EQUINE MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING - Fred and Rowena Cook
Retraining Racehorses, Rehabilitation, Therapy & Schooling
Email: Enquiries@equinetraining.co.uk or call 01780 740773
Training aids should be just so – an aid – to help teach a horse what is expected of him or to encourage use of correct muscles, and so on. Thus we do not see its use, nor would we advocate its use, as any form of “short-cut” to taking the proper time to let a horse develop as he gradually builds up the right muscles in the right places.
Ultimately the truly supple and engaged horse is lifting its abdomen and using its core muscles which in turn promotes softness and suppleness through the back as well as correct locomotion.
One of two training aids we recommend to clients is the EquiAmi. We like the concept of how the Lunging Aid works - and indeed have endorsed it - and the riding aid works in a very similar way, that of encouraging the horse to work in a lowered, round and soft outline which leads him to become more accepting of the hand and then work into the contact properly. It is important however, as with any lunging aids, that the horse is moving forwards so as to promote engagement of the hindquarters.
The EquiAmi is quite unique in terms of equine training aids. It is very quick and easy to fit and is so simple, yet incredibly effective; it's effectiveness lies in its simplicity. Designed to work with the horse, letting him work things out for himself, it is a aid that can greatly assist those who are less skilled in the art of training horses enabling them to achieve something positive.
How EquiAmi training aids work and why they are different.
When we ride our horse, we ride it in a loop. This loop consists of our right arm, right shoulder, left shoulder, left arm, left hand, left rein, the bit, the right rein, the right hand and back to the right arm. This loop gives and takes with the horse as he lengthens and shortens and moves with the horse around turns and circles to keep a soft, consistent contact. We are taught that, in order to have softness and acceptance in the horse, we need to keep a soft, consistent contact with the horse via this communication loop.
No other training aids incorporate both of these properties.
Most training aids work by pressure or restraint. In our experience, horses tend to respond better to working inside a loop than to any type of restriction or pressure and riders are generally rewarded by a new level of balance, consistency, relaxation and harmony in their horse’s work.
The pulley system works off the hind legs; whenever the horse's hind legs go back, the bit is activated on that side. Thus, the bit is essentially see-sawed back and forth by the horse's own movement.
In our opinion the pessoa doesn't teach true softness, suppleness or relaxation. It just yanks and pulls all over the horse making it more confused. The horse's only choice really is to put its head down. Just because a complicated rope system is forcing a horse into a frame does not make it good. Horses may well muscle up and they may indeed soften over the back but they do not develop lateral suppleness because the pulley system does not allow for such flexion.
The horse in this photograph may appear to be working correctly but in fact he is not.
The Equiami Lunge Aid
The EquiAmi lunge aid differs from the Pessoa in two main ways.
Firstly with the EquiAmi lunge aid, the whole aid is a loop therefore there is equal tension (or freedom) all the way round. This makes it unnecessary to alter anything for direction changes as it self-centres and is always equal. When adjusting the size of the loop you don’t need to adjust both sides as there are not really any ‘sides’ as it is a self-centering loop.
Secondly the fact that the loop moves with the horse as he moves means that there is no fixed point therefore the horse cannot lean on it so they work lighter and in more self carriage rather than becoming downhill (which can happen in a Pessoa as the front section is fixed to the roller). This brings much more softness, lightness and swing into the horse’s work.
It is very easy to put on and feels little different (to a horse) to a fillet string on a rug so is often more acceptable to many horses especially if they dislike pressure or restraint. I can put one on in 40 seconds (horse has roller, boots and bridle on) but I reckon about two minutes for the first couple of times for a new user. The leather chest piece attaches to the roller and the rope is in two colour coded sections that fit around the horse and join together to form a loop. For a horse that is skittish I would be inclined to put it on and let him get the feel of it in the stable for a few minutes, but generally horses accept it very kindly, even those who throw themselves about or have a strop when they feel they are under pressure.
