WiseAssWallace: My Take on Gear

WiseAssWallace is a beloved guest columnist for Cayuse Communications. From his pasture in southwestern Colorado, he’s on a quest to improve horse-human connections and make lives better for his fellow equines.


In this installment, WiseAssWallace talks about the naughty ways in which equipment and practices can inflict pain and suffering on equines:

WiseAssWallaces writes:

Humans got the idea of riding some 6,000 years ago and since then they have crafted some seriously horrible, harmful gizmos.

Harm derived from these pieces of equipment is three-fold.

  • It actually, physically harms us.
  • It creates harmful habits, reactions, and behaviors in us.
  • It is a piss poor substitute for proper partnership.

You see naughty pieces of equipment in nearly all riding disciplines. We could start anywhere and go on for hours. But let’s keep it cursory and start with the English world.

Consider side reins. They are used in dressage to force us to adopt a particular headset. They stink. I feel for any horse that has the distinct displeasure of dealing with side reins.

Side reins do nothing but teach a meaningless pressure. Why meaningless?

Because they deliver pressure without release. Pressure without release is downright detrimental. Equipment like this begets what researchers define as learned helplessness. Ugh.

Consider flash nosebands, used in dressage and jumping. They are supposedly used to keep our mouths from gaping open. That’s what we might do in order to avoid the bit. These nosebands create nothing but tension, people!

  • Tension in our jaw.
  • Tension in our poll.
  • Tension in our neck.
  • Tension in our back.

Riders who use flash nosebands SHOULD have taken the time to teach us to accept the bit softly.

You who use flash nosebands riders SHOULD have soft hands, patience, and knowledge.

Instead, you substitute another piece of sketchy, sadistic equipment and wallow unwittingly in your own ignorance and ineptitude. Who suffers? We do.

Let’s move on to the Western side of things.

Consider tie downs. (In the English world, folks might call them martingales.) Tie downs are used in a lot of roping and western sports. They supposedly keep us from throwing our heads up and around.

How horrible is this? And who said head tossing was so criminal?

Everyone knows we need to move our heads.:

  • To see.
  • To balance.
  • To prepare for what’s ahead.
  • To feel better about our rider and our environment.

Tie downs make us crazy! Tie downs and martingales can make us resentful, anxious, and out of balance. We end up leaning against them. This brutal reaction results in what you’d call an “upside down horse.” An upside down horse is not a happy horse, folks, let me assure you.

How about bits?

Shank bits. Spade bits. Double bridles. Wire bits.

C’mon, people! Unless you are a really good rider, with really good hands. and a really good, willing partnership full of mutual respect, you have NO business using any bit that can so easily inflict pain.

Stop thinking that naughty equipment will compensate for your lack of experience. Stop thinking this gear has any business in your toolbox.

Your most important piece of equipment is your brain. The second most important piece of equipment is your body. Invest in them. Please. You will have exponentially more success than you ever would with one of these gizmos. I’m WiseAssWallace and I guarantee it.


Editor’s Note:

Cayuse Communications wish to thank Amy Skinner for her contributions.

Posted in WiseAssWallace.

One Comment

  1. Right on, Wallace!!! Equipment doesn’t train horses. Clarity, consistency, patience, awareness, feel, timing and RELEASE train horses. A good dose of compassion and respect for this enormous animal, who owes you nothing, and could kill you easily if he/she wanted to but doesn’t, is also part of the recipe.

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