A Winter Exercise Staple, Trot N Rock

Finally getting back into the swing of normal again, making a riding schedule and trying to stick to it has now become quite the challenge, I forgot how much I hated the winter. Trying to get on top of our exercises has also been something I have really missed.

This exercise, Trot N Rock was one I done quite a bit through summer months, or during the first lockdown shall I say, it was a great transition exercise as well as one that kept Dante’s mind very busy and occupied.

I always find it hard to plan and think of things to be doing exercise wise in the arena, without a plan in my head of what I need to be doing each day, I often find myself drifting in and out of plans. Creating these short effective exercises certainly helps, it also keeps my riding quick but effective, and well what more could you want now that the winter months are creeping in amongst us.

Keep scrolling for my Trot N Rock exercise, it is definitely one to start with so many benefits not too mention how quick and easy it is to set up.

The Setup

Well, for this exercise all you need for your set up is 3 trot poles, of course an arena or a quiet field would also come in handy. Quite simple. The distance between your poles can depend, for a pony 4 heel to toe footsteps, for a horse I tend to do 4 and a half heel to toe footsteps. Check out the vid below!

Your arena doesn’t need to be fully clear, but I would recommend clearing at least the half of the arena you are using. See below as to where your set up should be done and what it should look like before you start.

The Benefits

  • Helps improve Balance, Suppleness, Rhythm
  • Helps develop hind end muscles and horses core
  • Helps to develop horses eye, and improves his co-ordination
  • Helps keep your horses brain busy, less anticipation of the work he thinks he’s doing
  • Teaches your horse collection

How To Ride This Exercise

Step 1 – Do I need to tell you what step one is, or have you been living under a rock? The warm up is as critical as the exercise itself! No warm up, especially in the winter time will leave you with an accident prone and stiff horse… so be sure to get your 15 minute walk trot and canter in before you “jump” into any of our exercises.

Step 2 – This exercise is so much easier to explain, I feel like I have already made a balls of the images! Start first by picking up your trot, you are looking for a nice rhythm not too fast, once you find it start by going over your trot poles. Do this a few times and be sure to change your rein often. Don’t leave it too easy so that your horse can anticipate the left and right turns. Focus on your turns before and after your poles also, aim for the centre and focus on staying straight through out the 3 poles

Step 3 – Once you are riding smoothly over the poles in trot, adding an element of canter to this exercise is what we shall be doing next, and no you don’t need to adjust them to canter poles. Your poles are placed down the centre of the centre or half way up even, when you are comfortable to progress to your canter, the aim is to canter 3 loops around each trot pole that you have placed down as per the image below. I would recommend practicing this a few times before we piece everything together. Dante looked at the poles strangely when he had to go through them opposed to going over them, you will be surprised on the strange things out horses look at!

Step 4 – You are looking for an active forward canter, your can begin with large circles, starting near the centre of the arena, progressing to the small circle, or you can go the opposite. Whatever suits your horse. Balance and rhythm is something you need to keep focus on, Sitting up straight holding a contact and riding from the leg will all benefit you in keeping the above smooth. Once you have mastered this, it is time to piece all of our above steps together.

Step 5 – Lets piece everything together, starting in trot and finishing in trot. BAM, I surprised you with a twist there! Pick up your forward active trot like in step 2 above, begin by coming over your trot poles in the center of the arena a loop on each rein. As you come over your poles the second time track left, you are now picking up canter in your next nearest corner. Now you are piecing in Step 3 and adding in your canter loops. Continuing until you have your 3 loops around your poles, using the same corner you picked up canter as a marker to transition back down to trot. Keep your forward trot when transitioning down, as you need to finish off by coming over your trot poles one last time and tracking right. In your next corner transition down to walk or straight to halt. Whichever your prefer and Viola, The Trot N Rock exercise is complete!

And there we have it folks, I have always wanted to say that in a room full of people… don’t even ask why! This exercise is so simple yet it has so many benefits that I am sure we can all gain from. You might only do it once and finish there, but you hit all the nails on the head and even manage to get two rein changes in at that too. It is also an exercise that gives you a sense of accomplishment when you finish your ride. I don’t know about you but motivating myself to ride in the winter can be a tough one. The cold is not my friend especially when you have to walk up and down the yard in the dark not to mention having to keep turning on and off lights..

Anyways I want you guys to give this exercise a go, it’s one I will be bringing back into my winter routine that’s for sure. We also love seeing you guys doing our exercises, be sure to tag us in any of your videos if you add it to your winter riding schedules!

