Trainer Tuesday: What is one piece of equipment you think is overused when training horses and riders? Is there something you think is underused?

Welcome to Trainer Tuesday! Each week we ask trainers a question and gather their answers for you. These trainers have a range of experience, backgrounds, and focus points of their programs, so the answers have as much variation as you would expect and also probably much more similarity. 

This week’s question posed is: What is one piece of equipment you think is overused when training horses and riders? Is there something you think is underused?

Here are their answers:

“I tend to see a lot of belly bands and make shift spur rub pads to either cover spur rubs or prevent them from happening. That along with patches of unclipped hair where the riders heels fall indicating either an overuse, or a misuse of spurs. 

When I see a horse enter the ring with a patch of unclipped hair on their sides, it gives me an instant negative reaction. It’s kind of a red flag when I see horses with those patches on their sides. 

One thing that I think that is underused is boot polish.” -Lyman T. Whitehead
Listen to T on the Plaidcast here.

“Overused: Tack/Bits/Equipment – Underused: Time/Training/Feel” -Geoff Teall
Listen to Geoff on the Plaidcast here.

“I can’t really say what piece of equipment I think is overused. I think many people will say draw reins or lunge lines but in reality there is a need for those pieces of equipment. As the saying goes, everything in moderation right? However, I am not going to pass judgement on people that use these tools the correct way for training or safety.

Something that I think is under used is paddocks and time off. I think that mentally and physically these shows are so demanding on the horses and all the people involved. From trying to get qualified for indoors, to training for the next big event, or fixing a problem, I think everyone has to try to schedule in breaks as best as they can. It’s easier said than done with the aforementioned pressures but in the end it should make the results a little easier to achieve.” -Abby Blankenship
Listen to Abby on the Plaidcast here.

“If I had to pick one piece that is overused it would be draw reins. Simply because some riders abuse the tack aid and look for an easy fix while riding. Underused equipment would be a riders feel of their own legs!” -Jay Moore
Read Jay’s response on It Happens! here.

“I feel that strong or harsh bits used by riders lacking the knowledge, education and experience to use them is sometimes overused. One thing that is underused is boot polish and a buffing brush.” -Troy Hendricks
List to Troy on the Plaidcast here.

“Lunge line. I usually don’t lunge my horses to get them quiet. I try to do the other options: turn out and hacking. My barn is a pretty laid back place, and that feeds through to the horses so they are pretty laid back as well. Now, if there’s a sharp temperature change (which by Murphy’s Law will be right after a body clip!) and they get a bit silly – they will probably get a lunge.” -Jennifer Pigue
Read about Jennifer’s students winning the Horsemanship Quiz Challenge stable challenge here.

“Overused: Any piece of equipment or gadget that is used to stop an undesired behavior without getting to the root cause of the behavior. For instance – just using a flash, figure eight, or drop noseband for a horse that opens its mouth without investigating the reason why the horse is opening its mouth or evading the bit.

Underused: Correctly fitting saddles. The more horses I meet and the more I learn, it seems that an alarming amount of horses are being ridden with saddles that do not fit. Use an independent saddle fitter (not a saddle seller or brand rep!) and have an ongoing relationship with them. Have them out every few months to evaluate the saddle fit. Bonus points if you choose a wool flocked saddle that can be tailored and fitted to your horse as its back changes. So many behaviors are physically rooted and it is up to us to do our due diligence and make sure the horses are comfortable!” -Janna Bankston

“Martingales— running and German mostly. I get the purpose as a trainer— but as an instructor who makes her living with green on green, we have to allow our students to struggle before moving them up the levels. If you’re regularly relying on a martingale you’re missing the millisecond that you need to fine tune your feel.” -Kelsey Lane

“I don’t believe that a specific piece of equipment is being overused but I do believe any training aid should only be used in the right hands. Riders or handlers need to be taught to use training aids properly and no equipment should ever become a crutch.” -Sue Chambers
Read the Quinn Haven Athlete Pledge here.

“Draw reins.” -Diane Carney
Listen to Diane on the Plaidcast here.

“I think the use of Bungee’s is over used to force the horse/ponies heads into a false connection. There is a place for these tools, but it does not teach true connection and in my opinion should not be used every ride.” -Sarah Watson

“The longe-line is overused (and misused) for training horses, and it is very under-used for training riders.” -Jane Frizzell

“Spurs are overused. They are not for making a horse go forward, they are for lateral movement. If horses are not going forward from your leg go back to: leg, cluck, stick to lighten them up. We will see less spur marks on their sides.” -Katy Deer

“Overused are draw reins. Underused, hay and turn out.” -Miranda Bradley

“I think the bungee is wildly overused. I think it is a good tool when used appropriately and limited.” -Nicole Motes

“I think spurs are over used. They have become a fashion accessory on uneducated legs. Don’t get me wrong spurs are an important aid to the leg, but hey should not be used instead of having a strong leg.

