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Training Aids and How To Use Them

The light, warm summer weather encourages most of us to swap the confines of the sand paddock for long hacks and beach rides. When your leisure time starts to be restricted by lack of light or suitable weather conditions, these fun rides can be more difficult to fit in to your schedule. Having the motivation to ride in the arena again can be difficult, therefore think of the schooling as a way to keep both you and your horse fit, supple and healthy. It may help to plan a schedule that works towards a long term goal for you and your horse, and then you feel you are getting something worthwhile from your training sessions. Most horses will benefit from a structured programme that helps to re-establish the basic principles of obedience and submission. There is no substitute for good schooling but sometimes a little extra help is needed to encourage your horse to use his himself correctly. Training aids can assist you with achieving a round outline and self carriage, but it is important to know how to use each one correctly as they can cause more problems if used by inexperienced riders or possibly injure the horse.  Draw Reins are a simple and commonly used training aid which attach to the horse’s girth then pass through the bit (from the outside to the inside) to the rider’s hands. These are a strong gadget which should only ever be used by experienced riders and are unsuitable and unsafe for jumping in. They can be an extremely severe training aid if used wrongly and can force the horse into an incorrect and short outline, where rather than flexing at the poll and relaxing onto the bit, he ends up flexing at the 4th vertebra and curling himself back from the bit. If used gently and at a length where they only come into action if the horse raises his head, they can be beneficial to the horses head carriage. It is advised that only experienced riders and riders under instructors’ supervision use them, and they are not used for long periods of time.
35314-01 A similar training aid to Draw Reins is the Market Harborough which attaches via a breastplate and has 2 lines coming from the centre, passing through the bit on either side (from the outside to the inside) and attaching to specialised reins with 3 D rings on either side, spaced at regular intervals from the bit. The lines then clip to these D rings, with the rings closest to the bit being the mildest setting and the ones furthest away the strongest. Ideally the reins should be set so the head is carried slightly above the vertical so a correct head carriage encouraged. They should only come into action if the head comes above the desired position, and are good for use on strong horses as they come into action when a horse pulls or throws his head. This training aid is unsuitable for jumping in, and like Draw Reins it is advisable to use them in the presence of an instructor.
The Chambon is an aid for use when lunging and has 2 reins which clip to the girth or roller between the front legs, come up and through rings on a special headpiece and then run down and clip to the bit on either side. This should be fitted loosely at first and the horse allowed to work on a large circle in a natural trot so he can get used to the poll pressure and raising of the bit when he lifts his head above a certain point. Once he has accepted and understood that the pressure is released when he relaxes down, the aid can be tightened gradually until you have the desired level of neck and head carriage. Again, this aid is unsuitable for jumping in. 35419-01
35420-01 An advancement on the Chambon is the De Gogue which is quite a gentle training aid and can be lunged or ridden in. It consists of 2 reins which attach to a girth or roller between the horses front legs, go up to the padded headpiece and through the ring attachments, down alongside the cheek pieces, through the bit and then either attach to the end of the reins if riding or back down between the front legs if lunging. At first until you and your horse are used to this aid, it is advisable to ride with double reins, one set fixed to the bit and the other to the De Gogue rein. This rein encourages the head and neck to be down and relaxed, putting mild pressure on the poll and bit if the head is lifted above the desired position and releasing this pressure when the horse relaxes and works correctly. This is another aid that is unsuitable for jumping in and should also be used by experienced riders and in the presence of an instructor.
One of the most advanced and highly recommended training aids is the Pessoa. This works on both the back and front end of the horse with a ‘pulley’ type system; a soft strap passes behind the back legs, this attaches to a rope which is fixed up to the roller, with another rope passing from the back strap through a clip attached to the bit. This then can be attached on 3 settings, either through the front legs achieving a long and low setting, suitable for use on all horses but especially those just starting out with a Pessoa. 35410-01
The second setting fastens to the side ring of a roller to bring the head slightly higher and encourage more back lift, and the final option attaches up to the top ring of the roller to bring the advanced and well muscled horse into more of a dressage outline. For most horses, the last setting puts too much strain on them and could end up causing muscle and skeletal injuries and stress, so it is advisable to work the horse up gently from the lowest setting to the middle setting. This aid should not be ridden or jumped in and should only be lunged in for very short periods of time, about 5 minutes on each rein as it can be very strenuous for the horse. Overall none of these aids will work properly and safely without good basic schooling being practised alongside them, and should only be used after reading their instructions. Remember, these shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix to tuck your horses head in, outlines start from the back and work their way forwards! Used correctly though, they can be a positive addition to a schooling session and help your horse understand better how to use his hind quarters to work correctly and comfortably over his back and neck. A horse in pain or discomfort won’t want to work properly, is likely to ‘giraffe’ along and is often naughty so always remember to check your horses saddle fit, teeth and back before looking to training aids for help. With the help of these and good schooling, a happy comfortable horse should quickly learn how to use himself properly and you’ll look like a dressage queen/king in no time!

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