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Gadgets and their use in Horse's suffering with Back Pain

Can you relate to any of these statements?

I am confused about the use of gadgets for my horse.

My horse moves like a camel on the lunge, falling through the shoulder, rushing and extends his back. He is doing more damage than good on the lunge. Would the use of gadget not stop him dong this?

Which gadget is best for my horse?

First of all, you are not alone and well done for having these thoughts.

Keep being curious and never stop asking questions!

Let’s start by defining what I mean by a “Gadget”. I refer to a gadget as anything that is forcing the horse into a fixed position to maintain a certain posture.

Examples of gadgets include:

  • Side reins

  • Draw reins

  • Pessoas

  • De Gouges etc..

The amount of different gadgets available online is frightening and most of them sell the dream of your horse moving in an ideal “frame”. Now, before I continue I must be open and honest with you guys and admit that I have used most of the listed gadgets above on horses throughout my career. Not so much in the last 5 years, however when I was younger and knew less about the effects of these gadgets on the horse’s body, I would use them for exactly what the box said, “the ideal frame”. These days, I very rarely use gadgets and would only recommend them to a client that was knowledgeable, experienced in identifying pain in their horse and someone with a high level of skill inhand.

Don’t get me wrong, gadgets have their place within the equestrian world, if used correctly by a skilled individual. We all use some gadgets on our horses on a daily basis. The use of a bit, saddle and even a headcollar can be termed as a gadget.

Have you ever heard this saying:

“Any gadget is dangerous in the wrong hands”.

What do we mean?

It goes back to one of my previous posts on the handler. The skill and values of a handler will determine the effectiveness of any gadget. I’ll use myself as an example, when I was 12 years old, I had a super little cross breed 12hh grey pony called Bentley. He was the best pony I could have ever had, not because he never put a foot wrong and not because he had the ideal frame when I rode him. Bentley was the best pony for me because he always let me know if I was putting too much pressure on him or using a gadget incorrectly. How did he do this?

Simply through his behaviour.

The other important point here is, I was 12 years old then, so I had no idea about the anatomy and biomechanics of horses, however what I did have was curiosity and so much love for Bentley. This meant that even though I didn’t logically understand what Bentley was saying to me, the fact that his behaviour changed when I used a particular gadget triggered something in me to stop.

The main issue with ANY gadget is the restriction and therefore compensations it causes throughout the horse’s body. This is usually caused due to a lack of pressure release. Many gadgets are applied for a period of time with little to no release pressure, which causes the horse to change their way of going, often causing other areas of compensation and pain.

So, what is the answer to the use of gadgets in horses?

In my opinion, less is more. If you are unsure of which gadget to use on your horse and you are feeling overwhelmed with the amount of information on gadgets online. Please do not use one. Instead, spend time and investment on understanding your horse’s posture and movement. There is so much you can do with your horse in walk with NO GADGET on and have a positive effect on their overall performance.

Another point, I would like to make is that, if you have a team of paraprofessionals around you that are all communicating and goal of improving and supporting your horse’s welfare, the use of gadgets can be beneficial. The key and I can’t stress this enough is in the assessment of your horse on a daily basis. You can be the most knowledgeable person and have all the degrees in the world, however if you are not watching and listening to your horse on a daily basis, you risk creating discomfort within your horse’s body.

Horses are not machines and we are human, therefore making mistakes is all part of life.

Do I regret using the gadgets I did when I was 12 years old? No, you can’t live your life with regret. Am I grateful for my awareness and curiosity when I was using the gadgets, YES I AM!

Horses are these incredibly kind honest beings and I often hear stories of people saying, “I felt like my horse was not liking that gadget, however my trainer told me that he needs it. I regret and feel sad for my horse”. If this is you, I would say, “Well done for being aware and always trust your inner voice”.

My top tips for the use of gadgets in horses:

  • Less is more

  • If you are unsure, do not use any gadget

  • Understand the pros and cons of whichever gadget you have been told to use

  • Assess your horse on a daily basis and listen to their behaviours

  • Seek professional advice from a TEAM of professionals. Ask questions and if your inner voice is saying “red flags”, then trust your gut!

If you have any questions about the use of gadgets please DM me the word ‘Gadgets” for more information.

With love

Nika x

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