Be on the look out for more pole workouts coming your way, it’s going to be a winter pole fiasco, I can just feel it in my bones! Pole work, gives you goal work…

Speak Soon,


Fear of the Fall

For such a common eventuality among horse riders, this is something I don’t see too many people talk about. This sport we do is pretty high up there in the ‘dangerous sports’ category – a quick google search of the most dangerous sports will show you that horse riding (or sports involving riding horses eg. Polo, jousting, racing etc) is always listed in the top 10. This doesn’t surprise me one bit and I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you.

In most other sports, people are putting their trust in their own abilities to complete the task they’ve given themselves. They train hard to build their strength and skills to ensure they can perform their job. Yes, we equestrians need to do the same for ourselves, but there’s an additional element that is unique to our sport. We are choosing an animal as our partner. These animals have their own minds and they’re not afraid to remind us of that. Our horses are athletes and they demand the respect of being treated as such. They require immense care along with strict training and diet plans to ensure they are given everything they need to perform the tasks we ask of them. This is the element of our sport that provides the danger.

Some may compare a horse to a race car and yes, in the sense that a vehicle can have an unknown broken part which can malfunction at the worst possible time, there is an element of risk. However, at the end of the day, a vehicle does not have feelings. A vehicle cannot be in a bad mood. A vehicle cannot feel that its back is sore. A vehicle cannot feel the nerves of its driver just before a race starts. Horses feel all of this and more and just like us humans, they have the freedom and right to react to all of this as they see fit. This is where, in my opinion, our sport has no equal comparison. To make matters even more dangerous, we put ourselves in the position where we’re actually sitting on this animal’s back, 5 feet off the ground.

I hope that by this point all you equestrians reading this are nodding your heads in agreement. I mean, when you look at all of this together you have to wonder what went wrong in our lives that we seem to have a death wish?! I’m not going to keep going on about the dangers of our sport, we all know that this hobby is a risk sport and we have consciously made the decision to partake in it. What I want to talk about is the fact that despite knowing all of this, we have decided to do this sport knowing there is a high chance we could die or, at the very least, end up in a wheelchair and yet, we continue despite having the fear of the fall. To be more specific, the fear of THAT fall.

We know that falling off is an inevitable element of our sport and a lot would argue that falling makes you a better rider and this is something I wholeheartedly agree with. The only way to learn is by making mistakes and unfortunately falling off tends to be the result of making mistakes while horse riding. The aim is to ensure you get back up and keeping going – something that is not always possible depending on how bad the fall was. But we know we at least have to try because we love what we do. Unfortunately the getting back up part is not always easy. Sometimes you physically cant because you’ve sustained an injury, other times it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back and we just can’t do it anymore.

Anyone who’s been following NBW over the last year or two will know that I’ve had my fair share of falls. From April 2018 to June 2019, I had fallen off Coco 6 times. Not all the falls were bad, for the first few I was able to get back up and keep going to an extent, but fall number 3 was particularly bad – enough for me to drag myself to A&E on Christmas Eve. This one really shattered my confidence and it took some work to build myself back up and to get back out jumping. Unfortunately after regaining my confidence, the falls just kept coming until my last one in June 2019 which resulted in a broken foot, and me being out of the saddle for an entire summer. By then I had reached a point where I realised I was no longer enjoying riding so I made the difficult decision to sell Coco.

Enter Cosmo.

Even though he was young, Cosmo was to be my brave companion. The first time I rode him ended up being the first time I jumped since the fall that broke my foot (which happened while jumping). I didn’t think that first time leaving the ground was going to be on a very green 4yo, but low and behold this gem of a horse took me confidently over a red roadblock and I made the decision that he was going to be my next horse. He’s been exactly what I wanted from a horse – brave, trusting and incredibly talented. However, being a 4yo (now 5yo) he of course still needs the correct training to ensure he becomes the horse I know he can be.

After my litany of falls the previous year, I was of course very aware that a fall from Cosmo was inevitable. I briefly mentioned before about the cause of a fall. A lot of the time, just knowing what caused the fall can be enough to get you back going again. If you know you did something that impacted your horse to make them stop at the fence then you know what you have to work on. Unfortunately not all falls have this explanation. Sometimes it’s just bad luck. Sometimes neither of you did anything wrong. And this is what happened to me and Cosmo a few months ago.

We were doing some jumping at home over some small cross poles and Cosmo went for an off stride and ended up tripping over the fence. He tried his hardest but he just couldn’t get his footing and we both ended up going down. I flipped over his head, landing quite hard on my shoulder and I needed to keep rolling to ensure I got out from underneath him. We were both pretty shaken but thankfully we both walked away with no serious injuries. While I was well enough to get back in the saddle a week later, it took quite a good 3 months before I could jump again (partly due to the pandemic to be fair).

