Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Have Aids

No, no. Not that kind. The artificial kind. Spurs, riding crop, etc. Have you ever watched a person ride a horse while using some of these items and just cringe?? Yes. Misuse of riding aids is all too common. The show we went to this past weekend was FULL of people doing the "Yank on the mouth, spur spur, whip whip." Yeeeks it's a tough one to watch. So when you SEE others riding with their whip flailing around and smacking the horse wherever it seems to make contact or gouging their horse's guts out with their spurs, it kind of makes you wonder what and how you are actually supposed to use that stuff for.

Well for starters, whips and spurs are exactly what they say they are. ARTIFICIAL AIDS. They are NEVER supposed to be a substitute for proper riding! They are just the exclamation point at the end of your statement. OK, with that being said let's jump in.

Spurs are never to be sharp or so harsh that your horse bleeds. EVER. So moving on. You wear spurs on your boot and when you need that extra "HEY! Listen to what I'm asking YOU!" You are supposed to simply TURN your heel out so the spurs makes contact with the horse make your statement then turn your heel back to normal. Never bring your legs out and full on kick your horse with your spurs. If the turn of the heel doesn't seem to get you the response you desire, then tap tap with the spurs just enough for your reaction. You can do way too much damage to a horse's body AND training if you misuse spurs or whips. You can make a horse VERY dead-sided, to where they simply start to ignore ALL of your aids.
Crops and whips. This one should be easy enough. Crops and whips should almost ALWAYS be used right behind your leg. A crop is merely the reinforcement to your leg asking for the movement desired. Don't smack your horse on the butt or shoulder as that teaches NOTHING! You cue your horse with your leg, you get no response, so you ask again this time with the reinforcement of the crop right behind your leg, and ONCE! Not repeatedly smacking the crap of your horse. That AGAIN, does nobody, be it horse or human, any damn good!

Using artificial aids appropriately can really enhance you and your horse's performance. It can make riding slightly more appealing if you're on a pluggy school horse who refuses to move. Only experienced riders with GOOD leg control should ever use spurs. With both aids as well KNOW the horse before you decide that using this equipment is a good idea or not. You may smack a horse behind your leg and he takes off going crazy. Always be prepared. If you are asking a horse to move forward with a crop or spurs and he does just that by jumping forward, the worst thing you could do is then grab them in face. So be prepared. Realistically both a crop and spurs should really only be used with the help of a trainer or another experienced rider. There's no shame in having aids! Have fun and stay safe, but remember that they can be your greatest tool, or your worst nightmare depending on their use!!!


Nicely dun said...

! comprendo.
(awesome blog-I appreciate the bluntness)
We were at the AQHA youth world cup, and there were about five thousand little kids walking around with spurs on.*what?* I have used spurs all of ONE time, and that was when my horse decided that when asking for the lope he would just STOP. So ONE time, ONE enforcement, and never again. I'm not a horrible rider, but I don't consider myself sensitive (or would it be INSENSITIVE?) enough to throw on some spurs and start poking.

congratulations on being selected for the mustang challenge, that is effin awesome! You should be feeling pretty dam good about yourself! (I know, it was a few posts ago, but congrats anyway)

Trainer X said...

Hey thanks!! I'm nervous and excited.... I need ideas on how I should show it too. I'm thinking REining with a hint of dressage techniques... ack!! I just don't know...

horsesandponies4ever said...

Nice to see that you got chosen for the mustang challenge.

I cringe every time I see little kids with spurs on as well. WTF? Really? I'm sorry but I can't see a eight year old being sensitive enough to use them.... I love crops and whips, especially when the horse you ride is always doing what he wants *head desk*. He's not a bad horse, he's just a drama queen..... He eventually gets over himself. He does it quicker when he sees the dressage whip :). I don't believe in hitting a horse with a crop or whip anywhere besides behind the leg. That was until my current lesson horse, decides it's oh so fun to try and pull my arms out of the socket and onto the ground.... He almost did that to, and I was sprawled out on his neck, my legs no where near his sides (it was funny, my instructor had to try and keep from laughing). I gently gave him a tap on his shoulder and told him that wasn't cool. He does that to show his impatients. Know I can generally anticipate when he's going to do the whole dislocate my arms act, and before I'm sprawled out on his neck, use my legs and tell him to move his butt..... He's a large appy, good but can be full of drama at times......

clara said...

the women who trained my horse (before i bought him or met him) went straight to a twisted wire snaffle and spurs. now my horse won't go in a snaffle unless it's a kimberwick snaffle and he goes crazy without spurs. he won't go unless it's bucking. i hate it having to ride him in spurs but at the same time thats all he knows and i'm not one of those riders who spur and spur and spur them. i just use them to get his back up and to do lateral movements.

bhm said...

I cringe when I see those sharp cowboy spurs. Except for the odd time that the horse won't go forward there is really no need for spurs. Anyone that needs to use spurs and whips regularly is not a good rider and is damaging their horse.

The only use for spurs is in the upper dressage movements where they are used only if you have extremely good control. They use them to touch a specific area behind the girth to signal specific movement and they are used in the lightest way.

bhm said...

I have retrained horses like this. You can start from the ground and retrain him to go forward with the lightest of touches. I find that once the horse has been retrained then the craziness goes away as the horse has been re-schooled to relax.

You can try re-schooling the mouth with a demi-arret type movement and combine this with apples or carrots. The snaffle work will train the horse to relax it's mouth and thus the whole body.

S&D said...

