxation and quietness. Teaching the mule to move in balance creates a mule with great self assurance in executing maneuvers.
R*esp*onse to the bosal can be taught to be quick and light which is what you want in the bridle mule later. It also causes the mule to tilt his head slightly to the center of the circle.
In addition, the hackamore can be used also to avoid mouth problems while a young mule is shed*ding teeth. Very importantly, it can be used to give the mule's mouth and mind mature.
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