This fall was the one that I had feared the most. I’ve seen so many other horse and rider combinations take similar falls and they are always horrifying to watch. I’ve heard so many awful stories that I always dreaded it ever happening to me. And then it did. And despite the fact that we managed to escape physically unscathed, it was just as terrifying as I imagined. The ‘what if’ of the situation is ingrained in me and the possibility that it could happen again sends a cold shiver down my spine.

Our horses are our escape, the silencers of our minds for the few hours we spend with them.

This fall really got into my head. It was only when I really thought about all of this that I realised what an impact my recent falls have had on me mentally. Most of us do this sport as our hobby and our way of decompressing. Our horses are our escape, the silencers of our minds for the few hours we spend with them. But when fear and anxiety set in and you find yourself no longer enjoying your time in the saddle, or constantly worrying that you’re not doing what you ‘should’ be doing, it can really take its toll on your mental health. Something that I grew to accept was that I may get to a point where I decide that jumping just isn’t for me anymore. And if I do reach that point, that’s ok. As I know if I do make that choice, I’ll be happier in myself.

I also know that I definitely haven’t gotten there yet. I have had a few lessons over the last few months which have shown me that I still love jumping and Cosmo is far too talented to not be jumping. I still have a lot of fight in me to push through these confidence issues. I’ve done it before and I can do it again and I’m too excited to see where me and Cosmo could go to give up just yet. But knowing that I can decide to take the pressure off myself and just enjoy my horse brings a sense of relief but also a sense of determination, when I realised that I’m not quite ready for that.

For anyone else who may be struggling with similar fears, doubts, anxiety; just know that you can decide to do whatever you feel is right for you. If that means giving up jumping for a while then so be it. If it means stopping riding altogether and just spending some quality time lounging in the field with your horse, then that’s ok too. Just do what you know is the best thing for you and you really can’t go wrong.

Thanks for reading,


Youngster Exercise Series – Straighten Out

As you may be realising, Cosmo has a bit of a straightness issue so I came up with this series of poles to help work on this problem. It’s relatively simple but enough for a young brain to get to grips with.


  • Straightness
  • Rhythm
  • Seeing a stride


For this exercise you’ll need pretty much your full arena and the following:

For the Trot Poles:

  • Two sets of 3 x trot poles – 4 and a half footsteps between each pole
  • A pair of straightening poles set up either side of both sets of trot poles

For the Canter Poles:

  • One set of canter poles – 6 strides, 4 large steps per stride
  • A pair of straightening poles at the start and end of the line
  • Two wings/blocks at the half way point down your line

Your trot poles should be set up on the long-sides, while your canter poles should be set up down the centreline.


The straightening poles within these layouts will ensure your horse goes over the poles as straight as possible however there are other things you can do to help get your horse there:

  • If your horse tends to drift to one particular side more than the other, then consider cutting your corner on your approach or turning a little later. This will help ensure you’re straight by the time you hit your poles.
  • Keep your hands wide to provide a type of tunnel contact between your hands and the horse’s mouth.
  • Focus on keeping even pressure on your horse’s sides with your legs.

Check out some GoPro footage of me and Cosmo giving the canter poles a go…

Cosmo’s weakest gait is canter so we can sometimes struggle to even get through a set of canter poles without breaking to trot but he did quite well with this one all things considered. I’ve definitely seen a big improvement in Cosmo’s straightness since starting these exercises so do give them a go if you’re having the same problems as me.

Thanks for reading,


5 Equestrian Products I Am Obsessed With

Remember me? It sure has been quite a while since I put some keyboard to interweb! I am back and what better way to re-enter the horse blogger world than to give you a list of my top 5 Equestrian products I am obsessing over at the minute.

Keep reading to find out, be warned, I am a bargain hunter with some things, I love a good bargain and a good long standing product… get the credit cards ready!

Toggi – Sticky Butt Jods

How was I so late to this trend?How Have I been secretly missing out on the amazingness that is sticky arse riding jods? They are the best thing since sliced bread. If you dont have a pair of sticky butt riding jods, go buy a pair ASAP!

I got mine out of curiosity shopping in Holmstead, I have been going through that “I dont feel safe” in the saddle phase and thought I would try out a pair to see if they helped me feel that bit more secure whilst riding. Holy Mother of god they done just that. I dont think I can ever go back to riding without them.. Now I also dont think its correct to suggest you need these jodphurs to feel safe when riding, but as you get older you will try cling to the hope of something keeping you that bit safer when you ride… its all about those false sense of securities for me, they keep me sane!

