Ground Training Equipment
For ground training, I use a rope halter and several lengths of rope – a 12’ line, 22’ line, and a 45’ line. The 12’ and 22’ lines are different than regular lead ropes or lunge lines. They are thicker and heavier and made of yachting rope and provide a more balanced, comfortable feel to the horse and human. I also have very thin 22' yachting rope lines for use in ground driving or for more refined play once the horse is in the intermediate to advanced stage - so light it almost feels like the horse is at liberty and is a great way to prepare for liberty. Sometimes I use regular lunge lines for ground driving as well.
The 45’ line is made of extra soft lariat rope. I use it mainly when doing more advanced maneuvers on the ground and teaching a horse to respond to my communication from further away.
The rope halter discourages a horse from leaning or pushing into pressure, unlike a nylon or leather halter which actually feels comfortable for a horse to push in to, yet it is even lighter and more comfortable for the horse than a nylon halter when the horse is not pushing on it. For trailering I always use a nylon halter for safety - a rope halter will not break if the horse were to fall down in the trailer or get otherwise caught up. Horses should NEVER be turned out in a rope halter or anything other than a nylon halter with a leather breakaway strap, so that the halter can break free if it ever gets caught up on something. Ideally, they won't wear any halter at all for turn out, but if it's absolutely necessary (such as while you are training your horse to want to be caught or if they need to wear a grazing muzzle) then the breakaway halter is the safest option.
I also use a 4' stiff fiberglass stick with a string attached made from a thinner version of the yachting rope as an extension of my arm to communicate to the horse. The fiberglass stick has better feel, is more balanced, and is easier to control than a regular lunge whip because it is not flexible. For miniature horses, I use a smaller, thinner 3' version of the same stick. I buy my training sticks from www.parelli.com, because I found found the Parelli "Carrot" stick to be the best balanced & the most durable (I've had my sticks for 16 years, used them on hundreds of horses in all kinds of weather, and they haven't broken yet!), but there are a number of other places that sell similar sticks as well.
Ground Driving a young filly
Incorporate fun obstacles in your horse's training to build confidence & hold their interest.
Building Confidence with a tarp!
Asking my horse to circle around me
Practice Trailer Loading when You don't actually need to go anywhere!
Use a nylon halter & quick release knot when tying to or in a trailer.
Relaxing in the Pasture!
Dancer being playful & knocking a barrel over
Theraflex pad with Back On Track Saddle pad underneath.
Back on Track pads have ceramic fibers woven in to improve circulation
purchased from Scott Purdum of Advantage Horsemanship
For riding I generally use a basic snaffle bit, either single or double jointed or a Myler bit. You are welcome to use whatever reins and bit you like in lessons, as long as the bit is comfortable for the horse and allows you to communicate with each rein separately (such as a different style of snaffle or a Myler bit). I do not recommend riding in a curb bit or double bridle for lessons or training. These are best saved for a finished horse who has completed advanced training.
I often use a Parelli Theraflex Saddle Pad when I ride. This pad uses a combination of air and foam to conform to the horses back as it moves to prevent pinching or pressure points. For extremely wide horses, like my haflinger/quarter cross mare Destiny, I will generally use a thinner cotton pad or my "Back on Track" pad which has ceramic fibers interwoven in the pad to help the horse's muscles warm up, improve circulation, and reduce or eliminate any soreness on the horse's back.
I do not generally use, or advocate the use of, other training equipment such as tie-downs, martingales, draw reins, or nosebands that are fastened tightly for the purpose of tying a horse’s mouth shut. Horses that toss their heads, have a high head carriage, or open their mouths when being ridden are giving you feedback about the quality of your riding – whether you’re aids are not clear, your hands are too heavy, or you haven’t warmed them up properly to get them connected and thinking with you. They may also be trying to communicate that they are in pain somewhere or that tack does not fit properly. I have seen horses giving this kind of feedback so many times because they are in pain - and no one was listening. Anything from a sore back to dental issues, hoof pain, pinched nerves, or being in need of a chiropractic adjustment, just to name a few possibilities, can cause what might appear at first sight to be behavioral or attitude problems.
Just one example - a few years ago I was called out to assess a lovely broodmare who had started bucking under saddle. The owners were approaching this as a training/attitude issue and had been struggling with it for over a year. The first thing I checked was her back which was very sore. We had a thorough vet check done and it turned out the mare had chronic lyme disease. After being treated with a course of minocycline and receiving other supportive care, she returned to being ridden with absolutely no problems. If you tie a horse’s head down or tie their mouth shut you take away that ability to give you that feedback and your riding will never improve - and if they are in pain, you will never be able to solve it.
As with anything, there are exceptions. Some pieces of equipment can sometimes be useful short term when used with care and feel to help a horse overcome an issue (such as bracing their neck or holding their head in the air - these issues are usually caused by incorrect riding, the horse being in pain somewhere, or by the horse learning to brace against a tie down, but sometimes even when the original cause is eliminated the habit can remain, and sometimes certain pieces of equipment can help the horse overcome that; once the habit is gone, the equipment is no longer necessary).
A flash noseband can sometimes be useful to stabilize the bit in an extremely sensitive horse or help to discourage a horse from crossing their jaw or getting their tongue over the bit if they have previously developed that as a bad habit (usually as a result of incorrect riding, ill fitting tack, or dental issues - which is why all this MUST be addressed first, and then this equipment can sometimes have a temporary place to help the horse stop practicing an ingrained habit).
Certain pieces of training equipment can be helpful with certain horses, at certain stages in the hands of a skilled rider or trainer, but only to help the horse through an issue, never to cover it up or cover up bad riding & the goal should be to eliminate unnecessary equipment as soon as possible. Most of the time once the root cause of a horse's issue is addressed and fixed, these issues will go away on their own without artificial training aids as long as you continue to ride correctly. There are some great techniques and exercises you can do both on the ground and while riding to fix all of the above issues & this is where I always start! Only if I think the horse needs extra (short term) help do I even consider implementing an artificial aid.