I have been in the horse industry long enough to know that a lot of horse people love to use gadgets. I have seen people and horseman use side reins, draw reins, Chambons/Degogues, Pessoa rigs, Martingales and special Cavessons (some even with studs!). Phew! did I leave anything out? The bit manufacturers would have you believe that there is a Magic bit that would make your horse softer, rounder, more engaged, happier in his mouth and perfectly on the bit.
I stare incredulously at walls of what I call “bondage” and medieval looking bits at tack shops and competition wondering why? These pieces of equipment not only don’t “fix” anything but they often cause more problems and muscular discomfort. They can even stop a horse from being able to do all the things we are asking him to do! The horse can not go forward, go round or even breath properly in some cases. And tension? Yes this would cause tension if at the very least, from the horse trying to fight against these bits and devices to do what you were asking.
I was exposed to all these things early on but knew that this was not how I wanted to train. My path has taken me away from the band-aid quick fix approaches. I have found that there is no more humane training method then, thoughtful, patient, correct fundamentals. I combine that with my Liberty and Ground exercises and find that there is no need for gadgets ever.
I have found that most people do not intentionally use these things. They just want help with training problems and often don’t have access to good quality instruction. Some people are genuinely afraid of their horse and are just trying to stay safe. Unfortunately, I have found that horses that don’t want to participate willingly, don’t seem to care what gadgets you have on them. They will rear, buck, bolt, and spin to communicate their offense or pain. I have for sure seen dressage horses flip out despite having two bits on!
My point is, we kid ourselves into thinking these things control our horses. They don’t. The horse is still allowing us to ride and handle him until he isn’t. I frequently say “A horse is only as trained as he’s willing to be” Horses are very willing creatures most of the time. To their own detriment unfortunately at times. They put up with a lot from us two leggeds and they show up day after day and try harder for us even when their saddles are wrong, their feet hurt, their bit is uncomfortable, and they have pains and stress. They often do what I call “politely” complain for awhile about something that goes ignored until someone gets bucked/reared/bolted off with. That’s about the time a horse is yelling “I need help! why aren’t you listening?” And then someone says “ooh you naughty horse!” time for gadgets.
My journey has taken me many cool places with my horsemanship but no cooler place is to ride with little or no equipment. It takes utter and complete trust in each other and absolute communication that is completely agreed upon. It forces us to be absolutely real with each other. Gadgets and bits are no substitute for a strong Connection and good Fundamental training. Oats for thought…
*Bridless riding should be done at your own risk. FDH does not recommend or condone anyone trying or riding bridless with their horses.
Feb 9th: 1 day FDH workshop at Silver Moon Farm, Greenville, NY
March 21-22 FDH Privates and Lessons over 2 days. Charlottesville, VA
May 4th: FDH Confidence for trail riders workshop. Windhorse International Bethlehem, CT
June 20-24: FDH UK Clinic at The New Horse, Motcombe, UK