Toggi have produced a fantastic product for just €59.99,They are comfortable, affordable, dont give you a camel toe and are very pleasing on the eye to look at a fine product for us equestrians, Being the first time I have worn the brand Toggi I am quite happy to now invest all of my money into their products going forward!

Available to buy Here

Packhorse.ie Mane & Tail Silk

I think I have gotten my point across quite aggressively with this product over on my Instagram the past few weeks. Dante mane is just gross. It is a big huge afro bush that I struggle to maintain half of the time, until this beaut came along. I was kindly gifted this product, but if It didn’t work or if I felt it wasn’t worth the money it certainly would not of made the list!

For €8.99 and for the amount you use at a time, this product is a grooming kit must have. So easy to use, I dabble it on my Penny’s hair brush and whisk it threw Dante mane one or two times a week, depending on his state, But It lasts and keeps that mane shiny for days.

Available from Packhorse.ie

Decathalon Synthetic Riding Boots

I absolutely hate spending “big bucks” on those essential riding items. It just destroys my soul and I have no idea why. Riding boots are something I wear every single day without them I cant begin to image how a, stupid I would look and b, the damage I would do to my feet.

After a lot of research and trying to find the cheapest riding boot available to buy online, some dodgy things did appear on my search bar.. anyways I have always shopped for essentials in decathlon but riding boots was never a thing that came into my mind when I thought of them… until I tried a pair on one day in their Dublin store.

Not only were they comfortable and not too awkward on the eye the cheap price label kind of put me off buying them for a number of week.But I couldnt get the thought of them out of my head I just said F*ck it, whats the harm, I will buy them and if there shit I will use them for something around the yard, for €60 I just couldnt go wrong

Jesus lads, I bagged myself a bargain, they are perfect. They wash well, havnt marked as of yet and they are comfortable. My teeny tiny calves fit into them also, and on bad days when my leg are feeling chunky the zipper has a wide elasticated side so I can squeeze the legs in and still walk around and ride in absolute comfort.

I cant recommend these enough, and people are quite pleasantly surprised when I tell them where I got them and how cheap they where. Add it to the Christmas wish lists lads.. omg did I just say that?

Available to purchase HERE

Equisoc Socks

If Equisoc have them, I want them. I am obsessssed. This review doesn’t take much as these socks are top class quality. And not to mention the gorgeous fun prints tend to bring out the young horsey girl vibes in me, they just cant go wrong with anything in my eyes.

We were gifted socks here at NBW, but if I didn’t like them I wouldn’t wear them. I am a fussy betch when it comes to socks, Anything too chunky, my boot doesn’t close, anything not long enough and I get all weird thinking my socks are falling down inside my boot… yes I am weird.

Equisoc socks just hug your legs in all the right places, not to mention the cushiony sole to keep your tootsies riding and walking around on little foot pillows. (yes i did just say that) If you haven’t got a pair yet, what is wrong with you? They start at €9.99 for a two pack pair, super cheap, super affordable.

Available to buy in store at TRI Equestrian or Ladychapel Stores

Enbarr – After Work Bar

I am a sucker for Enbarr products. Not only because they smell delish or that they are environmentally friendly.. the products just simply do exactly what they say on the tin. During lockdown, and during those hot summer evenings, The After Work Bar was the perfect addition to my evening cool down routine after I rode, poor Dante does not do well in the heat.

They have little knobbly heads that get right into the groves of your horse, right into the muscles also contains peppermint which apparently really helps cool down your horses muscles, not to mention that it makes their coats very very shiney. Oh and one last thing, the smell if to dieeee for! Its worth the purchase alone for the gorgeous smell, its not everyday you go home not smelly of horse Sh*t*!

I have it on my list to buy another few bars, mine in down to it last legs!

Available to buy HERE

If you follow us on Instagram I am sure you have already seen the story content of most products mentioned , I just cant get enough of them, literally obsessed… have I said that enough?!!

Have you got any products you just cant live without? Let me know in the comments below… are you even a real Horse Hun if you cant control yourself when it comes to buying new products like all the time?

Until next time buckers,


ReinRite Exercise Series – The Turn Table

It has certainly been a while, writing up blog posts the last while has been something I have neglected, but I am back! You may have noticed that I have been using my reinrite products a lot in terms of bringing Dante back into fitness since lockdown. Before lockdown we rode in our ReinRite Training Aid once a week, this kept Dante on his toes, it also encouraged him to self carry properly.

I try to pre plan my exercises before I jump in the saddle, this way we get the most out of our training. Pole work is of course our number one focus. I came up with the “Turntable” exercise out of frustration of getting up and down and adjusting trot poles to canter poles and so on.

