Over and above the usual saddle, bridle, saddle blanket and protective boots there is a specific set of equipment I use when working with horses.
Safety is paramount. I always wear a helmet and heeled boots when riding. I also use gloves for certain activities. I am lucky enough to be sponsored by Champion – check them out, they do great riding hats for every occasion.
Rope halters can be adjusted to fit a wide range of horses and feature knots which stop the horse from leaning on them, unlike a wide, flat webbing or leather head collar. Rope head collars operate in the same way as a conventional head collar but, when pulled, will exert more pressure and give a more immediate response. When you are not pulling they sit comfortably on the horse’s head. Here’s a link to a quick video on fastening a rope halter.
I have my rope halters made from superior grade marine rope that won’t stretch or break and is UV resistant. You can purchase these from the Australian Horse Training Shop here.
I use a variety of lengths of rope. A 12 foot rope is great for groundwork. Rather than having to handle a long lunge line which will be flimsy and lightweight, a decent weight rope can be used to ask a horse forward, as a desensitisation aid, lunged from and tied up with. A 9 foot rope is great for general leading and tying and a 20 foot rope is great for long reining, larger circle lunging and training a horse to tie.
As with the halters, I have my ropes made from superior grade marine rope that won’t stretch or break and is UV resistant. You can purchase these from the Australian Horse Training Shop here.
I use a special, inexpensive resistance device to teach a horse to tie up patiently without pulling back. A long rope (usually 20 feet) is threaded through it and, when the horse pulls back, it creates friction. The rope is able to safely slide through the device but the pull the horse feels is consistent and firm. It allows them to go back until they realise that pulling the rope puts pressure on the poll (from the halter) and that coming forward stops it. After a few tries they are less inclined to pull back at all. This stops horses learning to break string and prevents injury from pulling back if tied to something solid.
You can purchase these in some great colours from the Australian Horse Training Shop here.
Sticks and Woggles
I use a variety of long objects as tools to drive a horse forward and teach them how to move different parts of their body from the ground. They range from the big, fat, soft and slow foam woggle (like the long swimming floats) which I use more for desensitising, to lunge and dressage whips. I use different tools with different horses as a lunging whip may be too much for a sensitive horse, whereas a foam woggle may have little effect with a more laid back horse.
I like to use a loose ring Fulmer or loose ring snaffle. The Fulmer side pieces help communicate steering aids to young horses. I ride with split reins so if I have to dismount in a hurry I don’t need to pull the reins over my horse’s head. The ends are also good to motivate horses forward instead of carrying a whip.
I also use a bridle rope, which is an invention of the great Australian trainer Steve Brady. It is a thin piece of rope that runs through the bit and up over the horse’s ears. It allows me to attach a lunge line or rope while keeping the bit balanced in the horse’s mouth. I can then lead or lunge my horse from the ground without having to rearrange everything.
Roller and Driving Reins
I use a roller and driving reins on all the horses I start as long reining is a great way to introduce basic aids before a rider. A pair of 20 foot ropes are perfect as driving reins. You can purchase these from the Australian Horse Training Shop here.
I use side reins when starting horses not to force them into an outline but to help them understand what the bit is about. Side reins help them learn that they don’t need to fear the bit as it remains constant but that they need to respect it because they cannot move it. This lesson requires that the bit only applies pressure when they move their head from their natural position, which is just in front of the vertical. Later in a horse’s ridden career I may use side reins to help refine their balance and help them develop good, rhythmical paces.
While I appreciate not everyone has access to a roundpen, they are very useful, especially when starting horses. Mine is 30m in diameter, which allows a horse enough room to manoeuvre comfortably while not being too far away from me to guide and drive. Although you will see me working in a roundpen during some sections of my training programme I will offer alternative strategies for those without them at home. Everything I do is perfectly possible without a roundpen, it just makes it that much easier!