Another training aid that made me cringe

Am I dense?  A little thick in the skull? Problems comprehending? Wait, don’t answer that if it’s too mean 😛

The reason I ask is because I don’t understand the point of yet another riding gimmick (sent in by a lovely reader). [Remeber this “Revolutionary New Aid“?]

From the website: “Are your Hands soft and steady? Did you ever wonder how your hands are and how you could increase the sensitivity of and mental awareness for your hands?

This new training tool will help you to find out and work towards an even, soft and elastic rein hand.

“Start with the black 15 kg sensor and ride your usual routine. If this does not break, work with the next, more sensitive stripe (10 kg, red). Continue to work step for step towards the more sensitive stripes until you break one.  This reflects the education level of your hands (and also that of your horse). Work for a couple of rides at this level, then work gradually towards the next, until no sensor stripes break anymore. Replacement sensors can be ordered separately for $7.00 (shipping & handling included).

You will have developed a new awareness for your hands and you will learn to keep the reins in a more steady and soft contact to the bit. The sensitive mouth of your horse will thank you!

Please take note: This is not a training tool for the horse. On the contrary, the horse you use for this exercise should be well educated. Nevertheless, most horses will noticeably appreciate your effort to have extra soft hands.”

So basically, you want me to buy this thing so I can know almost exactly, within +/-5 pounds, how much pressure I’m putting on my horse’s mouth?


Every horse is different!  Some horses need less contact, others more.  You, as a rider, should not be riding each and every horse with 2lbs of pressure (which is as low as this product goes so I assume they deem that to be optimal). Some horse’s like more contact.  The thing that the rider really needs to pay attention is whether they are pulling vs. whether the horse is steady in the contact (and past that, if the horse is leaning on your hands).  Both create pressure, and likely enough to break most of these “sensor strips”, but for two very, very different reasons.  One is wrong, and the other is correct.  BUT THE “SENSOR STRIPS” CAN’T TELL YOU WHICH ONE YOU’RE DOING! They just break.  All they can tell you is that you’ve exceeded their tensile strength limit.  Whoopty-freakin-do!

I despise, loathe, detest and find despicable these quick fix type gimmicks. They are most emphatically NOT a solution to a problem.  There are certain situations where they may be beneficial in helping someone become aware of, and work towards fixing, a problem – but the gimmick itself is NOT the solution.  Hard work, practice and the help of a good, qualified instructur are what fixes problems.

The only thing that can really, truly, “help you to find out and work towards an even, soft and elastic rein hand” is practice and lessons with a good, qualified instructor (mentioned twice and close together for repetitious benefit – ride with a good, qualified instructor! – especially if you have trouble with pulling on your horse’s mouth!).


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Posted on April 19, 2012, in Misc Horsies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I totally agree with what you are saying and to add to this. when this sensor strip breaks wouldnt this leave the rider with only one reign??? That does not sound safe at all expecially for who ever would fall for this gimic training aid to begin with.

    • From the picture, it looks like there’s a backup chain connecting the reign to the bit, so no, when the sensor breaks, it’s not gonna leave you there with one functional reign.

  2. At least the motive is better than “git your horse’s head down ASAP” or “Put more WHOA” in your horse.

    I do think it’s silly, and a total gimmick that shouldn’t take the place of a knowledgable professional. It’s also $$$$$$.

    I think it falls under the heading “Silly Gadgety Stuff for Well Meaning First Time Owners Who Won’t Take Riding Lessons.”

  3. Gotta agree with cattypex. Yeah, it’s a gimmick that shouldn’t be used to replace a good instructor, but at least – unlike so many other gadgets – it’s encouraging the rider to ride properly, and will benefit the horse. I’d much rather see something like this than harsher bits or some of the other training crap I’ve seen that basically forces the horse to submit.

    Actually, I think the overall idea is a decent one, and I know of at least 2 people who could really benefit from this. They both take lessons, but the instructor isn’t around every. single. time. that they’re riding, and even during lessons, since they’re group lessons, the instructor isn’t able to watch their every move 100% of the time. They both know that they need to work on their hands, but it’s one of those cases where they’ll gradually tighten and tighten and tighten without even realizing it. If this thing was altered just a little bit, maybe so that it gave some kind of signal (maybe it causes a buzzer attached to the rider to go off) to the rider every time they pull past a certain amount, rather than breaking (because once it breaks, it’s useless for the rest of the ride), and getting an immediate signal would give them the ability to determine “Okay, was that because I was pulling too hard? Or was it because the horse tossed his head or did something stupid?” Both of these riders I mentioned would probably improve a lot faster if they had something that was constantly and consistently reminding them “don’t pull too hard! don’t pull to hard!” rather than just getting that during lessons.