Under used are time and patience to let the horse develop, and the rider develop. Everyone is in a hurry. Developing a horse or rider takes years.” -Janet Sassmannshausen

“The improper and misuse of sharp spurs. I have never seen so many spur marks, spur patches and belly bands at the horse shows. A few months ago another judge pointed out they had seen a rider wearing two pairs of spurs. Horses need to be taught to respond to the rider’s leg without being brutalized by the spurs. Back when I was showing I had a very lazy but wonderful horse Mombo. Jennifer Bauersachs taught me how to get the horse to respond to my leg by lightly tapping him being my leg with a crop and clucking if he did not respond to my leg. It’s just become too easy for the rider to rely on the spur as the gas pedal.” -Maria Takacs
Listen to Maria on the Plaidcast here.

“Over used: Gigantic knee rolls and blocks on saddles. I may be old school but I love a nice close contact saddle without all the bells and whistles designed to hold a rider’s leg perfectly in place. Riders should develop the fitness and feel to hold their leg without relying heavily on these extra supports. There is no substitute for no stirrups!

Under used: A second rein / curb rein on a gag style bit. I’m a strong believer in only applying leverage if it is absolutely necessary. All of my horses who go in a leverage bit use two reins. This is obviously a common practice in the hunters and equitation on Pelhams but I see it less frequently used on gag style bits. I think it is equally important in these bits to be able to ride off the snaffle rein most of the time and employ the curb rein only as needed.” -Jessica Goldstein Holmes

“I think crops for novice riders are over used. Instead of teaching kids/riders to use a crop to teach the horse to respond to your leg they tend to use it to make the horse go. A novice rider will use the crop to make the horse go creating a dull horse instead of making an effective rider and light, responsive horse.

I think the Equi-Cube is under used. Riding for brief periods of time with the “cube” helps riders find and engage their core and carry their hands. They need to come out with a “Kiddie-Cube” so the little ones can spend some time with it!” -Lauren Kissel

“Anything which uses leverage to force the horse’s head/neck into a shortened or otherwise anatomically incorrect position. Not only should devices such as these never be used in ethical equestrian training, but it is also the most offensive to see them being used by young riders, especially when jumping. The use of draw reins, chambons, side reins, tie downs, etc., are not only unfair to the horse being ridden, but also incredibly unfair to the rider who is being wrongly educated by their trainer/instructor to believe that these devices are acceptable while also being put in physical danger themselves due to the horse not being able to use the neck for balance and keep their riders safe, much less, put a leg through when jumping. It is horrific to see and should be banned by the USEF immediately.

What is being under-utilized are properly fitting bits (not relying on leverage) which are appropriate for the size and conformation of the horse’s mouth. Just because a bit is thick in diameter does not mean its effect is soft. It constantly presses against structures of the mouth in an unpleasant way. Just because a bit is thinner in diameter does not mean that it is necessarily sharp (if controlled by educated hands) and may provide pressure relief for a horse with a lower palate. For any bit to be used correctly the rider’s hands must never drop below the level of the horse’s mouth. Otherwise, any bit becomes unpleasant to the horse as its pressure works not against the cushion of lips and tongue, but instead against the bony bars of the mouth.” -McKrell Baier
Read McKrell’s article here.

“I think the most overused pieces of equipment are contraptions: draw reins, chambon, and gogue. To me the long term use of these causes more problems than what the rider who chooses them is attempting to fix. An observation I hear the most on my riding a lot is that I seemingly ride with not a lot of contact. And my answer is simple: when you teach the horse to carry themselves correctly you do not need a lot of contact and I am able to make simple/slight adjustments on course as needed. If I ever do feel inclined to use something it is for one ride only to show them what I am looking for and then it comes off. But honestly I would rather spend the extra time teaching the horse the right way than a quick fix with a gadget, and it almost always involves starting back on the ground until the horse understands without the rider’s interference.

I think the most underused piece of equipment is the surcingle with side reins. It can help the horse work through so many problems on its own, and it can help the rider see much more of what is going on with the horse than we are able to while in the saddle.” -Jordan Lubow