I think it’s safe to say that all equestrians use artificial aids when working with and communicating with their horses at some point. And yet, for some reason, many riders see many of these things as being ‘bad’. However, for the most part, this is simply not true; especially if they are used correctly.
If you use a saddle, a bridle, a head collar, a leadrope, a stable, an arena, a round pen, etc. etc. etc. when working with or training your horse, you are using artificial aids.
And when they are used correctly, they can really be a help when explaining things to your horse and also helping your horse to develop strength through his body. However, the keyword in that sentence is ‘correctly’…
What is an Artificial
The easiest way to think about artificial aids is anything that is not attached to you. It’s not part of your body or who you are! If it’s part of you, it’s a natural aid. So artificial aids are equipment, fences, etc.
And artificial aids, when used correctly, clarify, strengthen, or ‘back up’ your natural aids.
They help your horse to understand what you’re saying and what you expect from him when you say it. And this is a key part of the conversation… In order for your aids to be effective, your horse must understand your aids.
It is when we are being a little ‘lazy’ without natural aids and depend too much on our artificial aids that we run into trouble. This is where your artificial aids can start to become too ‘strong’ or downright incorrect when it comes to training your horse.
Lead with Your Natural Aids
One of the key factors when using artificial aids is to ensure that you are always leading or offering your natural aids first. It is only when they are ignored, responded to incorrectly, too weak, or misunderstood, that you can then, maybe, introduce the artificial aid.
In fact, the goal as a rider should be to develop your natural aids, and your horse’s understanding so that you no longer need the artificial aids to assist.
And yes, while many riders will never reach this point in their conversation with their horses, it does help to keep the ‘why’ you are using artificial aids in perspective when you are training and riding.
Artificial aids are simply a tool to help you become more effective when using your natural aids.
Using Artificial Aids
There are many aids that are not natural and all can be used in different ways in order to clarify, back up, or strengthen your natural aids. A few of the most common and basic examples are:-
Whip (crop, pointer!)
Boundary of Arena
There are so many more, but these are the ones that the riders I work with most commonly use. And, again, when used correctly, there is nothing wrong with these aids.
When the rider is thoughtful, responsible, and compassionate each one of these aids can make a huge difference in how well the horse understands what is being asked.
Make sure you listen to this episode of the Daily Strides Podcast where I go further into how you can begin using these sorts of aids in your riding that will help develop your natural aids.
List of Resources on This Topic:-
- Using Artificial Aids when Working with Your Horse
- Essential Aids When Training Your Horse
- Weaning Yourself from the Arena Markers