Keep Scrolling for the layout, the set up & how Dante rode it. Don’t be worried either if you don’t have a ReinRite Training Aid, the exercise can be down without also for everyone who prefers not to ride with Training Aids at all, I dont judge!

The Set Up

You will need a number of poles for the set up of this exercise, 7 to be precise. I also used my Jumpstart Showjumps Pole raisers to raise the poles, but they can be laid flat or you can use jumping wings if you prefer either.

See the images below for the layout in your arena. Preferably, I would have the rest of the arena clear to give you extra space to warm up.

The distance between the poles are as follows:

A = 2 strides, walking from the center of your poles, so 10 large walking footsteps

B= They are bounce strides, so I walked out 10 toe to toe footsteps.

The Benefits of Using Reinrite

  • Better Control over the poles
  • Can focus on your riding position in more detail
  • Your horse works correctly, and is encouraged to hold themselves correctly
  • I always find that while riding in the ReinRite it encourages me to hold the contact, without it on I have an awful habit of dropping it.

The Benefits of this exercise for Your Horse

  • Improves your eye for a stride
  • Control in the rhythm
  • Improves both horse & riders approach to poles
  • Works your horses hind end
  • Focus on the riders position
  • Bending & flexing your horse around your leg

How To Ride This Exercise

Step 1: As with all of our exercises, we recommend a thorough warm up before starting. This will insure that your horse will not pick up any injuries.

Step 2: I began this exercise in sections. Your aim is to get everything done in canter, but doing it in trot was the first step I took. Start with the curved poles. Trot around and over them off both reins, you are looking for a consitant flow in your horses rhythm. No stumbling over poles or half strides before. Once you are happy with the you can start bringing in you two outside poles.

Step 3: Continuing on from your curved poles, incorporate the two poles on the outside of your exercise. Again you are looking for a nice consistant flow with an even rhythm. Follow the image below, you will now begin to see why I called this the Turn Table exercise. Your horse is being constantly challenged in the direction they are moving! You should be able to count your horses “trot” strides between poles each time you ride from pole to pole. This is a trick I use for knowing when Dante is keeping a consistent rhythm in his movement.

Step 4: Once you are comfortable with the above, it’s time to progress to the canter. Ride the exercise exactly the same as in step 2 & 3 outlined above but only moving from trot up into canter. Once you are happy with how your horse worked, I gave Dante a short walk break to stretch out. It is nice to give your horse rests, and breaks to process the entirety of the exercise

Step 5: We are now moving onto our poles down the middle of the arena. This is the third part of this exercise, the last piece we need before we stick it all together. Picking up canter, ride into your poles as if they are not there, crazy I know but try it and see how it works! It is your job to ride your horse into the poles, it is not your job to lift your horses legs over them! So if they hit or knock then, just start again. Once you are happy with how your horse is working, you can then piece the entire exercise together.

Step 6: To piece our exercise together, I have put the image below as to how it works. Beginning by canter over your poles in the center, Turning left over your single pole which bring your around to your pole on the opposite side of the arena, finishing up over your curved poles. It sound like a lot, but it flows well once you get into it. It is a tough exercise so if your horse finishes well once on either rein I would finish off on that good note.

That exercise was quite a difficult one to explain considering the amount of turns it has, so if I have confused you work from the images! It is a very beneficial exercise and can be used to focus in on all those small things we want to improve in our horses way of moving.

Don’t forget, if you don’t have a Reinrite you can still give this exercise a go, it can be done with or without. If you want to simplify it slightly you can adjust the poles in the centre to trot poles and complete the entire exercise in trot. I always like to have variety in my exercises,I can never be certain with Dante’s moods so I try to cater for them all!

Let me know if you gave this one a try on your horse and if you did be sure to tag me so I can see!

Happy Riding,


Controversial Topic: Training Aids

The topic that brings equestrians together worldwide & not for those kind hearted reasons. Using a training aid verses not using a training aid, can you believe how aggravated people get on the subject? I often find myself up late at night reading comments under facebook posts, people just love to argue online over this topic!

It is not rare to see people getting annihilated, and torn to shreds with extremely harsh comments over the use training aids, most of the time the person in question is simply looking for was for advice or small tips on the training aid they were using.

I feel like this whole perception just needs to change.


Have you ever really thought about it? How is using a whip, using your legs, a pair of spurs or even a bit in your horses mouth even putting a saddle on your horses back, all these things could be classed as cruel if you really think about it. Rarely you see these items discussed online, nor do you see harsh negative comments plastered across social media for their use.

