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Training Aid Fact and Fiction for Better Riding

Training Aid Fact and Fiction for Better Riding
By Christa Lesté-Lasserr
How to properly use equipment such as elastic bands, longeing systems, and rein rigs
I was 8, and I couldn’t dive. I thought I understood the technique. But my stomach and face hit the water first every time, and I’d come up for air ­frustrated—and hurting.
My dad finally said, “You just need to know what it feels like. If you can recognize the feel, you’ll get it.”
He picked me up and aimed me headfirst into the water, my arms stretched out dutifully in front of me as I’d had them for weeks. This time, those arms broke the water over my head, and I slid deep down into the water until my ears were heavy. It was an amazing and totally new sensation. I pushed up to the surface, energized with this discovery, and called out, “I get it! I get it!”
From then on I dove correctly—and never again did a belly flop. All I’d needed was a training aid to get me going, literally, in the right direction.
This article isn’t about swimming, of course. But the metaphor is relevant. In the equestrian world training aids—such as elastic bands, Pessoa longeing systems, and various rein rigs—can play useful and effective roles in correcting certain mistakes or issues under saddle, whether horse-, rider-, or training-based. Misuse of these tools, however, can make things worse and potentially even dangerous.
Before you dive into using devices, consider two equine biomechanics researchers’ insight into these trendy pieces of equipment. By separating fact from fiction, you’ll know how to take advantage of their benefits and avoid inappropriate use.
FACT: Good horse training doesn’t require any devices
When good training and good riding coincide with a sound and well-balanced horse, there’s no need for training aids, says Sue Dyson, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, FRCVS, former head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies, in Newmarket, England.
“The aims of these aids are generally to encourage the correct use of the back and core abdominal muscles, and if the horse is being worked correctly under saddle, these areas should be getting sufficient activation,” she says.
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