The topic that brings equestrians together worldwide & not for those kind hearted reasons. Using a training aid verses not using a training aid, can you believe how aggravated people get on the subject? I often find myself up late at night reading comments under facebook posts, people just love to argue online over this topic!
It is not rare to see people getting annihilated, and torn to shreds with extremely harsh comments over the use training aids, most of the time the person in question is simply looking for was for advice or small tips on the training aid they were using.
Have you ever really thought about it? How is using a whip, using your legs, a pair of spurs or even a bit in your horses mouth even putting a saddle on your horses back, all these things could be classed as cruel if you really think about it. Rarely you see these items discussed online, nor do you see harsh negative comments plastered across social media for their use.
This post isn’t about slating people who do or do not use training aids, I want this post to be about us coming together to discuss a topic. There is a conception that equestrian opinions are that of dishonesty, so lets open this topic up for discussion.
Personally I think training aids should be used in moderation to help with certain aspects of your horses training. For example, when I began to use draw reins, my instructor constantly drilled into my head than undoing the damage of over use or wrong use of certain training aids is worse then fixing the problem you were using them for to begin with, bearing in mind he was also the person who suggested I used them in the first place.
Pro’s of using Training Aids
- Improves acceptance of contact
- Beneficial for difficult horses
- Help your horse to carry themselves correctly
- Improves your horses way of going
- Building up a topline
- Helps to lunge effectively
Along with many more, but for arguments sake I shall list a few!
Con’s of using Training Aids
- Provide a False Outline
- They are not a Quick fix to riding problems
- Develops an unatural headset if used all the time in training
Again, along with many more, but for arguments sake I shall list a few!
My Thoughts on Training Aids
Hands up if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by internet trolls for the use of training aids? Yes, my hand is up!
Dante was a stubborn opinionated mule when he was younger. He was honestly such hard work. Trying to get him to drop his head or try to work in an outline of any shape or form was always something that never ended well. He hated a contact in his mouth and hated not being in control, or that I was in control of him for that matter. We had tough times at the beginning, and before all the suggestions of pain start pouring in, he was regularly getting his back/teeth/tack fit checks done. Sadly for me, my Dante was just a dick.
I used training aids to better my riding and to help with Dante’s training. Within the last year my ReinRite has been a product that has just rounded us off and transformed the way Dante moves. And no I am not just saying that either cause I am a brand ambassador, I wouldn’t be an ambassador if I didn’t believe in the product!
I wont lie, It took me a while to get Dante working in a correct outline, this was because he just wasn’t fit enough to actually work proper;y from behind, he just took longer to develop. You have to remember that muscle building work is very strenuous for your horse, especially if they are not used to it. I used training aids once or twice a week for short sessions, this way I knew productive work was being done and that his muscles were being activated and put to work correctly.
I know a lot of people do not agree with training aids being used on horses. But honestly who gives a fu*k. Life is too short to care about what people think. Using training aids the last few years has at times probably saved my life, if asking for help comes in the form of a specific training aid then I see no problem in that.
For people who do not agree with the use of training aids, that is ok too I highly respect your choice and also your opinion. 99% of the time people who use training aids on their horse have either done their research or have been advised to use one to progress forwards in their training. With that in mind, I have asked some of my fellow bloggers & riders their opinions on the subject by asking them some questions on the topic keep scrolling to have a read.
What are Your Thoughts on Training Aids?
Inside Track Eventing: If used correctly, a training aid can be an incredibly beneficial compliment to a horse’s training and conditioning plan. The key is to choose a training aid that complements how you would ride or train your horses, and that supports you in targeting the weaknesses that you are trying to combat – be it your horse’s or your own.
Mikaela Weld: The equestrian world is hugely divided on this subject. Training aids can be really helpful. Unfortunately a lot of people on social media I see are using them incorrectly.
TackNTails: Training aids are a tough one, the name suggests they’re used to aid in training and schooling. To, perhaps, help the average rider and amateur to communicate more clearly to their horse, reinforce their legs and hands or to encourage the horse to work correctly when being ridden or lunged. I think training aids can be a helpful resource, but unfortunately they are often used and abused by novice riders. They are used as a quick fix in many cases. The majority of products available are aimed to get the horse to tuck their head in, to look pretty with no regard for their hind end or back. I think they are often used in place of going for lessons and actually learning how to ride and schooling the horse correctly. Let’s be honest we know how damaging they are in the “wrong hands” but many people who use them have shit hands and are using them because they can’t ride properly therefore unable to get the horse to work correctly.
