For Better or Worse… The Use of ‘Gadgets’

Gadgets. There’s a lot of them out there and they’re being used throughout all levels and disciplines within the equestrian world, but certainly not without bad press.

We all use gadgets or tools in one sense or another. There are what I would call ‘standard tools’, which most of us use regularly or will have at least used at some point, such as bits, bridles, saddles, neck strap (aka ‘Oh Shit Strap’). These tools we use all the time without even giving it a thought and remain as our standard ‘tool kit’ which we use regularly.

Then there are training tools / gadgets which, can be used temporarily or sometimes permanently but certainly with a purpose and a plan, to aid us in certain areas of our work. A lot of gadgets can be used effectively and as useful pieces of equipment, when used correctly and with full and proper understanding. But they can also be used ineffectively, unfairly and pointlessly.

There are some riders, both in the professional and amateur world, who will to go straight towards gadgets as a ‘quick fix’.

There are riders who make an effort to use no tools at all, in a bid to do everything on their own.

And then there are the people in the middle, which probably covers the majority of us, who will use tools when needed and don’t when they’re not!

Where can tools used effectively? 

As just one example of a good use of a gadget, I thought we should talk dressage riders. Within the higher levels of dressage, spurs are widely used (and mandatory from advanced upwards) to create and refine a response; as an extension of the leg aid. The spurs can be used as a way to have a calm and quiet conversation with the horse. If you ever watch some of the top dressage riders (I need not mention names!!), you’ll see how quiet they are, only using the aid to get the desired reaction; it is not constant and they get results straight away, without being harsh. This is because they have been used correctly by the rider in the training process and throughout.

However, on the other side of this, spurs can be used both incorrectly and for the wrong reasons. It is easy for us riders to be tempted to use too much leg, kicking with every side, ending up with a horse being dead to the leg (and gosh, I am sure we have all experienced this issue at some point!). Spurs are often used as the initial quick fix to this issue which they’ve created, when actually, this habit from the rider, and consequently the horse, can potentially addressed and corrected first, before the use of spurs is considered.

Of course, these are just two examples of the use of a gadgets in good and bad light and I think it is so important to remember that every use is circumstantial. We do not always know the full story behind someones choices and that’s the prime reason why we shouldn’t jump to negative conclusions initially, especially when there isn’t a negative or harmful effect on the horse.

I’m definitely somewhere in the middle when it comes to gadgets. I believe they can be a useful way  to aid the training of you and your horse but only when and whilst required. I have seen gadgets used far too often as a quick and lazy (yes, I know that’s a controversial thing to say) way to get results and I’ve seen them used harshly and unkindly too and that’s not fair on the horse and certainly won’t help riders to learn things the correct way in the long run.

What are your thoughts on gadgets and how they’re used and where do you sit with using them?

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