What is the Difference Between Bosal and Hackamore?

What is a bosal bridle? Hackamore bosal?

One debate that every horse person in the bitless community participates in is the one regarding bosal vs hackamore bitless bridles.

They are both bridles that do not have bits, but what is the difference between them other than this?

This article will answer this question and describe what each of these bridles is used for, as well as help you determine which one is best for your horse. 

Let’s dive in!

Bosal vs Hackamore Comparison

Let’s look at both types in a bit of detail first, then we’ll go over what to consider when choosing the right one.

What is a Bosal & What is it Used For?

A bosal is a loop of leather that loosely encloses the horse’s muzzle and closes at the heel butt, which is a knot that sticks out behind their jaw.

Bosals hang from a headstall, which keeps them in the right place on the horse’s face. Some riders use a fiador, or a piece of rope that attaches the heel butt to the horse’s poll to prevent the bosal from moving. 

Mecate reins, which are 18-to-20 foot rope reins made of braided horsehair, are wrapped around the heel butt and can be gently pulled in either direction to guide the horse.

The bosal applies pressure to the horse’s nose and facial muscles, which they want to move away from towards the desired direction of the rider.

Now, what is a bosal used for? A bosal is used to allow the rider to work on establishing soft hands and encourage a horse to become more flexible in its neck.

It is the noseband to be used in a hackamore setup.  Young, green horses often begin their training in a bosal because they have a sensitive mouth. The bosal “saves” the horse’s mouth since there is no pressure on it.

Bosals use neck-reining instead of direct rein. A horse neck reins when the reins are held in one hand and the reins are gently laid over the horse’s neck in the desired direction of travel.

So if you want to go left, lay the left rein over their neck and vice versa. Pulling on the horse does not work in a bosal either, and you cannot balance your hands on it or the horse will learn to ignore all pressure cues.

Check this video to learn how to properly fit a bosal:

READ MORE: Types of Bitless Bridles and Their Uses

What is a Hackamore & What is it Used For?

A hackamore is a bitless bridle used to guide a horse, and guide them in the direction the rider wishes to go.

The hackamore works by applying direct pressure to the outside of a horse’s face, whereas a regular bridle places pressure on the inside of the mouth. 

Hackamores work by using pressure and release. When the rider wants their horse to move a certain way, pressure is applied, and when the horse does what is asked, the pressure is released.

Because of this, hackamores are not meant for riders who have rough hands. Types of hackamores include the bosal hackamore, the mechanical hackamore, and the sidepull hackamore.

There are four parts to a hackamore:

  • The hanger or headstall– the part that goes over the horse’s head and behind the ears to keep the hackamore on
  • The mecate reins
  • The bosal– the piece that goes around the horse’s nose and knots under their chin in a heel knot
  • The fiador– the throatlatch that keeps the bosal in place 

A hackamore is used to ride and train horses of all ages, but particularly young horses.

They are also used with sensitive horses and those with dental issues to make them more comfortable whenever they are under the saddle.

The hackamore is a piece of riding equipment just like other bridles, which means they can be just as effective, but harmful in the wrong hands.

Check our list of the best hackamore bridles!

Below is a very informative video:

Related: War Bridle Pros and Cons

Hackamore vs Bosal: Which One Should You Choose?

Now that we know more about both of these pieces of equipment, let’s discuss when to choose a hackamore vs bosal.

A hackamore is a bosal noseband with reins attached. A hackamore is a whole piece of equipment, while the bosal is the specific nosepiece used on it or a single piece of tack.

Both can improve the communication between horse and rider.

Based on this information, a hackamore should be used as a regular riding and training tool, as a bridle would be.

On the other hand, the bosal on its own can be used in place of a rope halter, to do groundwork with your horse as well as lead them from place to place by attaching a lead rope to it.

Choose the apparatus to use depending on what activities you wish to do with your horse.

stallion wearing a hackamore (hackamore vs bosal guide)

CHECK: Fancy Western Bridle You Can Buy


Why are hackamores bad?

Hackamores may be considered bad because they can place excess pressure on a horse’s facial muscles if they do not fit correctly or a rider has rough hands and is yanking on the horse’s face. Furthermore, if horses have not been trained to go in a hackamore, they will get confused and worse, will not be able to escape the pressure on their face.

Does a hackamore need a curb chain?

Generally, hackamores do not need a curb chain. However, they can be added if necessary, and a type of hackamore, the mechanical hackamore already has a curb chain attached. A curb chain is just an additional control on the horse.

What is better, bit or hackamore?

lady riding a horse wearing a hackamore (hackamore vs bosal guide)

The hackamore is better because it encourages the rider to develop soft oft and supple hands, which are necessary for every discipline of riding. When using a hackamore, you are learning how to adjust to your horse, whereas in a bit, the horse submits to the rider’s habits. The ultimate deciding factor in which is better is the comfort of your horse and its preferences.


The horse bosal vs hackamore debate is easily settled. The bosal is the nosepiece that when attached to reins and a headstall, creates a hackamore.

Thus, the hackamore is used when riding and working with horses in training, and the bosal can be used in place of a halter when doing work on the ground.


  • Ambrosiano, Nancy. 2006. “All about Bitless Bridles for Your Horse.” The Horse Owner’s Resource. The Horse Owner’s Resource. September 22, 2006. https://equusmagazine.com/riding/bitless-bridles-092206-10523.
  • “Bitless Beware and Hackamore Hazards! | NickerNews.” 2019. NickerNews | Smart, Lively Barn Banter. December 18, 2019. https://nickernews.net/bitless-beware-and-hackamore-hazards/.
  • “Cowboy Bob’s Questions and Answers – Page 181 – Can You Tell Me about Hackamores?” 2021. Lemen.com. 2021. http://www.lemen.com/qa181.html.
  • Dunning, Al. 2015. “Get a Handle on Hackamores.” Horse&Rider. Horse&Rider. December 21, 2015. https://horseandrider.com/gear/handle-hackamores-30881.
  • Griffin, Emily. 2021. “Bosal Basics.” Your Horse Farm. Your Horse Farm | Ramm Fence. August 10, 2021. https://yourhorsefarm.com/bosal/.
Horse wearing a bosal bitless bridle

What do you use for your horse? Do you have any other thoughts on Bosal vs Hackamore? Let us know in the comments below!

Andreea J.
Andreea J.

Andreea is a very passionate content creator and her purpose is to provide you with the most interesting articles, while constantly discovering new facts. She’s been freelance writing for the past five years and has created numerous articles and educational materials while managing her own mom blog.
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