Hackamore or bit?

So, I am going to try playing around with my mare in western tack. She was DD’s jumper, I have done dressage on her, but now am at a barn where they do all sorts of things, clinics, etc, so I figured why not? She is a VERY sensitive girl in the mouth. I have always ridden her in a French link, but she gets very offended should I ever touch her mouth (she’s not shy about letting you know you offended her). I’m wondering about trying her in a hackamore for western. I have zero experience with a bosal. She has zero experience with any leverage bit or curb chain. She does not exactly neck rein, but I can teach her that in any of my current bridles. If I do decide to go hackamore, would a bosal be better than a mechanical? If I do go mechanical, what to look for there - there’s dozens of them!

I don’t use hackamores all that often except in the winter! (no cold bit to warm up) My hackamore of choice is a Little S hackamore with the rope noseband.

Do you have any friends that currently have a hackamore you could try first and see how she likes it?

I don’t see how it’s possible to do dressage on a horse that won’t let you touch her mouth.

If you’re not going to show, you don’t need a different bit. I use the same plain D ring snaffle on my western bridle as I do on my English bridle.

No, you do not want a bosal. A bosal is a piece of specialized equipment that you need to understand how to use. If you don’t want leverage, use a side pull. Otherwise, I agree with @beau159 - the Little S is a nice, mild hackamore with not a lot of leverage.


As long as you don’t plan on showing, a mechanical hack would be your best bet. It is not legal in competition other than speed events and roping. If you don’t understand the mechanics of a bosal and mecate, don’t go that route.

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@OfCourseItsAnAlter - at least 90% of the ride is seat, legs and very soft and quiet use fo the hands. She’s actually amazing - as long as you’re not in her face. Then she turns into a giraffe!

I will look at the Little S hack.

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Well, in your original post you said:

which is not at all the same thing, is it?

If she has no experience with any curb pressure then a mechanical hackamore would not be my go to at all.
Are you planning to show western where they will regulate what type of bit you will use? If not, ride her in whatever she is happy I. If she is highly offended by any pressure on the reins with a bit, ride in a side pull. If the nose is rope, wrap it in vetwrap.
Please don’t try new equipment that your horse has not used and you don’t know how to use. Curb bits (bits with shanks) are 99% of the time meant to be used for neck reining, not direct reining, however, you can teach your horse to neck rein in a Snaffle bit.
The right setup is the one your horse is most comfortable in that allows you to communicate effectively.


Not to derail the thread but there are plenty of curb bits that can be used for direct reining. There are some that can’t, usually those that have a solid-type mouthpiece, but plenty that can.

Myself personally, I like the rope noseband on mine because it is there if I need it. Yes, it’ll have extra bite, but only if needed.

Of course, if you had a horse that didn’t do well with the rope, then I would prefer to go with something like leather, rather than trying to wrap the rope in vetwrap.

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If a side pull has a stiff rope noseband, it’s not acting just when you need it. It’s acting when you don’t need it too. I know this from experience and what do they say, when you know better, you do better?

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Hyperbole. Perhaps you are taking things a bit too literally.

Not planning on showing at all. I am leaning toward just keeping her in a snaffle, but was thinking it might be a nice change for her to have something different since she is so sensitive in the mouth. I do have a lot of experience using curbs (both alone in a western bridle and as part of a double bridle) and that is exactly why I was wondering about hacks. The only time i used one was with my Arab as a kid when we were just messing around.

When one is seeking honest, sincere advice, it may be to your benefit to also be honest and sincere in your description of your situation.


A hackamore applies pressure to the face. It is not milder by any means… If she works in a snaffle stay in a snaffle. The only need for a curb would be if you are showing.


How would any of us know that?

We can’t help if we can’t tell what’s actually going on, but I’m sure you will find your way.

OP, you might try a mullen mouth; it’s a very mild bit. It still has the snaffle’s shuttle effect, so it would allow you, with an opening rein, to refine the bearing (neck) rein before you go one-handed.

If you could borrow a Nathe one (expensive!), that would be a plus; some horses are very sensitive to metals.

ETD: Snaffle mullen mouth

OP, I would leave her just as she is. If she goes well in what you have her in now, what is the purpose for changing?

It’s us humans that assume a change might be a nice thing. The horse, on the other hand, would rather have things predictable. If she knows the snaffle and goes well in the snaffle then leave her in the snaffle.

A bosal is not a piece of equipment I would get just to change things up. The poorer quality, inexpensive ones can do more harm than good and the expensive handmade ones really require you to A) know what you’re doing with them and B) have a specific plan in mind when it comes to your training goals for the horse. Its action is unlike anything else you’ll put on your horse’s face and part of the steps towards getting the horse to the traditional two rein setup.

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I would first have a vet check her mouth and teeth, in case she has a problem there, why she is so protective and tries to avoid contact so fiercely.

If there is nothing hurting her there, then just start from scratch and train her to carry a bit, to respond to a bit, that a bit is just one more way to communicate, any bit.

I wonder if you could find a good trainer that could evaluate what your problem is and see how to educate/re-educate your mare so she doesn’t resist contact so strongly?

Good for you to ask, as you see there are many ways and ideas how to go about this.
Maybe some of it will work for you.
Let us know if you find something that may help others with similar problems.

Good luck!


I used a mechanical hack on my Morgan mare for trail riding. I changed from a huge western curb, which she came in, to a snaffle for dressage /eventing competition. She went not much differently in any of them, old and set in her ways. When she was up, no matter the hardware, same frame, but the same amount of control, just different.
The biggest difference was the change in contact adjustment from bit to hackamore for me, not the horse.

If she is that responsive then I would try the most mild snaffle you can get and see how she does. A hackamore can be abused very easily. You aren’t showing so you can use whatever you like.

Every horse I have owned rides in a mild full cheek snaffle. I have never had to use anything else and even when we purchase an older , already trained horse going in a harsher bit, they transition over beautifully and there are no control issues.

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I think I’ll jus tleave her in her snaffle. Like you said - no reason to change if she’s happy.

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