We get asked routinely why we use certain special equipment. Good question!
Bridles vs. Hackamores: Some horses respond better to pressure on their nose (hackamore) rather than pressure on their mouths (bridle). Also, we may use a hackamore with riders learning how to steer and use the reins correctly, in order to protect the horse’s mouth.
Jumpstrap/Neckstrap: The jumpstrap/neckstrap is a tool that is used during classes. When we ask a rider to get up into “two-point”, “jumping position”, or “half-seat position”, the strap helps to maintain balance. In addition, a rider may choose to hold onto the jump strap (rather than the grabstrap on the saddle) when learning how to post – again a way to maintain balance. And when we do have beginner jumpers, it encourages them to hold their hands forward in the correct position.
Grabstraps, Horns, Centermounts and Handlebars: these are all devices that the rider can hold onto, to maintain balance and to help those with poor core strength.
Ladder Reins: Ladder reins are typically for individuals that only have the use of one arm (amputations, one arm affected by stroke, etc.). It is usually easier to hold on to than tying a knot in the reins and can give the rider greater control. It also allows the rider to adjust the rein length due to the different levels of the hand holds, which you can’t do as easily with just a knot in the reins. The rider can neck rein to direct the horse. Sometimes ladder reins are also used for individuals with fine motor or grasping difficulties. The rider can hold where the bridging strap meets the reins and have greater grasp/control. In this case the rider would be using a direct rein.
Rainbow Reins: This is a useful tool to help riders have correct placement of their hands, and encourages them to keep the hands in one place on the reins. (You can tell the rider to “keep your hands on green” for instance).
Grass Reins: Attached through the bridle and back to the saddle, they limit the horse’s ability to stretch his or her head down to the ground. They should not interfere with regular head and neck movement. These can be useful when walking with a horse out in a field or on a trail.
Muzzles: We use muzzles in two specific situations. One: If we have a horse that has a tendency to reach down strongly to eat grass. The horse may step on a horsehandler’s foot or unseat the rider in the attempt. The muzzle discourages this behavior. Two: If we have a horse starting to develop a nipping habit, perhaps while being mounted or being led. While we work out of class to remove the habit, we will provide a muzzle for both protection of the leader (from a nip) and the horse (from unsafe punishment). We strive to remove the muzzle when we see the nipping behavior subside.
A Flash is a leather strap that may used as an alternative to a muzzle. In riding in general, it’s used to maintain proper bit contact with the mouth.
Bell Boots: These will be used on front hooves for horses that tend to “overreach” – as they trot or canter, their back hooves reach so far forward that they can hit the front hoof. This can either cause damage to the hoof or pull off a shoe. In addition, if a horse is stamping at bugs in the summertime, we may put bell boots on all four feet on to prevent damage to hooves and shoes.
Fly Masks, Fly Sheets and Fly Boots keep bugs from irritating the horse. Fly masks help reduce head-tossing behavior, and helps lower the horse’s anxiety about bugs around the face. Fly masks also help prevent spreading disease in the eyes and ears.
Fly sheets are put on horses that have extra sensitivities to bugs, whether it be due to allergies or anxiety. Fly boots help keep the bugs away from the horse’s legs.
As always, thanks to our Instructors and Barn Manager for their assistance with this blog.