What we do on the lunge should be more comparable to what we do under saddle which is why the loop is so successful as we ride in a loop with our arms/reins/hands and bit and ask our horses to become soft in response to communication through this loop. Lungeing them in a similar loop promotes topline and engagement but also induces softness and swing through the contact. If a horse has nothing to lean on, he starts to carry himself properly. It is as simple as that really.
The EquiAmi lunge aid is of particular assistance to ex-racehorse owners, or indeed anyone who is having difficulty encouraging their horse to work propel from behind, engage the core muscles and lift through the shoulders, withers and ultimately the back.. Despite popular belief, the racehorse needs teaching to use his hindquarters and carry weight on his hind legs. Too often new owners, in their eagerness to get on board do not spend enough time building the necessary muscles for the horse to carry himself, let alone the weight of a rider. Whilst the EquiAmi must not been seen or used as a shortcut, its use can undoubtedly help teach a horse to work correctly and so more comfortably, thus creating a horse that is happy and content in his work.
With many so-called training aids, when a horse does respond positively, he doesn't actually receive a reward for doing so. When riding, we should always reward with a slight release of the hands or a removal of the leg aid, etc. and it should be no different when using a training aid, whether from the ground or under saddle.
With the EquiAmi Lunge aid, when a horse begins to do all the right things it loosens completely, and all that is required is for the trainer to continue to lunge correctly i.e. keep the horse moving actively forward [but not rushing] into the bridle. An "aid" which fixes the head has a completely negative effect on the correct development of muscles and actually encourages the horse onto the forehand - leaning - rather than taking weight behind.
When used properly the EquiAmi encourages horses to lower their heads and start working their backs; this in turn leads to a rounding of the outline as they gradually step under more with the hindquarters; as training continues horses develop engagement, gradually taking more and more weight behind and so start to carry themselves but in a soft and relaxed manner.
The Equi-ami Riding Aid - how does it work?
The EquiAmi does not work by creating any pull whatsoever on the horse's mouth as it is not fixed to the bit. It's unique design places the horse inside a self-centering loop which runs over the head/neck which is connected to a chest strap which fits on the girth. As the horse adopts a more rounded outline, it is immediately rewarded by the training aid becoming looser. When the training aid is working at its best it is applying absolutely no pressure and the horse is working in a relaxed manner. The loop is self-centering and is not fixed so the horse is unable to lean on the aid so has to learn to balance and carry itself.
The rider has to ride the horse forward into the loop to promote engagement of the hindquarters and the training aid encourages the horse to soften, accept the hand and come into a rounder outline. Immediately the horse responds to the training aid it is rewarded by the aid becoming looser.
With this Aid, designer Hilary Bentley, has found produced a very unique, but incredibly simple piece of equipment which helps to promote the correct way of going without force.
We elect not to ride horses in training aids as we believe in letting a horse develop his balance under the weight of a rider naturally without any outside influence, Also we wish to be able to detect the most subtle of changes in a horse's way of going (positive or negative) as such changes tell us much, enabling us to adjust the working programme accordingly, call in a chiropractor, etc. if necessary and so on. Training aids work to influence a horse's way of going but if a horse is compensating in some way, something that is often difficult to detect at the best of times, then this can be masked when using a training aid.
However we appreciate and understand that in certain situations, with certain horses, the use of a training aid for ridden work can be of great assistance particularly for the less experienced rider training a novice horse or one that needs correcting.
There is the chicken-and-egg situation where riding position is not helped by a horse that for example is throwing its head about but yet is may be poor rider position (as well as riding) which is contributing (if not wholly the cause) to the head tossing (etc). In these instances the use of a training aid which allows the rider to think more about their position can be invaluable. Whilst a training aid should not be used to mask or correct any evasion - as the cause of the evasion should be established and eliminated - another situation where its use can be of benefit is for horses which have got into the habit of (e.g) hollowing perhaps from a previously ill-fitting saddle, poor riding in the past, discomfort from another cause and so on,by helping them realise that they can indeed lower their heads so that muscles begin to be used more correctly. A lot of riders, whist riding well, do not have the necessary experience or expertise to ride a horse into better outline. So rather than have weeks and indeed months of frustration and a worsening scenario, what simpler than to use a training aid in the short term.
