A lot of people have probably heard the phrase “all the gear and no idea” and sadly in the equestrian world this is particularly relevant. In any sport, knowing what your equipment does is crucial but the horse world is unique in a variety of ways that makes this an even more serious concern.
Firstly, our sport is dangerous! No climber or sailor would dream of taking part in their sport without knowing what every piece of equipment does – because their life depends on it. Our equipment often acts as the interface between us and a very powerful animal and it can interfere with communication in ways that could be deadly.
Uniquely, we share our equipment with a living, breathing, feeling partner who, however, cannot speak their mind. This means we also have a responsibility to understand what impact our choice of equipment has on the horse because they have no choice in the matter. Though a horse will eventually let you know if they are in pain, they are stoic animals and will try to hide their discomfort – often until it is too late.
Horses are ridden by a wide range of people, including children. Unlike other sports where the more complicated equipment is reserved for more serious competition, people of all types have access to a wide range of often complex riding and training gear. Some of these people – such as younger individuals – will naturally struggle to fully understand how their equipment works. We, as adults, have to lead the way and help educate them.
The sheer number of options is also possibly unique in our sport thanks to the vast range of different disciplines, breeds and a lengthy history and tradition. In no other sport is there this much variation in what you can do. As an equestrian, you may be a Grand Prix showjumper, spend your days working cattle, focus on trick training or be a happy hacker… The options are endless. And each activity comes with its own set of specialised equipment and a long history of different approaches. In addition, every part of the world will have its own set of traditions and with this will come differences in the equipment used.
With all this choice and variety, it is understandably difficult, if not impossible, to have an in-depth understanding of every single piece of equipment out there than you might be able to use. However, you don’t need to understand all the possibilities – what you are currently using is a good place to start!
Next time you decide to ride, train or even simply handle your horse, think about all the gadgets and gear that you use. Whether it’s a specific bit or a training gadget of some kind or anything else that you have to put on your horse (or yourself), question why you’re using it and consider what it does – and how. If you don’t know what it does, maybe you don’t need it – and if you don’t know how, maybe you shouldn’t use it until your do! A few minutes reading reputable sources on the internet or a quick conversation with a professional can quickly answer any questions you might have and you might even find there’s a better option out there you never knew existed!