Ginger Ninja & Co: Training aids when used for the right reason can be incredibly beneficial for both the horse and rider. Lunging without a training aid is pointless unless you just want to burn excess energy as quickly as possible. When I ride I attempt to not let my horses run around in a circle with their head in the air, so why would I let them when I lunge? However, training aids are often used by the inexperienced riders for the wrong reasons. Mostly because inexperienced riders don’t know how to get a horse to work the way they know their horse should work. An outline doesn’t come from tying down the front end, it comes from riding the hind end.
Have you ever used Training Aids?
Mikaela Weld: I use training aids daily on my good horse RD Powerplay and not as much on my younger horses, but I do use them on them. I use both draw reins and the reinrite. Mostly when I am flatting the horses at home I will use the reinrite. When I am jumping my good horses or ones that are coming up the level I like to jump them in draw reins it gives me more control (for perspective I am 5 foot 2 and riding 16h and up to 16.3 horses and I am breaking horses and producing them up to 2* level and maybe more soon……) but I only use them if I need more adjustibility, if the horses is being really nice and adjustable I just have them as a back-up.
My younger horses very rarely jump in training aids. I will only use these aids if the horse has a snaffle or a very soft bit in their mouths. These bits are great to keep horses mouths soft so when you go to a show and put a bigger bit in their mouths they listen. We only use the bigger bits at shows training is mostly done in snaffles. When I was training for 5 months with Nick Skelton and Laura Kraut everything except for one horse unless they were jumping around they had snaffles and draw reins always. I also use either a bungee or the rein right attached to the roller when lunging horses.
Ginger Ninja & Co: A pair of draw reins can be of great benefit for increasing your safety when on a “naughty horse” by this I mean a horse who’s prone to acting up by rearing, bucking, plunging etc. As they are traditionally used by feeding them from the girth through the bit and to the riders’ hands, they are controlled by the rider, you pick them up when needed but then release when not. I am currently hacking one of my horses in draw reins. Over the winter she became every difficult to hack and would begin to plunge which for obvious reasons is far from ideal. She is now hacked in draw reins as a means to control her head so that she can’t throw it around and begin plunging down the road to our untimely death.
I will continue to hack her with draw reins until I deem it safe to remove them. Another way I have used training aids is by using a single draw rein through the horses noseband and into the riders hand on the stiffer side of the horse. When fed through the bit, they can cause great inference with the horse, you cannot ride into a contact when riding off a draw rein – it’s just physically impossible. Therefore this isn’t a way to school a horse. When the rein is fed through the noseband the draw rein does not interfere with the bit or the contact but the rider has extra help to bend the horse and control were they carry their head. This is only beneficial for a horse that is evasive by going with their nose in the air or has a particularly hard mouth. You can see Dave modelling this way of using the Draw rein.
What was the purpose of using them?
Anxious Riding Clubber: I used side reins to help get him working into a contract on the lunge, but they just made him panic and it resulted more often than not him just bolting. The Libby’s Lungie Bungie encourages him to take that contact, and work from up and over his back and engaging his hind end. It’s made of a strong elastic cord and it mimics the hands of a good rider. It encourages the horse to take up the contact. The elastic is fed through a loop on a bit attachment which means there is always even pressure going to your horses mouth.
Keep It Country: My horse spent the majority of his life being pulled out of the stable and fired onto a hunting field so ‘working in an outline’ was not one of his strong suits. No matter how hard I try to work Bèag and get him supple, he needs that extra bit of help every now & then. The training aids help massively when they are used correctly and softly.
Inside Track Eventing: I like to lunge to see how my horses move, without a rider or any tack on their back. For my horse Paddy, who has soundness issues, it’s helpful to see how he moves myself, as what I feel and see are not always the same. For my younger horse Flash, I use lunging with a training aid as a means to develop her topline, and to encourage her to connect her front and back-end, without my asymmetric style of riding interfering! I personally choose not to ride in training aids, only lunge. There are many valid reasons for riding in training aids, such as a bit of added security with a fresh horse, but for my horses there have been no particular issues that I have faced that couldn’t just be solved with me working a little bit harder than I’d like to!
Mikaela Weld: I use the draw reins for extra control if I need them while jumping. Out hacking they are mostly used as a break. (Just as a precaution). I use my rein rite when I am flatting the horse especially my good horse. My good horse can get very anxious and stress on the flat. I have found the wheel between the clips that attach to the bit acts like a soother for her and it is nearly something she likes to play with.
“Training aids can be of great benefit to your horse if used correctly”, do you agree?
TackNTails: This is a vague statement. Anything can be of benefit if used correctly or in a specific manner. But what defines correct? Guns can be of benefit if used against terrorists, but does that mean we should allow anyone in to buy them with absolutely no experience? The danger is exactly this, we allow people to completely bypass learning to ride, going for lessons, getting vet/physio/dentist checks, or even sending their horse off to a professional rider and head straight for the gadget section of a tack shop and pick up anything they want. Training aids are often used in place of experience and proper riding. Let’s be honest, who are you most likely to see with their horses in these ‘aids’, it’s the amateur rider who knows what they want their horse to do and look like, but have no clue or cannot communicate to their horse how to do this. Yes, getting a horse to do something without these aids will take longer, but it’ll make for a better rider in the end and they will be able to transfer those skills to other horses too!
