The hackamore or bitless bridle, as the name suggests, does not have a bit. Its purpose is to provide an alternative means of how to control a horse or pony.
The english hackmore bridle has metal shanks or cheeks and sometimes has a curb chain that fits under the jaw.
Hackamores are normally used on horses or ponies which have damaged or injured their mouths or on horses which, for some reason, will not accept a conventional bit.
The horse's mouth area is totally unaffected by the hackamore bridle which works by exerting leverage pressure on the horse’s nose, poll and chin groove instead of on the bars of the horse's mouth.
There are many different types of bitless bridle - the hackamore (the German or English hackamore kind) is only one of them.
Other kinds of bitless bridle include the Western Bosal and natural horsemanship rope halters.
Although to the uninitiated, a hackamore bridle sounds ‘kind’ it can be very severe especially when the cheeks are long, enabling the rider to exert vast amounts of pressure on sensitive areas.
A hackamore simply acts on a different set of nerves to a traditional bit in the horse's mouth. Bear in mind that a mechanical hackamore bridle acts in a similar way to a curb bit.
It is not uncommon to find permanent injuries, especially along the chin groove, on horses that have been ridden in hackamores for a long time.
For this reason it is not recommended for anyone except experienced
exceptionally sympathetic hands.
To be effective a hackamore needs fitting very carefully.
The most common mistake is to position the noseband too low down so that it interferes with the horse’s breathing.
The hackamore noseband should be placed between the cartilage spot and where an English cavesson noseband would rest.
The curb strap of the hackamore should be adjusted so the cheeks rotate at an angle of 45 degrees - you should be able to insert two fingers easily between the chin strap and the groove of the chin.
A hackamore tends to be one of those 'fashionable' bits of tack which come and go.
But it’s worth remembering that just because hackamores were used so successfully on the great show jumpers Boomerang and Disney Way, they don’t automatically work for every horse and rider.
Before you ride a horse in a hackamore for the first time make sure that he is used to it.
Walk the horse around in hand for a while to let him get the feel of it.
Hackamore bridles are popular with endurance riders as the horse can easily drink and eat with the bridle on.