    So, yeah, I don’t know… as they are, I don’t feel they’re that useful, but I feel like the idea itself is a good one that could be useful if it was altered a bit.

    • Sort of Anonymous

      They need to learn to listen to the horse they are riding. It is probably telling them (even in subtle fashion) if the “pull too hard”. 😉

      Learning to listen to the horse has made many less than perfect riders at least sympathetic, and horses sense and appreciate that.

      • Oh, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t learn that (god knows they’re both terrible at it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to explain basic body language to the one in particular just so she could catch her horse. I don’t know how, but she always manages to start the whole darn herd running around like idiots). Both of them do know that what they’re doing is uncomfortable for the horse (believe me, my coach is in no way gentle about informing you of such things, and WILL make you ride without reigns if you abuse them), but it’s such an unconscious thing that as soon as they aren’t getting those reminders during lessons, they go right back to pulling without even realizing they’re doing it. If they had something to remind them of what they’re doing when the coach isn’t around, then this bad habit (developed mostly likely due to years of riding without any type of lessons) might turn around much faster, especially as both riders have dead quiet horses that will put up with anything. They’ve made some improvement, but training people is a like training horses: consistent and reasonable rewards/punishments will produce the best results – and that is something that they aren’t getting simply because of the fact that they are not in a lesson every single time they ride. Obviously, the ideal is to listen to your horse and pick up on any tiny signals they give, but, as we all know, this isn’t something you can simply learn overnight. It takes a very long time to learn to pick up on subtle cues from your horse, especially if you have no natural instinct around horses (which they most definitely do not) and in the mean time, the horse is uncomfortable and in pain. Better, in my opinion, to use something like this (in tandem with lessons from a good instructor) in order to relieve the horse’s discomfort until the rider has developed the necessary ability to go without such things, than to have the horse suffer through the rider’s learning process.

  4. Nope, this is a really really piss poor idea. Riding a horse is a Dynamic act not a static one. Once of the most difficult things to learn is how to move with the horse, that is to have Dynamic balance, as a horse is shifting his weight all the time.
    Now as you get better and you start to push the horse up into your hands you will want to be able to adjust the horse’s balance, part of this will be just how much “hold” you take of the reins. Each horse will of course respond in a slightly different way to you as you attempt to adjust his balance, how much of a Hold He takes of the bit is an individual thing. BUT as the horse’s balance shifts, remember you are in dynamic balance, both His and Your Hold ( psi) on the bit Will and Should change. You are a living, moving, flowing partnership that must talk back and forth to one another freely. Is one of you just stops talking, so will the other one.
    If you just have constant steady pressure you have DEAD hands. This will create a horse with a non-responsive front end or a horse that spits the bit and hides.

  5. I drag out the same objection I have to most gadgets – you cannot program a horse. It is not a computer. You have to ride the horse you are sitting on, who will change during the ride.
    And the photographer is fired for not fastening the keepers on the bridle. I can’t get excited about their gadget when the photo says they are either sloppy or ignorant.
    And yes, I am a tyrant about properly fitting and adjusted tack. The keeper is not used, the throatlatch is too tight and the noseband….well, there is a list about how and where that fits!

    • Hell I know one horse that could break the 15kg sensor easily. He’s an old schoolmaster and a hell of a ride (if you can sit that HUGE trot) but he tends to get way heavy on the forehand.
      And I think anyone that knows anything about tack placement will be just as annoyed with that picture. I sure as hell want to go over there and adjust that bridle properly.

  6. I like the fact that they have a disclaimer stating that it’s only to be used on well trained, experienced horses. Have you ever seen the NRS catalog? They have chain bits with 6″ shanks that are advertised as “good starting bits.”

    I don’t the concept is that bad, either. Sure, lessons with a good trainer would be ideal, but not everybody can afford them, and frankly, most instructors (that I’ve worked with, anyway) aren’t that good at communicating. Or maybe I’m just not good at understanding them. Either way, I could definitely understand “if this breaks, you’re using too much pressure.”

