Mecate Tie Rope

An integral part of the hackamore, the mecate tie rope served a historic function for vaqueros that lives on today.

A mecate is tied to a hackamore to make two parts: the loop rein and the tie rope. Notice that the tie rope is adjusted so it’s loose enough that the horse can move his head freely, but not so loose that he could step on it or become entangled in it. Charles Brooks

Tack honors tradition, as exemplified by the mecate, the 22-foot-long horsehair rope that makes up the loop rein and tie rope attached to a hackamore.

Historically, the tie rope served a vital function. Ranch cowboys were on and off their horses regularly when working cattle, and so they needed a way to easily and securely tie their hackamore horses to a fence or a tree.

In modern horsemanship, the horses shown in hackamores probably aren’t tied out on the range, but the riders still hold to tradition and use the tie rope as part of their hackamore setup.

LEFT: Coiled on the saddle. Loop your tie rope neatly in your hand. Turn the coils so the tie rope comes out the bottom instead of the top. If it comes out the top, the tie rope tends to slip through and get longer as you ride, leaving too much slack in the rope. Tie the coils to your saddle with your saddle strings, using a square knot. The knot is important to ensure a secure attachment. RIGHT: Through the gullet. This is the most secure way to affix your tie rope. Take it through your saddle’s gullet, back toward the seat. Then hook it around the saddle horn and finish with a half-hitch knot. I use this attachment when I have an extra-long tie rope. Charles Brooks
LEFT: Around the saddle horn. Affix the tie rope to the saddle horn with two half-hitch knots. A good half-hitch, pulled down tight, is secure and will stay in place. If the tail is too long, make another half-hitch to take up some of the length. RIGHT: In your belt. Riders who mount and dismount, such as cowboys doctoring cattle, often handle their tie ropes in this manner. Showmen generally don’t use this method because it’s not as secure as the others shown here and often needs adjustment. Charles Brooks

No matter if you’re a ranch cowboy who uses the tie rope or a competitor who shows in a hackamore, you still must secure that tie rope when you’re in the saddle. Here, I’ll explain the four ways to keep your mecate’s tie rope from getting in the way of your riding when using a hackamore.

Note that the tie rope must be left with enough slack in the length that it doesn’t restrain your horse’s neck movement, but short enough that your horse can’t step on the tie rope or somehow become entangled in it. Your tie rope will always attach on your horse’s left side. (Historically, a cowboy’s lariat or reata would be attached to the right side of the saddle.)

Al Dunning, Scottsdale, Arizona, has produced world champion horses and riders in multiple disciplines. He’s been a professional trainer for more than 40 years, and has produced books, DVDs, and an online mentoring program, Team AD International (

Horsehair Rope
Traditional mecates are made from mane or tail hair. This isn’t just for looks—it serves a function. The hackamore phase of training focuses on teaching your horse neck-reining to advance his training from the direct pull of a snaffle. If you’ve held a horsehair mecate in your hands, you know it’s quite prickly. So much so, that traditionally, riders wear gloves when using the equipment. You horse feels that prickliness when you lay the rein against his neck to teach him to neck-rein, and he instinctively moves away from it. The prickles from the horsehair help to reinforce the neck-rein cue.

Today you can find mecates made of nylon cord, mohair, and other materials. I prefer horsehair because it adds to the feel when teaching your horse to move away from the neck-rein cue.

Related Articles
Pre-Ride Tack Check promo image
Pre-Ride Tack Check
Western Tack Details
Importance of Quality Reins
The Paddie
Trailer Gadgets
Transporting horses - seen in Utah. Horse long haul
Prepare Your Horse for a Long Haul
Receive news and promotions for Horse & Rider and other Equine Network offers.

"*" indicates required fields


Additional Offers

Additional Offers
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.