The best horse trainers often say “less is more” when it comes to equipment. The foundation of all riding comes from using what you already have – your hands, your leg and your seat, to guide the horse forward, over fences, or into contact.
But there are so many training aids out there that are marketed to riders. From a variety of bits to lunging systems to add-ons for your leg or your saddle. You name it, there’s a gimmick for that.
No wonder it’s so difficult for the discerning equestrian to keep up. Heels Down Mag is here to cut through the clutter. Below, we list five riding or training tools that actually work, and could be a good addition to any horse owner’s equipment arsenal.
Pessoa Lungeing System
Developed by international show jumper, Nelson Pessoa, this lunging device is designed to encourage balance and build topline in horses. It uses a smart web of ropes, clips and “pulleys” placed strategically over the horse’s body to safely encourage stretch and self-carriage. The system is based on the principles of pressure and release to help build back muscles. It’s beneficial for a horse that could use more fitness or maintenance in its work out routines. Some riders use this for horses coming back into work after injury or long break.
Performance Resistance Bands
Using resistance bands while in the saddle is a new, but interesting corrective postural and fitness trend. The technique involves using stretching bands around the wrists or sometimes even from the shoulder to the ankle, to develop correct feel and postural stability. Heels Down Mag spoke with Britta Pedersen, a New Zealand native physiotherapist, a former eventing and current dressage rider, who is a big believer. “A lot of riders, in any discipline, struggle with engaging their core and therefore have trouble with their posture in the saddle. I’ve been using the bands both in my clinic as well as in the barn,” she said.
ShouldersBack is an elastic garment riders wear to help improve posture while in the saddle. The fabric was designed by an orthopedic team and is often worn by professional athletes, dancers, actors and others. The goal is to wear it consistently to help “retrain” both your mind and muscles to stay in a correct, upright position. It’s breathable and easy to slip on and off over a shirt.
The Equiband System uses a variety of thick, elastic bands to help build core strength in the horse. Unlike the Pessoa system, the EquiBand System can be used under saddle and on the lunge. The material is similar to rider resistance bands, and at least one study shows that the bands encourage less “unwanted vertebral movement along the back”.
Saddle Grip Spray
These spray-on materials are an oldie, but a goodie. They come in a variety of brands, but Sporty Sit-Tite Spray is a popular option. These spray cans help riders hold their grip against the saddle by using a sticky, but safe for your saddle, adhesive. The spray results in a “high degree of friction resistance” and helps maintain a comfortable high position for a better seat. It’s not an absolute fix for a weak or swinging lower leg, but it will aid in temporary support.