  7. Obviously you ride in this in a controlled environment. Years ago my instructor wanted to find out how we were riding – i.e. how much were we using our hands versus our legs. She had reins with a thread tied between them and the bit. The goal was to think our ride and use our legs as much as possible. It was a very good lesson, one I remember for a long time – I learned how a good horse feels. On a side note, the horse we were on was a good mare who was well trusted. I wouldn’t immediately poo-poo them – there is a time and place for this sort of device. I don’t think as a daily tool, but as a way to test your skills.

  8. Hyena Overlord

    Couldn’t you just make your own by tying a piece of string to the bit ring and looping in around the hook on your rieins (metal to metal so you don’t tear through the leather)? Your reins would still be attached to the bit ring; there would just be a little loop in them. The loop would be caused by tying the string tight enough to transfer the pressure from the riders hand to the string to bit ring instead of rein to bit ring. You’ll need a ground person to replace your strings when you break them instead of having to get off and on repeatedly.

    I wouldn’t trust my life to a split ring. They’re for keys not for controlling a large animal.

  9. I have to agree with Ellen, its a great concept, but the idea of it snapping back and pulling harder on one side could lead to a confused horse and a grounded rider. (more so if it is a beginner that would be mostly using this product) We also cannot fear every new gadget that comes out to help a rider gain a better seat, now there are some piss poor ideas like the “heels Down” trickers that make you look like you have your heels down for the judges, but I am sure there are a few that could potentially be better in the future. Sometimes we need to back-off tradition and start moving into the 21st century. We have not really evolved from harsh bits and hard hats.

    I understand in some of your childhoods when you were learning to ride, you had to do it all on your own, and you did not have any of these fancy gizmos, but heck, if I found a gizmo that actually kept my shoulders back and my heels down, you can bet your ass I would use it!

    • I’d love a gadget that would keep my shoulders and wrists from rolling down. Problem is any one that would do this likely would make me rigid where I’d not achieve that relaxation and self carriage needed. (same way horse gadgets can cause the horse to brace on them and develop the wrong muscles) Only practice and some exercises like push ups and elastic band stretches will help me fix this issue and carry myself properly.

      That’s kinda what’s going on here. This might be good for a trained horse, but the horse has to be 100% perfect all of the time and not wanting to get away with anything, which we all know schoolies love to do! They’re sick of carting beginners around and try to find ways out of working. So sometimes we need more pressure one way or another. If you’re trained to have only a feather light touch, you’re going to have a hard time on a horse who has lost respect for the bridle or when working with a horse that needs that firm support and consistent connection even when he falls on his forehand.

      There really -is- no substitute for hard work and a good instructor.

      • I routinely thank all the powers that be that my mother is a stickler for posture. She used to point out slouching kids to me: “Look how pretty that girl is. She would be even prettier if she’d put her shoulders back and stand up straight.” I also took Cotillion (lots of kids in my town did) from a very old school and very gracious lady. And then I took voice lessons from a teacher who believed in very correct form as a foundation for proper & long-lived vocal technique.
        This is where I first found out I had very, very, VERY slight scoliosis: She’d stand me in front of a mirror and point out my asymmetry of posture. When I convinced her that I WAS standing up straight – to the best of my ability – she was satisfied and never bugged me about it again, unless I actually WAS slumping.
        And then I took riding lessons from some old school (balanced-seat, drop your stirrups & post, dear GOD what are you doing with your hands on that poor horse’s mouth, do two-point while holding your arms out like wings and NO you can’t jump 12″ until you can trot poles like that) instructors.
        And I PORED over the book “School for Young Riders,” which was quaint even then, but insanely well-written & expained. And then, “Centered Riding” was published and I got it for Christmas. DUDE.
        I also did miles & miles of trail riding over varied terrain on an athletic horse who liked to GO GO GO. And so did I!!

        All of this made me aware of my own self-carriage from a young age, and how shoulders back, look where you’re turning, open your chest, close your leg, heads up, and heels down are all FUNCTIONAL body mechanics concepts, and not some kind of “pose.”

        At the risk of sounding like a mid-century Hygiene Film: I see so many college kids – girls especially – who have never been taught how or why they should pay attention to how they carry themselves. Not only is it healthy, it also conveys a friendly confidence and helps your clothes fit better. No wonder chiropractors and massage therapists are doing so well!

