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All about hackamores – by Stephen Biddlecombe

November 27th, 2019

The Sheepskin cover from Stephens, pictured with a Continental hackamore.

Most equestrian enthusiasts will have heard of a Hackamore, but though popular in Western riding, fewer riders will be familiar with the use of this unique bridle system here in the UK. A Hackamore itself is a type of bridle which does not include a bit. Instead, the system works via a special type of noseband which functions by applying pressure points on the nose, face and the chin of the horse, as opposed to the mouth.

To those that have not used a Hackamore before, it can seem incredible that these woven strips of leather and hide, and in some cases metal on the nose, would have sufficient influence on guiding, or when required stopping the horse; but in actual fact, the hackamore is a very effective means of communication. A simple design, the hackamore, when in the right hands, can offer a sophisticated training tool that provides unique and valuable benefits.

Why use a Hackamore?

A Hackamore can be useful in various situations. Firstly, it may offer an excellent alternative to equines that don’t get along with a traditional bit and for young horses exposed to training for the first time. It is highly useful for those horses with dental problems, or for horses with sensitive mouths, offering a go-to option if the mouth becomes sore from traditional bitting, allowing riders to ‘keep on riding’ and simply rotate between the two.

The Hackamore is only as good as the hands on the ends of the reins

The use of a Hackamore can help to increase sensitivity, improve self carriage and refine performance. Nonetheless, the Hackamore is only as good as the hands on the ends of the reins! The system is not right for every horse and rider and can be misused in the wrong hands.

How does it work?

Stephens Hackamore

The Stephens Hackamore.

Before a rider embarks on using a Hackamore, they must first ensure that their horse is confident, obedient, disciplined and has a solid foundation of the basics under saddle. Once the horse is in the Hackamore, he can no longer rely on the rider’s hands for support.

Finesse, not force

The rider needs a sophisticated touch to clearly communicate, as riding in a Hackamore is about finesse, not force. It is easy to send mixed signals, as although the Hackamore applies pressure in the familiar ‘pressure release’ concept, it creates a subtle side-to-side rocking motion designed to provide little lateral control, because both reins of the hackamore connect at exactly the same location.


A Hackamore has to be fitted carefully. 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, and horse owners should be able to insert two fingers easily between the chin strap and the groove of the chin.

We offer a Continental Hackamore (see top image) and two English Hackamores, alongside Sheepskin accessories. The Hackamores have leather nosebands. The English one has a shorter shank which offers less leverage, making it the gentler of the two options.


*England, Wales and Scottish Lowlands