In horse training, one person’s gimmick is another person’s tool. So before I dismiss a particular technique or device, I want to take a long hard look at it. What problem is being addressed? What principle of behavior modification is being used? How much expertise does it require to be effective? Does it elevate or diminish my relationship with my horse? What does my gut tell me about this approach? As you might guess, I seldom find reason to pronounce something a gimmick. It seems like there is always some redeeming value.

Look at this drawing from the 1896 book, Jesse Beery’s Practical System of Colt Training and Horse Breaking. To cure a horse of pawing, a small block of wood is suspended from the horse’s upper leg. If the horse paws, the block bangs his leg, so the horse punishes himself. Gimmick or tool? Personally, I find this an ingenious tool for helping horses learn to stand quietly. Is it foolproof? Of course not! It would be most effective in a confined space with a quiet horse and it would be inappropriate for an overly reactive or timid horse that might panic. And I would never use this device on a horse that wasn’t being monitored regularly.

This week on radio, Mike Kevil weighs in the subject of gimmicks and tools. Listen.