Clinton Anderson explains about Mecate reins and how to attach them correctly. Pronounced ‘Muh-caw-tee’ or ‘McCarty’, the mecate rein is a line of 20-25 feet made of rope or braided horse hair, which is attached to either a bosal noseband or Snaffle bit. One or both ends of the Mecate have one or two thin leather straps called a popper. They are used a lot in natural horsemanship and in the training of young horses when used with a bosal (a braided rawhide noseband that acts upon a horse’s nose and jaw and is often used as a precursor to a bit).
Mecate reins create a looped rein and a long free end that can be used for a number of purposes. It is coiled when a horse is under saddle but can be released and used as a lead rope or long line when working a horse from the ground. When used with a bosal, Mecate reins can be used to adjust its fit around the muzzle of the horse.
Attaching Mecate Reins
1 With shiny side of slobber straps (used to protect the reins from saliva) to the outside, fold and put through snaffle rings.
2 Standing with the front of the snaffle bit facing away from you, take the thin popper end of the rope and thread from left to right, through all four slobber strap holes so that there is approximately six inches of rope hanging past the right slobber strap. The mouthpiece of the bit should curve away from you when positioned correctly.
3 Form a half-hitch with the right rein around the right slobber strap. Take the rein on the outside of the slobber strap, under the strap towards the centre, over the top and down through the loop. Make sure the end points down.
4 Pull through 10 feet of rope in the middle to form the reins.
5 Form a half hitch with the left rein around the left slobber strap. Take the long lead rope on the outside of the left slobber strap under the slobber strap towards the centre, over the top and down through the loop. Tighten the knots - you will have a long length of rope on the left side.
6 The chin strap should be attached to snaffle so that it is between the slobber straps and the bit bars. The buckles should face down.
7 The headstall should be attached to snaffle rings above the slobber straps. To get the reins the correct length, sit on your horse, hold the middle of the reins and pick up to your sternum bone. When the reins touch your chest, you should be making light contact with the horse’s mouth. If you pick up to your sternum and there’s still a lot of slack in the reins, it means your reins are too long. If you pick up and make contact with the horse’s mouth before you even get to your sternum, it means your reins are too short.
8 Be sure that the loops around the horse’s neck are not big enough for a hoof to get through if the horse should lower his head to the ground, nor should the loops be so loose that they are able to come off over the horse’s head. The easiest way to prevent this is to either shorten the reins before you start or simply tie another half-hitch or two to snug it up a bit - not too tight, of course.