Riders often don't know what they should be feeling or how to achieve that feeling but by using the EquiAmi Riding Aid, they can learn what they should be feeling - and importantly, how to achieve it for themselves and ultimately dispense with the aid altogether.
We are happy to recommend the EquiAmi Riding Aid because it does not force a horse into an outline, yet he cannot lean so he has to learn to carry himself thereby developing his balance and his ability to take weight behind. Nor does not create any kind on unnatural pull on the mouth. It is an aid which works in harmony with the horse rather than by using pressure to promote submission.
The EquiAmi Riding Aid is very easy to fit and can be used for polework but not jumping. It comes complete with an
The EquiAami Improves Stride Length
We were approached by Hilary Bentley, the lady who designed the EquiAmi, to ask some racehorse trainers if they would take part in an EquiAmi trial. We explained that this was not really feasible as trainers, as a general rule, would not wish to interrupt training programmes to trial a product that in the realms of the racing industry was unheard of and unproven. Thus we approached Carol Clarkson who is Veterinary Administrator and Manager of the Centre for Racehorse Studies based at the British Racing School, Newmarket and is was agreed that 4 horses could take part in a stride-length trial.
Even during one training session the EquiAmi can have positive effect (as illustrated above) On the left the hind leg is not as active as in the photograph on the right. Visually, on the left, the horse creates a nicer picture because of how he is holding his neck/head, but he is not taking much weight behind. In the right-hand photograph the lower hindquarters indicate weight is being taken although, due to his lack of balance (stage of training) he has pushed his neck out to help him balance. This also illustrates the importance of a training aid being fitted correctly so as not to restrict the natural movements of the horse.
CRS Trial - For Improved Stride Length
4 horses were selected and Georgina Owen, who helps to run the CRS unit, carried out the necessary lunge work, twice a week, over a 6 week period.
Unfortunately one week before the end of the trial, Horse No.1 had to be taken out of the study due to a severe behavioural change. This was investigated but established as not being directly related to being part of the study, but due to a physical issues which the work brought to a head. Until his removal from the study it was noted that he had become more balanced and was over-tracking well. His canter had also improved.
Horse No.2, a lovely well-behaved individual but not one to exert himself if not necessary! His trot work improved considerably with over-stepping increasing as the trial period progressed; Georgina believed more could have been achieved over a longer period. this horse's canter also improved and when ridden the "push" coming from the hindquarters was clearly apparent; he worked with a better outline and regular napping behaviour markedly reduced too.
Horse No.3, a stallion, although having a good walk, over-tracking by about 10 inches, his trot was very poor with short steps in front and a shuffle behind. Following working in the EquiAmi, his trot improved considerably. From a horse that dragged his hind toes on the ground he began over-stepping and at the end of the 6 week trial period, he was over-tracking in trot by about 4 inches so a great improvement in a short space of time. Again, his canter improved, becoming much more balanced and rhythmical.
Horse No.4 was the star of the trial. He was always disunited in the canter with rider always struggling to get him on the correct lead. At the end of the trial he could readily sustain 3 canter circuits on the lunge with the correct lead on both reins. An exuberant horse, he would regularly buck when ridden but became the perfect gent to ride. His trot work showed an improved overstep of 4-6 inches and he generally carried himself much better.
From the above it can clearly be seen that the EquiAmi was of benefit to all the horses, even Horse No.1 who was removed from the trial. Given that the trial period was only weeks due to restrictions at the CRS, significant improvements were seen particularly in the balance each horse displayed.
The results of the trial were subsequently used in a dissertation to demonstrate that use of the EquiAmi does improve the length of stride a horse talks in walk, trot and canter.
If you have any questions regarding EquiAami application please do not hesitate to contact us
or visit the EquiAmi website: www.equiami.com.
If you are contemplating purchasing an EquiAmi, do contact us as you may well be eligible for our E.M.T. discount.