Where’s the bit? Part II: Mechanical hackamore

Lindsay Rausch’s series on bitless bridles continues with an introduction to a bitless bridle option that is especially popular among jumpers.

From Lindsay:


[Herm Sprenger Short Shank Hackamore, available from SmartPak]

The mechanical hackamore, like the bosal featured in part I of this series, relies on pressure and release on the horse’s nose for control. The mechanical looks much more like a conventional bridle on the horse–at least from a distance. There is a connection point for the reins on each side of the horse’s head.



The picture above shows how the mechanical uses a curb strap on the shank and on the reins. The shank is what can make the mechanical a very dangerous piece of equipment. The shank causes the curb strap and noseband to tighten on the horse’s face. Some call this the “nutcracker” effect. The increased leverage to the rider means that a rider inexperienced in the use of the tack could cause severe damage to the horse’s nose including breaking bones. The longer the shank the more the leverage and thus less pressure by the rider that is needed to cause damage. The picture shown below compared to the first picture is an example of a longer shank being used.


[Wikimedia Commons]

The noseband and curb strap can be of a variety of different materials and widths to affect the level of severity that is felt by the horse. The wider and softer the noseband the more gentle it will–the two horses above with their padded leather nosebands are an example of this milder effect. In contrast, a metal or small braided rawhide noseband has a smaller surface contact and can be more abrasive to the horse–see the photo below. In addition this noseband appears to be low on the horse’s nose and into the soft tissue where it can cause more harm and possible scar tissue for the horse. In addition the material on the curb strap/chain and the tightness of the strap affect the severity and response time on the horse.



On the talk of fit the noseband should fit similar to the bosal in that it needs to go across the boney part of the nose and not on the cartilage and soft tissue.


Here’s a great video on fitting and using the mechanical hackamore from Bernie Traurig’s instructional website EquestrianCoach.com:

[Bernie Traurig]

Riding in the mechanical will be similar to riding in a traditional bridle with similar rein cues being given to the horse, but instead of acting on the pressure points in the mouth it will be acting on the nose and chin points.

The mechanical hackamore is accepted in the English riding world for certain events, the big one being show-jumping. Some riders even use the mechanical with a bit for a combined effect.



I hope that you have all enjoyed this installment of “Where’s the Bit?” I thank everyone who commented on the previous article. I have taken down your input to try and make this column better and better going forward, and by request next time I will be taking a look at the side-pull.

Lindsay Rausch learned to ride at a young age from her mom who had been a trainer and horsemanship instructor in a previous life. Lindsay has always been a western trail rider, and even though she has not owned a horse of her own she has always looked for any chance to get a leg in the saddle. She is currently setting up a 10-acre farm for cattle and horses. Lindsay would love to hear questions that readers have about the western world that she could research for the Horse Nation.


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