Gadgets, and Why I Hate Them

I want to discuss gadgets or ‘training aids;, and the reasons why I hate them. By gadgets I mean anything which is a fixed item to ‘force’ the horse to maintain a certain posture. In this I include side reins, draw reins, pessoas, maringales, de gouges…the list goes on. Go to any tack shop near you and ask for something to get your horse into a ‘frame’. There will be a wall of leather and metal items for you to choose from.

I was trying to explain to Adam what draw reins are, and after drawing various diagrams in the air he said ‘Oh, you mean a pully! They help you to pull harder’. Exactamondo. Viewed from a non horse –person point of view it is so obvious what is going on. I then explained to him how a pessoa works, basically, you attach your horse’s mouth to his hind legs and then ask him to walk. Or maybe trot, or even canter. Adam then suggested I run a clinic where people have to wear some of these gadgets and see how they like it. I suspect I won’t get many takers.

And breathe…Now, I don’t have an issue with gadgets because they exact force – sometimes we do exact force upon a horse. However much many trainers will tell you it is all about the horses mind, when you watch them work they do certainly use force from time to time. I think even Tom and Ray may have used force to show a horse what they needed to happen on occasion.

I don’t hate them because they are made of metal and leather. I use a bit, I sit on a saddle, I hold my leather reins.

I don’t even hate them because they exact leverage, as I would use a curb bit and that is a small lever. I do wince at how much leverage they can exert though, and watching riders see sawing horses heads down with draw reins does make my head ache.

What I really, really hate about them is that there is no bloody release for the horse, AT ALL. There is no way out of the bind they put the horse in, and there is no subtly or softness available to the horse, ever. Because gadgets are merely a bit of equipment, they are not a means of communication. They do not come with inbuilt feel, so they can never offer the horse anything other than being in the ‘on’ position.

I also hate how bloody lazy they make people (can you tell I am angry?). As opposed to spending £50 on a pessoa, why don’t you spend the money on Manolo Mendez’s DVD instead and learn how to lunge properly? I guess I know the answer – which is that it’s difficult and time consuming and technically challenging to learn how to lunge properly; whereas using a pessoa is quick and easy. Why buy draw reins at however much they cost (hey, you can make them out of bailer twine …) when you can spend years and years, and thousands of pounds trying to learn how to train a horse to carry and collect ‘himself’ willingly and freely. Hmm, I wonder.

How many little girls who read Black Beauty and shuddered at those horses in bearing reins now gaily add a Market Harborough to their collection of tack? Just because the advert says it’s made of ‘soft high quality English leather’ doesn’t mean it offers the horse anything useful.

Because, the other thing which makes no sense to me is how ‘fixing’ a horse in any kind of shape is beneficial for him physically. Try strapping yourself into the lotus position and see how relaxed and limber you feel after ten minutes. If we want to encourage our horse to release his topline and engage his abs, how does anything which uses levers and pulleys constantly set to ‘on’ help him to find this? How about brushing up on your knowledge of equine bio mechanics and spending some considerable time reading some stuff, and watching some people who might be able to teach you how to do this. This cannot be found at Countrywide Stores.

The thing is, the people who use gadgets will dismiss out of hand what I am saying, because questioning yourself and your approach is too difficult (take it from one who knows). Or they won’t read this. And those of you who have read this probably already agree, so thanks for bearing with me.

A clinic of human sized ‘training aids’ will be run in the new year, do get in touch to book your place (no pushing at the back please…)