This post isn’t about slating people who do or do not use training aids, I want this post to be about us coming together to discuss a topic. There is a conception that equestrian opinions are that of dishonesty, so lets open this topic up for discussion.

Personally I think training aids should be used in moderation to help with certain aspects of your horses training. For example, when I began to use draw reins, my instructor constantly drilled into my head than undoing the damage of over use or wrong use of certain training aids is worse then fixing the problem you were using them for to begin with, bearing in mind he was also the person who suggested I used them in the first place.

Pro’s of using Training Aids

  • Improves acceptance of contact
  • Beneficial for difficult horses
  • Help your horse to carry themselves correctly
  • Improves your horses way of going
  • Building up a topline
  • Helps to lunge effectively

Along with many more, but for arguments sake I shall list a few!

Con’s of using Training Aids

  • Provide a False Outline
  • They are not a Quick fix to riding problems
  • Develops an unatural headset if used all the time in training

Again, along with many more, but for arguments sake I shall list a few!

My Thoughts on Training Aids

Hands up if you’ve ever felt personally victimized by internet trolls for the use of training aids? Yes, my hand is up!

Dante was a stubborn opinionated mule when he was younger. He was honestly such hard work. Trying to get him to drop his head or try to work in an outline of any shape or form was always something that never ended well. He hated a contact in his mouth and hated not being in control, or that I was in control of him for that matter. We had tough times at the beginning, and before all the suggestions of pain start pouring in, he was regularly getting his back/teeth/tack fit checks done. Sadly for me, my Dante was just a dick.

I used training aids to better my riding and to help with Dante’s training. Within the last year my ReinRite has been a product that has just rounded us off and transformed the way Dante moves. And no I am not just saying that either cause I am a brand ambassador, I wouldn’t be an ambassador if I didn’t believe in the product!

I wont lie, It took me a while to get Dante working in a correct outline, this was because he just wasn’t fit enough to actually work proper;y from behind, he just took longer to develop. You have to remember that muscle building work is very strenuous for your horse, especially if they are not used to it. I used training aids once or twice a week for short sessions, this way I knew productive work was being done and that his muscles were being activated and put to work correctly.

I know a lot of people do not agree with training aids being used on horses. But honestly who gives a fu*k. Life is too short to care about what people think. Using training aids the last few years has at times probably saved my life, if asking for help comes in the form of a specific training aid then I see no problem in that.

For people who do not agree with the use of training aids, that is ok too I highly respect your choice and also your opinion. 99% of the time people who use training aids on their horse have either done their research or have been advised to use one to progress forwards in their training. With that in mind, I have asked some of my fellow bloggers & riders their opinions on the subject by asking them some questions on the topic keep scrolling to have a read.

What are Your Thoughts on Training Aids?

Inside Track Eventing: If used correctly, a training aid can be an incredibly beneficial compliment to a horse’s training and conditioning plan. The key is to choose a training aid that complements how you would ride or train your horses, and that supports you in targeting the weaknesses that you are trying to combat – be it your horse’s or your own.

Paddy – Inside Track Eventing

Mikaela Weld: The equestrian world is hugely divided on this subject. Training aids can be really helpful. Unfortunately a lot of people on social media I see are using them incorrectly.

TackNTails: Training aids are a tough one, the name suggests they’re used to aid in training and schooling. To, perhaps, help the average rider and amateur to communicate more clearly to their horse, reinforce their legs and hands or to encourage the horse to work correctly when being ridden or lunged. I think training aids can be a helpful resource, but unfortunately they are often used and abused by novice riders. They are used as a quick fix in many cases. The majority of products available are aimed to get the horse to tuck their head in, to look pretty with no regard for their hind end or back. I think they are often used in place of going for lessons and actually learning how to ride and schooling the horse correctly. Let’s be honest we know how damaging they are in the “wrong hands” but many people who use them have shit hands and are using them because they can’t ride properly therefore unable to get the horse to work correctly.

Ginger Ninja & Co: Training aids when used for the right reason can be incredibly beneficial for both the horse and rider. Lunging without a training aid is pointless unless you just want to burn excess energy as quickly as possible. When I ride I attempt to not let my horses run around in a circle with their head in the air, so why would I let them when I lunge? However, training aids are often used by the inexperienced riders for the wrong reasons. Mostly because inexperienced riders don’t know how to get a horse to work the way they know their horse should work. An outline doesn’t come from tying down the front end, it comes from riding the hind end.

Have you ever used Training Aids?

