I’m a bit late posting this but life has gotten a hold of me this week.
Halter: I prefer a traditional halter. I use a halter in my leading exercises and obviously to do work around the horse such as grooming and trimming. When leading the halter lead rope should have plenty of float (slackness) and the weight in your hand be about that of an egg.
I don’t like rope halters because they put far too much pressure on the poll and nose when used. People think they are gentler but let’s consider this: if you had a rope – a thick one and thin one wrapped around your neck – and someone pulled which one would hurt more?
Leadrope: I like a long leadrope that allows me to move to the hindquarters of the horse without pulling the horse’s head. This allows me to switch leading positions from front, side, to back easily. With pony, I made my own leadrope from climbing rope. Here you can see the amount of float (slackness) I routinely use:
I also like the Zephyr Lead offered by Linda Tellington-Jones or Peggy Cummings’ websites. A very nice soft lead that can give more pressure over the nose if need be. I prefer it over a chain.
Connected Halter: This is a speciality halter sold by Peggy Cummings to do her Connected Groundwork. It has a fleece liner for the nose and the two lines could be climbing rope if you prefer – the ones she sells is very soft.
It’s rather pricey but has the ability to be adjusted on the nose and throatlatch to a more finite degree then a regular halter. If you plan on doing a lot of leading work, or even lunging, this would be a good halter to have on hand as it does not slip around on the nose like a traditional halter (a Cavesson is the traditional lunging halter for this reason).
Whips: I like a lunging whip and a long dressage whip – or even a driving whip. The longer dressage whip allows me to reach down and touch the hocks or even fetlocks from the saddle, and I especially like it when working in hand.
Neckrope: This is a cotton rope bought from Valley Vet that I use to play around with some different leading ideas aka Hempflling. I need to work with this more! Highly Recommended if you find yourself using your hands too much or messing with the horses’ head while riding. Also good for horses too dependent upon the bridle such as leaning, going behind the bit, or who root against the bit.
Surcingle and Driving Lines: These are nice for any horseperson to have on hand. If your horse gets injured, and needs only walking, this is a nice change of pace in training. I also use them on young horses before putting them under saddle.
Driving lines should be narrower at the clasp end so they run easily through rings and give a nice “glide” when pressure is applied. This surcingle has a sheepskin lining; if yours doesn’t, just use a small mini pad or English saddle pad under it to give it some padding and extra comfort to the horse.
I’ve seen a very experienced trainer, lunge a horse in double lines and then switch directions at canter on a circle without stopping! Impressive but my skill set isn’t that complex!
Sidepull: A riding headstall without a bit that uses side pull pressure to give turning signals. I’ve used the Linda Tellington-Jones one in clinics and just started using one regularly on Z this last year. When choosing a sidepull, I would select one that has chin attachment that allows you to tighten the noseband. Sidepulls without this feature are too easily pulled off the nose when you ask for a turn with the rein.
For a horse like Z who stops easily, the sidepull has worked fine up to this point. Sidepulls allow the horse to easily drink while being tacked up. Last week, Z was able to go get several drinks from the pasture’s watertank during her “trail” riding workout.
If I went back to teaching lessons, I would put all my experienced school horses that are being paired with beginners into sidepulls. This would give their mouths relief from the beginners yanking about with their hands. BTW youngsters, who have no long legs or saddle weight to give aids, are notorious about overusing the hands; you see this problem continue with teenagers who have only learned how to use their hands when younger.
Sidepulls are also great to use on horses behind the bit. If transitioning a horse used to a traditional bridle, ride with both for a few rides, and once they respond to the sidepull remove the bridle. A nice option to switch/rotate between the two -ride with a sidepull a few days, then back to the bridle, etc… especially for the horse who leans on the bit or goes behind.
Bridle with bit: On dressage bridles I take off the crank noseband. I like those with really great leather and prefer those with solid brass fittings as opposed to nickel. I try to choose the most gentlest bit I can find that the horse will tolerate. If you start with something harsher because the horse is out of control, teach obedience, and then start downgrading the bit until the horse is responding to something simpler.
Saddle with Girth/Cinch: I don’t have a particular dressage favorite. I like one that fits the horse and I use a Master Saddler to fit it. People rely far too much on heresy, personal preferences, barn gossip, and salespeople selling a specific brand of saddle etc… to fit their saddle. Find a professional who is not selling a specific brand and seek their advice. If your horse develops saddle sores don’t keep adding more pads to “correct” the problem!
On an English girth I like the Wintec ones. They are easy to clean, come in a lot of different sizes and have a rolling buckle on the latch part. On English leathers, I prefer those that are a bit heavy and wide, which lay nicely FLAT.
For Western Saddles, the trainer I worked for in college liked the Monte Foreman Balanced Ride. I’d like to find one of those but so far have not found the right size for Z (semi-QH bars) or the size seat I need (16″). I don’t ride Western enough to have a preference on a cinch, but I do like a wide cinch which I cinch up more loosely then standard Western riders like to do.
Saddle pad: On my English saddles I prefer a shaped dressage pad in white. It’s easier to wash and bleach, and the shape allows me to touch the horses’ body behind the saddle. On a Western saddle, I like a thick wool pad. Remember, though a pad will not save a horses’ back if the saddle fit is wrong.
Hmm well I can’t think of anything off the top of my head but there is probably more. I think where Rugby Guy had the idea that I had something “new” is that my equipment differs from what he is used to in slight degrees. Such as the way the Western saddle I was borrowing cinched up. Or that because I do a lot of groundwork, I do have more tools for that.
Of course tools are only as good as the person who wields them…