Equine Gizmos and Gadgets


Susan Hopf

There’s an old saying among seasoned horse trainers that basically amounts to more stuff/less rider. What this really means is that the best piece of equipment you can have when dealing with horses, or any animal, is an active brain. This brain needs to come equipped with one basic concept that being in order to work with an animal you need to do so on his or her terms. Domesticated animals and specifically horses must battle centuries of instinct driven behaviors in order to come into our world and this is where your training must begin. Since the nuts and bolts of any good training system boils down to trust and leadership anyone that so much as touches a horse, by default, falls into the category of “trainer”.

Whether intentioned or not every move we make when approaching a horse communicates some sort of message. Because of this we often, without realizing such, imprint behaviors upon our equine partners that may cause, at best ill manners and at worst dangerous activities. As an example feeding treats from your hand can create a biter. People then feel confused and frustrated when they must correct these seemingly innocuous behaviors and thusly the booming industry of equine training aids is born.

Quick fix gizmos and training gadgets, too numerous to count, have flooded the equine marketplace. Some training aids can be useful but as in all evaluations of such things if it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

When considering a purchase to assist you with the training of your horse the following cautions may help prevent a hole in your wallet as well as your pride.

There is no such thing as instant and forever. Anything that guarantees a one time correction and/or instant success is something to be avoided. Since horses must learn and not just react when dealing in the human world you need to allow them time to process, possibly squelch an instinctual reflex and then understand according to human needs a big job for a creature that is most interested in eating and living a life unthreatened. Most lessons need repeating when initially taught, with lifelong reminders not uncommon.

Any object that makes claims to correct a behavior issue without you, as trainer, present should be questioned. If the horse does not associate corrections coming from the leader the association about what is and is not acceptable behavior is lost.

Every pupil, be they human or horse or other, learns at their own pace. Any item that makes judgments about how many steps it takes to reach success should be carefully scrutinized. No one can guarantee such a thing.

There are a few items that are currently in common use but have been around so long they are no longer accompanied by any sort of guaranteed claims. Martingales, tie-downs, draw-reins, any sort of a pulley system associated with “setting a head” whether applied when mounted or when longeing are all used as a substitute for effective training and should be avoided. They are most often used when horses have been rushed and their individual physical and mental weaknesses have not been addressed correctly.

Training horses takes a great deal of understanding about how these big generous-hearted beasts think. Lots of equipment cannot make up for this lack of understanding. To those of you with training questions please spend your hard-earned dollars on professional advice. Research any professional before your inquiry and if you present your horse to a professional trainer and they attach any sort of gizmo or gadget to any part of her body, other than saddle, bridle, longe line and/or cavesson, take her gently from him/her, politely excuse yourselves and run quickly away. 

Susan Hopf