        My advice: Get yourself a copy of Centered Riding. STUDY IT. It’s not a hard book, in fact the illustrations are pretty cute. But that, and a mirror (in the arena or just at home for self-analysis), and listening very hard to your body, will help IMMENSELY in your everyday riding.

      • Hey Lunatteo, have you seen this:
        It isn’t a quick fix gadget so much as extra support to keep your shoulders back while riding. It also really helps to teach you proper posture while in the saddle. I used to use one (and still do on occasion) every time I rode and it has really helped me achieve the muscle to hold my shoulders back. To top it off I notice that I now carry myself straight and tall when out of the saddle. Defiantly something to look into if you have a problem slumping your shoulders due to any number of issues.

        • Now there’s one gimmick I have no problems with! Something that actually helps the rider improve its balance instead of trying “fix” the horse. I could probably use one of those myself, since I also have a slight scoliosis and a tendency to hunch my shoulders.

  10. Sort of Anonymous

    Hey, Snarky, here’s a post topic for pondering, here or at fugs.

    If you can’t afford lessons, HOW do you afford a horse? People get into what is KNOWN to be an expensive hobby and then complain they can’t afford that which makes their horses lives better, aka lessons. If you can’t afford lessons, you probably can’t afford if your horse needs a tooth pulled and has a minor infection afterward. You can’t afford a few impaction colics in the course of a year. You can’t afford EPM that might still be at a stage that treatment leaves you with a horse that is still capable of his previous level of performance.

    Why does someones WISH to own a horse override the right of the horse to be owned by a caring and competent owner??!! If you want a horse and can’t afford lessons, get a pasture puff. There are TONS looking for homes. Get a miniature and drive. Better, miniature donkeys are love on four hooves and are much more tolerant of human mistakes.

    Riding without lessons is like buying a motorcycle before you know how to ride a pedal bike. Foolish and dangerous; maybe the human gets hurt, the bike almost certainly will also get hurt, all for no reason other than human ignorance and a false sense of entitlement.

    There is a reason for the phrase “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    I am not rich, but I prioritize. I also give free lessons to as many of my friends that need it, because overall the horses benifit as well as the people. I don’t understand why someone thinks they can just buy a 1,200lb animal and they will be able to do exactly what they want, without instruction.


    Thanks, I feel better now.

  11. I mentioned this elsewhere, but did anyone ever have to use yarn reins when their hands got too insensitive?

    This is a nice cheap way to teach people NOT to set their hands against the horse.

    I DO see unforgiving hands as a bad trend right now: so many people are riding GIANT horses and draft crosses with big heads & strong necks, and of course they feel insecure, and they also confuse “strong contact” with “rigid hands.”

    It’s something I have to be vigilant about, myself. Fortunately my horse gets very worried when you apply too much contact, so he lets me know when I’m being harsh.

  12. Reminds me of the lady who rode to the hounds using thread reins…while riding sidesaddle…over fences.. to prove how well broke her horse was. I always figure if someone can train their horse to do that, there is no need for gimmicks. However, when I trail ride my own squirrly horse, I prepare for the unexpected. No breakaway reins for me; I want control and brakes should we encounter a nest of bees, nesting geese, unexpected dogs, roller bladers suddenly silently glide up beside us on the trail, baby buggies, ATVs popping out of the bushes, paint ball players sneaking around behind rocks and suddently popping out and scareing the stuffings out of my horse, children who see a horse and run toward us screaming HORSIE! – the list is endless and all happened many times to us on the trail. Riding is an art form that must be learned through practice and sensitivity.

  13. Seems like all that loose metal would get to swinging around when you ride and both pull on your hands and your horse’s mouth – giving you a false sense of connection.

  14. While this gimmick is less harmful than most others, I see a couple of problems.
    Firstly, it illustrates the problem without offering a solution. Would anyone using these have the knowledge and ability to know what the problem was, e.g. unsteady seat, tension in shoulders/arms, etc. As stated repeatedly above, there is no substitute for lessons, having someone on the ground to critique you as you ride, not just standing still.
    Secondly, this gimmick is expensive. After the initial purchase, you need to fork out $7 each time you use the system. as recommended, use once, then every couple of rides. Is this 2-3 times per week? Sounds like a great idea, for the seller!

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