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McCarty  ~Steve McClure (Reno)

Mecate - (Pronounced "mek-cah-tay") In Spanish, the word "mecate" means "rope" or "cord." A long rope that serves as reins, lead rope, quirt, and more.

I have a particular interest and respect for the Vaquero or Great Basin type of horsemanship. I in no way infer that I am an example of one only that I am a fan of the way they make a horse. The progression from halter, hackamore, snaffIe, two rein and finally the spade bit, making the finished horse, takes time and skill. In addition they employ bosalitos, alamar knots, get down ropes, romel reins and rein chains. I have read that the Californios were able to spend so much time in training because of the mild climate, very large ranches with abundant grazing and an adequate workforce. It is said, jokingly of course, that a Texas cowboy could gather a pasture before a buckaroo (a derivation of Vaquero - don’t ask me!) could get bridled!

For some time I had wanted to try a hackamore setup. Jen had some nice ones but I wanted one of my own. The hack is comprised of two parts, the bosal and the mecate. The bosal is the rawhide braided ring that fits over the horse’s nose and the mecate is a horsehair braided rope that is tied to the back of the bosal above the heel knot and becomes the reins as well as a get down rope.

Now these setups get expensive. The bosal is rawhide braided and the mecate is horsehair. They also come in different sizes and diameters. I was fortunate in that one day Steve Lundean arrived at Sun Fire Stables to trim a horse. He saw me and called me over from the round pen. He went to his truck and hands me a large plastic bag full of hackamores. “Reno, pick one out” he says. Apparently he had ordered a bunch from a friend out west. He would take nothing for it despite my insistence. He’s a good friend, cowboy and a real gentleman.

We both got back to work. Steve trimming and I went back to the round pen. I had left Fire (a real fine buckskin owned by Bart Actenhagen) there and he was immediately nominated to be my first victim. The hack came with a leather hanger so on it went. It is a 5/8” bosal and the same diameter mecate. I adjusted it for Fire and it seemed a good fit. The problem is that if you ask ten people how to fit the hackamore you will get ten different answers. I did what I thought was proper, checked the rein length and tied the get down rope on the saddle.

Now the hackamore is a signaling device. The pressure is applied to the horses lower jaw, nose and cheeks as well as the mecate along the neck. The hack can put quite a bit of pressure on the horse so you soon learn that less is better. Few riders think to look at the horse’s bars or it’s tongue for damage after using a bit but a burn on the hide of a horse’s nose from the bosal gets some attention. It teaches a rider to have a light feel and encourages more use of the riders body to communicate with the horse. In the Vaquero tradition the hackamore is only a transition tool to get to a finished horse.

I really like the hackamore and I highly recommend it. I have learned a lot from it’s use. I use it while moving cattle as well as general riding. Sherwin seems to do better using it although I think he is also a snaffle horse. I don’t work him in anything else. I hope someday to try him in a western bit (half breed).

Out west you often hear the word “mecate” anglicized to “mcCarty”. It so happens that a year or so later Jen asked me to tie up her bosals with mecates. In our conversation I used the term mcCarty and boy did I get it! Well, heck they got buckaroo out of vaquero! I’ll never hear the end of that one.

If you wish to learn how to properly use the the hackamore seek professional help. Like all equine activities it certainly involves a certain amount of risk but it is another way to expand the connection between horse and rider.

Steve McClure (Reno)

 ~Steve McClure (Reno)

To read more by Steve McClure (Reno)--see below.

Insights by Steve -- Horse Geology?

Insights by Steve -- Working Together

Insights by Steve -- The Circle

Insights by Steve -- Natural Horseman

Insights by Steve -- I Can't

Insights by Steve -- Saddle Tracks

Insights by Steve -- Harmony and Horsemanship

Insights by Steve -- Sherwin

Insights by Steve -- Hobbling

Insights By Steve -- Roping Practice

Insights By Steve -- Support

Insights By Steve -- Sensei

Insights by Steve - Harmony

Insights by Steve-Centered in the Now