How important is the tack you ride in everyday and use in competition? Great horsemen and horsewomen have a comprehensive understanding of the tack they use every day and how it affects their horses. Knowing how tack should fit and feel on the horse’s body is essential to ethical training practices.
William Micklem, an international coach, author, trainer, breeder, and speaker, is known for the positive impact he has had on education in equestrian sport. Micklem gained industry-wide recognition with the invention of the Micklem bridle in 2006, which offers a more humane alternative to cranked nosebands.
The Micklem bridle quickly became the best-selling bridle in the world and has had great influence on the way both riders and trainers understand bridling practices. As a result, equestrians all over the world have become more educated on the structure of the horse’s skull and where nerves are on the head that may be affected bridles and nosebands.
Micklem advocates a simple approach to training, without force that pays due attention to the horse as a whole as opposed to fixating on the head and neck. Because of this, he advises against using pulley reins and other related pieces of equipment that make riders dependent on the use of the hand.
“My aim is to produce a happy athlete and develop the natural paces and outline in a progressive and harmonious manner,” Micklem said. “My methods are set out in the Complete Horse Riding Manual published by Dorling Kindersley in 2003, which is the best-selling manual in the world.”
So just how much does a solid education affect the performance of both you and your horse?
“Often a lack of harmony and ease between horse and rider stems from a lack of education combined with a desire to be competitive and ask their horses more than is possible. However, there are many riders, trainers and coaches who already do a wonderful job producing a horse going with both physical and mental ease,” Micklem explained. “As Equitopia is primarily involved in education, they will be able to spread the word more and help this process.”
“Equitopia is committed to research and science as a basis for everything we do with horses. Too much is based on tradition or habit in the horse world and it is only right that all areas should be examined to see if a good idea should give way to a better idea.”
Micklem stresses that respect is the key word whether we are working with competition or pleasure horses. “When working with horses or people greater achievement and success is possible by showing respect for your team member. This requires good listening skills and an accurate understanding of individual strengths and weaknesses, including constant re-evaluation and support. With this strategy, a higher level of work is possible so it is a win-win situation.”
“In addition, we have to keep studying our subject as this is the other way to demonstrate respect for our horses and our sport. This is what Equitopia does so well.”
There is power in knowledge, and the more that horse owners, riders and trainers educate themselves in matters like ethical tack use related to horse performance, the more horses can enjoy their sport in comfort and harmony with their riders.