Training Aids: Gadgets

Gadgets are training aids constructed of straps and sometimes also pulleys which attach to the horse via the girth or training roller and to the bit/noseband/reins. Common training aids include side reins, running or draw reins, running and standing martingales, the Market Harborough, the Harbridge, de Gogue, Chambon, LungieBungie, Pessoa system and many different variations thereof.

[Tack should be chosen with welfare in mind, not the quickest way of achieving some behaviour of questionable value.]

The aim of the gadget is to control and mould the horse's posture e.g. to raise or lower the head, or alter the head-neck angle, via positive punishment and negative reinforcement. Exactly how the horse's posture is affected depends on the trainer and the outcome they wish to achieve.

Gadgets may cause detriment to the welfare of the horse in training when the horse cannot escape or avoid the aversive stimulus because the gadget is fitted or held too tightly by the trainer, or when the posture required by the horse to avoid the aversive stimulation causes fatigue, itself a source of aversive stimulation. Additionally, some gadgets are so constructed that they provide more then one source of aversive stimulation, motivating two opposing responses. Where the horse is simultaneously stimulated to move forwards due to aversive stimulation behind it, and to slow down due to aversive stimulation in the mouth, the horse will find itself in a state of conflict - to speed up to escape one aversive or to slow down to escape the other.

We note that it is often suggested that these aids are only of concern when used by inexperienced trainers. This is not the case (although anyone using one should of course be trained in its use). They are designed to apply aversive stimuli by their very nature.

Where gadgets are used it must be possible for the horse to carry itself in the posture dictated by the gadget's use without having to experience aversive stimulation either from the gadget, or by maintaining the posture dictated. The horse's welfare can only be compromised when neither of these two requirements are fulfilled.

If the laws of Learning Theory are applied during training then it is unlikely that a gadget such as the training aids described should need to be used in the first place.

Back to list