Mikaela Weld: I use training aids daily on my good horse RD Powerplay and not as much on my younger horses, but I do use them on them. I use both draw reins and the reinrite. Mostly when I am flatting the horses at home I will use the reinrite. When I am jumping my good horses or ones that are coming up the level I like to jump them in draw reins it gives me more control (for perspective I am 5 foot 2 and riding 16h and up to 16.3 horses and I am breaking horses and producing them up to 2* level and maybe more soon……) but I only use them if I need more adjustibility, if the horses is being really nice and adjustable I just have them as a back-up.

Mikaela Weld – International Showjumper

My younger horses very rarely jump in training aids. I will only use these aids if the horse has a snaffle or a very soft bit in their mouths. These bits are great to keep horses mouths soft so when you go to a show and put a bigger bit in their mouths they listen. We only use the bigger bits at shows training is mostly done in snaffles.  When I was training for 5 months with Nick Skelton and Laura Kraut everything except for one horse unless they were jumping around they had snaffles and draw reins always. I also use either a bungee or the rein right attached to the roller when lunging horses.

Ginger Ninja & Co: A pair of draw reins can be of great benefit for increasing your safety when on a “naughty horse” by this I mean a horse who’s prone to acting up by rearing, bucking, plunging etc. As they are traditionally used by feeding them from the girth through the bit and to the riders’ hands, they are controlled by the rider, you pick them up when needed but then release when not. I am currently hacking one of my horses in draw reins. Over the winter she became every difficult to hack and would begin to plunge which for obvious reasons is far from ideal. She is now hacked in draw reins as a means to control her head so that she can’t throw it around and begin plunging down the road to our untimely death.

Dave Modelling his Draw Rein

I will continue to hack her with draw reins until I deem it safe to remove them. Another way I have used training aids is by using a single draw rein through the horses noseband and into the riders hand on the stiffer side of the horse. When fed through the bit, they can cause great inference with the horse, you cannot ride into a contact when riding off a draw rein – it’s just physically impossible. Therefore this isn’t a way to school a horse. When the rein is fed through the noseband the draw rein does not interfere with the bit or the contact but the rider has extra help to bend the horse and control were they carry their head. This is only beneficial for a horse that is evasive by going with their nose in the air or has a particularly hard mouth. You can see Dave modelling this way of using the Draw rein.

What was the purpose of using them?

Murphy – Anxious Riding Clubber

Anxious Riding Clubber: I used side reins to help get him working into a contract on the lunge, but they just made him panic and it resulted more often than not him just bolting. The Libby’s Lungie Bungie encourages him to take that contact, and work from up and over his back and engaging his hind end. It’s made of a strong elastic cord and it mimics the hands of a good rider. It encourages the horse to take up the contact. The elastic is fed through a loop on a bit attachment which means there is always even pressure going to your horses mouth.

Keep It Country: My horse spent the majority of his life being pulled out of the stable and fired onto a hunting field so ‘working in an outline’ was not one of his strong suits. No matter how hard I try to work Bèag and get him supple, he needs that extra bit of help every now & then. The training aids help massively when they are used correctly and softly.

Inside Track Eventing: I like to lunge to see how my horses move, without a rider or any tack on their back. For my horse Paddy, who has soundness issues, it’s helpful to see how he moves myself, as what I feel and see are not always the same. For my younger horse Flash, I use lunging with a training aid as a means to develop her topline, and to encourage her to connect her front and back-end, without my asymmetric style of riding interfering! I personally choose not to ride in training aids, only lunge. There are many valid reasons for riding in training aids, such as a bit of added security with a fresh horse, but for my horses there have been no particular issues that I have faced that couldn’t just be solved with me working a little bit harder than I’d like to!

Flash – Inside Track Eventing

Mikaela Weld: I use the draw reins for extra control if I need them while jumping. Out hacking they are mostly used as a break. (Just as a precaution). I use my rein rite when I am flatting the horse especially my good horse. My good horse can get very anxious and stress on the flat. I have found the wheel between the clips that attach to the bit acts like a soother for her and it is nearly something she likes to play with. 

Training aids can be of great benefit to your horse if used correctly”, do you agree?

TackNTails: This is a vague statement. Anything can be of benefit if used correctly or in a specific manner. But what defines correct? Guns can be of benefit if used against terrorists, but does that mean we should allow anyone in to buy them with absolutely no experience? The danger is exactly this, we allow people to completely bypass learning to ride, going for lessons, getting vet/physio/dentist checks, or even sending their horse off to a professional rider and head straight for the gadget section of a tack shop and pick up anything they want. Training aids are often used in place of experience and proper riding. Let’s be honest, who are you most likely to see with their horses in these ‘aids’, it’s the amateur rider who knows what they want their horse to do and look like, but have no clue or cannot communicate to their horse how to do this. Yes, getting a horse to do something without these aids will take longer, but it’ll make for a better rider in the end and they will be able to transfer those skills to other horses too!

