This week I thought I'd talk about "training systems" and how they impact the bit and the horse's body.
A training system is a surcingle paired with a set of ropes designed for lunging the horse and teaching it to "frame". The ropes begin at the top of the surcingle, go around the haunches, up to the bit, then back to the surcingle. This final stretch can be clipped between the front legs (shown), straight back, or up to the top of the surcingle where it started. The trouble with these systems is three-fold. First, as discussed last week, pulling down discourages the horse from using the proper muscles instinctively. While his head and neck may eventually come down, he will not lift his withers.
In theory, the haunch rope would press the pelvis under, but this leads us to our second problem - the limbs are connected to the mouth. This means it is physically impossible for the horse to seek contact in a healthy manner. The rope from haunch to big constantly pulls back and forth on the mouth of the horse tries to seek contact as we would like him to. As a result, he learns to "hide" behind the contact for fear it will saw on his mouth.
The third problem is somewhat related. The horse cannot actually stretch in this (or any side rein) setup. Either they are so loose as to just bounce and nag on the mouth and the horse can stretch, but may as well not be wearing the system, or they make contact but the horse cannot extend his nose down and out and lengthen his frame.
It is my opinion that these things serve effectively no purpose when training a horse to go correctly. If you're just seeking an "outline", knock yourself out, but there are infinitely better ways to successfully teach your horse to carry himself and stretch without sacrificing his confidence or lateral softness. Have you ever used one? Why? Comment below!