The Science of horse tack and training aids. Part 1

Training tack –   whips, spurs nosebands and martingales. It’s a divisive topic in the horse industry. Horse show committees, popular clinicians, coaches, competitive and casual riders differ in their views.

In a sport where truth, tradition and emotions often collide, I’ve had to sift through the issues to form my own system as a horse trainer, show judge and riding coach.  By trial and error, in training hundreds of horses and watching countless horse and riders, I’ve honed my sense of what works and what tends not to.

 But personal experience alone is not a guarantee of truth; I weigh my experience in the light of research. The emergence of equitation science has supplied fascinating insight into how horses think and learn.

 Do artificial aids themselves cause stress, or simply the way they’re used?  I’ve heard it said the best teachers are the curious.   I ask lots of questions!  Consequently, my thoughts about artificial aids have been challenged and shaped over the years.

When first meeting a rider in a clinic or for a lesson, I usually ask why they’ve chosen their bit or tack.  Responses vary; it’s the tack that  came with horse when I bought him; it’s what everyone’s using;  honestly, I just like the look of it!

Sometimes, there’s a well-reasoned reply – one formed from thinking through the facts:

  1. I understand the mechanics of how the equipment works and on which part of the horse
  2. Based on #1, I’ve chosen this equipment to help solve this issue for this horse.

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