PRECISELY! My wonderful horse was trained with spurs. I was told by the breeder "All these horses are lazy and you have to spur the sh!t outa them to get them to move" Oh lovely! Repeated *HEADDESK*
Once my mare figured out we can move with just the lightest of cues, she was a happy horse again. The only time I will use spurs is if we are working on the reining stuff, and that's only because like BHM said, it gives the proper cue in just the right place. There is never more pressure than what it takes to get her to move, and quite a bit less than with just leg. A light touch usually does the trick.
She was also trained in the twisted wire gag bit, which is quite harsh. So what does that mean? Myself and my great trainer (hi TX!) are the only two to ride her... because I KNOW how light her cues need to be and I will NEVER reef on her face. When hubby or my son wants to ride, it’s with a halter and the reins in the arena. We are also currently breaking her to a simple snaffle bit
It was quite horrifying to watch those people at the show... the spur spur yank yank was too much for me. I wanted to beat some purple ass by the time we left :)
Great Post TX!

Nosnikta said...

Oh, but I do love the sound of my ching ching as I walk through a yuppie establishment. :-)

I wear mine in case I need them. Most of the time I don't, but they do accentuate the angle of your foot when you set your heel down.

And they are pretty.

I take them off when riding my speed horse. If he feels them, he'll slow down.

Trainer X said...

Isn't that funny how that works?? A gal I know had a horse that the harder you spurred, kicked, or whipped the mare would literally shut down and go SLOWER!!! Horses are crafty, smart little beasts and need to be treated as such! Or we would never get anywhere lol!!

kestrel said...

Ah, artificial aids! When I was a kid, (manymanymany years ago!) I had a runaway pony that Dad bought for $50.00, and then bet his cronies at the bar 60.00 that the kids would fix that pony......
Looked in his mouth, only half a tongue left, not good....
One day he was running away again, and out of desperation I yanked his chin whiskers. The little guy finally figured out that stopping wasn't so bad. We rode him for years without a bridle. Tap his neck to turn, threaten his whiskers to stop....we were happy.

Nosnikta said...

They are funny. A couple of times I touched him with a spur to try to get a little more out of him and "huh UH!" he dropped it a notch. But if you squeeze him spurless and throw your hands forward, he'll fly.

He's something else. We think he's about 21 now. We've had him at our house for hmm 3 years now? and my 11yo daughter is riding him and doing quite well.

He is a crafty fella with a huge heart.

You can see pictures of them on my blog at There's a picture clear at the bottom that made my heart stop when I first saw it. He found her though and they finished just fine. He's one who tries to stay under you. Very cool. :-)

The Crossroads said...

The only time I ever felt the need to use a crop was to break a mare of rearing, which was a swat on the shoulders and she never did it again. But I cannot believe how insensitive people are to horses and thinking that spurs, crops, or gag-bits magically fix their problems.

It's unbelievable how stupid the horse society can be. Or better yet, how uneducated, which is sometimes worse.

Great post, as usual :)

GoLightly said...

Yes, you start at the low end, every time you start. Give the horse a chance to react to lighter touch.

Touch, Timing..

Given the opportunity to be ridden well, the horse can indeed lighten up.
Starting with a yell deafens 'em.

Don't ask me how I know.

Gr8 Post:):):):)

The Crossroads said...

I agree with you GoLightly. You can advance from soft, but once you go to the extreme it takes much more time to even fathom using a softer bit. Logan came being ridden on a shank bit as did the Arab I'm 'schooling.' It doesn't make sense why people have to jump on shank bits, especially the newbie owners.

I know when we were introduced to horses, Tom Thumbs were the big deal as were kimberwicks. Now.. I can't even believe I used them, I won't even use them now and I've been riding for 15+years. I can run my gelding on barrels and speed events on a snaffle, good 'nough for me.

Maybe we should make a human version of a gag bit? Or ride 'em around with spurs, then again.. some may like that.

Anyway, well put GoLightly.

The Pale Horseman said...

I rarely use any artificial aids with my mare where possible. Although she has a habit of being stubborn, I'm often too forgetful to bring a crop! So when she stops dead I normally have to do a lot of leg flapping and shouting while she tries walking home backwards! I've learnt how she works now and when you have a stubborn horse, you have to be stubborn in equal measure. Eventually she gets the message that she can either go forwards in the direction I want her to and I'll stop kicking, or we will stand still, go no-where and she'll still get a booting in the sides.

I think the people who ride with all those artificial aids just cannot be bothered to a. learn about different methods to tackle a problem and b. learn about the personality they are riding.

GoLightly said...

CrossRoads, thanks, eh?

It's so simple, really, which is why it's so hard, for some.

Dead-mouthed horses can be rehabilitated, but it sure takes a lot more time to re-make a mouth, than to take the time to create a good mouth in the first place!

The softest touch, the right timing.
A thing of beauty..
The Horse.

Whatever you choose for your mustang, I know the two of you will "click" TrrexX..
Just listen to him/her.
Keep us posted, yes?
to you too.
I will write more about my Lightly.
for VD.
My Heart Horse.

GoLightly said...

I'm still all embarrassed, is all..

schnickers and scritches to all..

Rising Rainbow said...

Too many people ride with the aids as a crutch in the place of good training. The real problem is they don't get that this IS a difference.

LegendsLiveOn said...

Oh, good God... you should have seen this one lady I was riding for... put me on a heavily (10 months!) preggo Arab mare in a slotted kimberwicke, and then proceeded to tell me to yank the shit out of her mouth. She just sat there sawing on the poor horses jaw until it damn near fell of, insisting that it would get her to pick up the bit... umnokthx, you're ripping her face off and making her WANT to drop the damn bit and throw someone.

Needless to say, I never showed up again.