Anxious Riding Clubber: Most definitely! I personally don’t see a point in using something incorrectly, as more than likely it will cause more problems or even pain, than help solve them. It would be like me going out to chop a tree down with a chainsaw, I’ve no idea what I’d be doing and more than likely hack my leg off than any bit of a tree!
If I’ve no idea what I’m doing I go and research online or ask people that use the equipment. I’d never just whack something on Murphy without knowing what I’m doing.

Would you recommend the use of any training aids? If so what type and why? If you would not recommend the use of training aids please let me know why.

Anxious Riding Clubber: I would recommend the use of training Aids but the type depends greatly on the horse in question. I only have dealing with Murphy and we’ve not used many training aids. What works for me and Murphy may not work for you. Personally I would recommend the Libby’s Lungie Bungie all day long. Its changed the lunging game for myself and Murphy. And let’s be honest here, it’s fun to say!! For me, I dont see Murphy’s head been held in place, he can move about and it just encourages him to come back to the contact and relax in his work.

TackNTails: Honestly, probably not, but I definitely know which instructors I’d send people to! I’m not against them, they can be a really helpful and useful resource. I think chambons have gone very out of fashion but are great to really encourage a horse to stretch, work long and low, step under themselves and to build up strength all along their topline. Under saddle, I like that when using draw reins, the rider has the ability to use and then release them immediately. So many of the aids and gadgets available force

them into a certain frame without any release or else they only focus on the front end. I simply believe they’re over used and over relied upon. I don’t even want to give the usual “bad in the wrong hands” speech. Let’s be honest, a lot of those who use and rely on these aids are the reason why their horse isn’t working correctly and properly in the first place. I would say 99% of the time, the horse isn’t the problem, it’s the rider. Perhaps people over horsing themselves could also be to blame. If you’re relying on a gadget to school your horse, the horse isn’t the problem.

Mikaela Weld International Showjumper : I would recommend training aids once they are used properly. It really depends on what horses you have and what they like what they don’t like. What do you want to achieve with the horse. I use draw reins and the reinrite which I swear by these two training aids I always have them in my tack locker at shows and always in my cross tie bay. I love draw reins on the more experienced horses who have already muscled up well. While on the younger horses I prefer the reinrite it soothes them and helps to teach them to be balanced.

Inside Track EventingNatalie O’Keeffe : I primarily use two training aids – good old fashioned side reins and an Equiami. Side reins are a helpful simulation of a rider’s hands, and create a contact for the horse to work into. I usually start off with them quite loose and will tighten them after a short warm up – much like you’d warm your horse up on a longer rein and slowly take up a contact. I use those on Paddy, or if I am in a bind time-wise with Flash. The Equiami is a great piece of kit for any horse owner to have in their tack box – it is a self centering loop that simulates the release-reward mechanism of training that you might do when riding – encouraging the horse to work from behind, and loosening and reducing pressure as soon as the horse works correctly. I use this on Flash as Paddy just does not appreciate anything rubbing off his hindquarters!

Ginger Ninja & CoDearbhla Creagh : As I use training aids I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t recommend the use of them. However there are a few caveats worth considering. Training aids are not an alternative to correct schooling. If you are considering the use of one and are unsure of what to start with or have never used it before then you really should only use it under the supervision of a trusted and qualified instructor. If the problem in your schooling is so great that you need the help of a training aid to overcome it, especially prolonged help, then perhaps you should consider getting your horse schooled by a professional.

Keep It CountryKate Colbert : I would recommend *side reins for lunging, *bungee or rein rite when schooling. I find the side reins are a massive benefit for your horse when lunging, they encourage them to ride long and low without any interference of your hands. It also is good to see your horse working from the ground. The bungee and rein rite are ideal for getting your horse working hard when riding, I find I can concentrate on leg yielding, counter canter and flying changes etc while Bèag is concentrating on staying balanced, tracking up and in an outline. Getting all of those points lined up and working together can be quite the challenge & so the extra hand is definitely a benefit.

Lets all embrace our differences & support one another in our riding decisions, Training aid or no training aid. I know that might be hard for some people to grasp, but I like to think that maybe it can be done.

Thank you to everyone who has taken part, you opinions have been fantastic on this topic. Our “Controversial Topic” post I think has already began to grow legs, see keep your eyes peeled for a series of topics we here at NBW are dying to discuss!

As always, we would love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comments below.