Anxious Riding Clubber: Most definitely! I personally don’t see a point in using something incorrectly, as more than likely it will cause more problems or even pain, than help solve them. It would be like me going out to chop a tree down with a chainsaw, I’ve no idea what I’d be doing and more than likely hack my leg off than any bit of a tree!
If I’ve no idea what I’m doing I go and research online or ask people that use the equipment. I’d never just whack something on Murphy without knowing what I’m doing.
Would you recommend the use of any training aids? If so what type and why? If you would not recommend the use of training aids please let me know why.
Anxious Riding Clubber: I would recommend the use of training Aids but the type depends greatly on the horse in question. I only have dealing with Murphy and we’ve not used many training aids. What works for me and Murphy may not work for you. Personally I would recommend the Libby’s Lungie Bungie all day long. Its changed the lunging game for myself and Murphy. And let’s be honest here, it’s fun to say!! For me, I dont see Murphy’s head been held in place, he can move about and it just encourages him to come back to the contact and relax in his work.
TackNTails: Honestly, probably not, but I definitely know which instructors I’d send people to! I’m not against them, they can be a really helpful and useful resource. I think chambons have gone very out of fashion but are great to really encourage a horse to stretch, work long and low, step under themselves and to build up strength all along their topline. Under saddle, I like that when using draw reins, the rider has the ability to use and then release them immediately. So many of the aids and gadgets available force
them into a certain frame without any release or else they only focus on the front end. I simply believe they’re over used and over relied upon. I don’t even want to give the usual “bad in the wrong hands” speech. Let’s be honest, a lot of those who use and rely on these aids are the reason why their horse isn’t working correctly and properly in the first place. I would say 99% of the time, the horse isn’t the problem, it’s the rider. Perhaps people over horsing themselves could also be to blame. If you’re relying on a gadget to school your horse, the horse isn’t the problem.
Mikaela Weld – International Showjumper : I would recommend training aids once they are used properly. It really depends on what horses you have and what they like what they don’t like. What do you want to achieve with the horse. I use draw reins and the reinrite which I swear by these two training aids I always have them in my tack locker at shows and always in my cross tie bay. I love draw reins on the more experienced horses who have already muscled up well. While on the younger horses I prefer the reinrite it soothes them and helps to teach them to be balanced.
Inside Track Eventing – Natalie O’Keeffe : I primarily use two training aids – good old fashioned side reins and an Equiami. Side reins are a helpful simulation of a rider’s hands, and create a contact for the horse to work into. I usually start off with them quite loose and will tighten them after a short warm up – much like you’d warm your horse up on a longer rein and slowly take up a contact. I use those on Paddy, or if I am in a bind time-wise with Flash. The Equiami is a great piece of kit for any horse owner to have in their tack box – it is a self centering loop that simulates the release-reward mechanism of training that you might do when riding – encouraging the horse to work from behind, and loosening and reducing pressure as soon as the horse works correctly. I use this on Flash as Paddy just does not appreciate anything rubbing off his hindquarters!
Ginger Ninja & Co – Dearbhla Creagh : As I use training aids I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t recommend the use of them. However there are a few caveats worth considering. Training aids are not an alternative to correct schooling. If you are considering the use of one and are unsure of what to start with or have never used it before then you really should only use it under the supervision of a trusted and qualified instructor. If the problem in your schooling is so great that you need the help of a training aid to overcome it, especially prolonged help, then perhaps you should consider getting your horse schooled by a professional.
Keep It Country – Kate Colbert : I would recommend *side reins for lunging, *bungee or rein rite when schooling. I find the side reins are a massive benefit for your horse when lunging, they encourage them to ride long and low without any interference of your hands. It also is good to see your horse working from the ground. The bungee and rein rite are ideal for getting your horse working hard when riding, I find I can concentrate on leg yielding, counter canter and flying changes etc while Bèag is concentrating on staying balanced, tracking up and in an outline. Getting all of those points lined up and working together can be quite the challenge & so the extra hand is definitely a benefit.
Lets all embrace our differences & support one another in our riding decisions, Training aid or no training aid. I know that might be hard for some people to grasp, but I like to think that maybe it can be done.
Thank you to everyone who has taken part, you opinions have been fantastic on this topic. Our “Controversial Topic” post I think has already began to grow legs, see keep your eyes peeled for a series of topics we here at NBW are dying to discuss!
As always, we would love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comments below.