I can barely contain my excitement. There is a new product on the market that feels to me like a direct answer to a prayer. My prayer was, “How can I make a seamless transition from ground work to under saddle using attraction-based methods?” Before I tell you about this new product, I feel the need to explain why I’m so enthused, even before trying it.
When it comes to ground work, I honestly feel the sky is the limit in terms of what can be accomplished with a horse with pressure-free training. On the ground I can harness the full use of attraction-based power through targeting. However, under saddle, I’m on the horse’s back and I feel the communication changes. The horse can no longer read my face, my body language, or follow targets as easily.
It’s never felt right to me that negative reinforcement (pressure-release) has to be the only line of communication under saddle. It’s bad enough that I’m assuming the position of a predator crouching on their back, then I subject the horse to all sorts of pushing, pulling, whacking and cropping to get the desired behavior. Not to mention strapping on a stiff saddle and a tight girth to their body and a metal bar in their mouth. The entire process is seriously invasive, potentially painful and no doubt traumatic if the horse receives inadequate explanation.
If I think about what happens to a horse under saddle too much, it’s almost enough for me to stop riding. The only thing that keeps me at the mounting block is the fact my horses come running to me when I have a saddle and bridle in my arms.
I spend the bulk of my waking day trying to figure out how I can make under-saddle activities as much fun and pressure-free as my attraction-based ground work.
Under saddle, I’ve used targets successfully (a ball I can throw) with my young Clyde, when I taught him to fetch. Instead of using pressure to teach him to walk forward, I simply threw the ball and he followed it, picked it up and handed it back to me. This allowed me, on our very first ride, to ride all over our pasture pressure-free, while he was happily communicating with me. You can see Raleigh, my Clyde targeting and fetching under saddle here. And Romeo, my Paso Fino, here.
Now that my Clyde and I have progressed beyond fetch-under-saddle, I’ve been searching for a way to reward under saddle without so much clicking and stopping for him to get his reward. I also train with verbal reinforcement, without clicking and food rewards, but I really miss the extra oomph that the food reward adds to his effort, and I think he does too.
So here it is. I think this new product may bind those seams together (treating under saddle) that until now have felt very separate. It’s called the Nutri-Bit. Here’s their description from their website:
It’s simple. NutriBit delivers liquids into your horse’s mouth with a device that is already in your horse’s mouth – the bit. We make the bit the delivery point and the reins the storage and delivery system. All it takes is a gentle squeeze with your hand to take liquid nutrients immediately from the rein, to the bit, and drips right on top of your horse’s tongue. With this system all kinds of liquids are available for your use. This makes NutriBit a valuable piece of horse tack. It’s one of the most unique horse bits on the market.
My new NutriBit is in on the way as I type. It’s my prediction that this bit will revolutionize training as we know it, especially for all the clicker and positive reinforcement horse trainers.
Here’s the part I’m super thrilled to try, the treat is delivered instantly, no stopping to hand feed a treat. Here’s what this means to me: No more bouncing of my fanny pack, no more treats spilling onto my saddle getting trapped under my thighs. No more stopping a fantastic canter to pause to hand feed a treat. I can’t wait!
I can only imagine what this will mean to gaited horse trainers. The instant the horse is in gait, the horse can receive a liquid goodie with the mere squeeze of the delivery system. You can bet the horse will actively want to stay in gait.
For the jumpers, the horse could receive a liquid goodie just as his front legs are tucked perfectly. For dressage, no pausing during piaffe. For cutters, deliver a little liquid when it locks on to the correct cow. The possibilities are endless.
For any discipline, I can only imagine the positive effects with this type of reward system. I spoke with a NutriBit representative and he said he used it while training a young horse on a mountainous trail in Wyoming. He said the moment the horse started to get a little nervous, he squeezed the reins to release a tiny bit of liquid, and the horse calmed down and could focus. My heart literally leaped with joy thinking of how this product gave a young horse confidence and support during such a formative time in its training. What a wonderful way to create a solid foundation full of positive first impressions.
To me this is huge and supports my theory about the mare-foal relationship. A horse’s first experience with feeling secure and happy was receiving nourishment, (liquid nourishment) from its “Source of all Good Things,” mama.
When I duplicate that dynamic I think it feels very familiar to the horse and then the horse recognizes me as its Source. When I am the Source in my horse’s world, I suddenly and easily have all the trust and respect I could ever want, without ever having to assert my dominance through force, pain or pressure-release methods.
I think this new bit system could transform the future of riding. Apparently there is a NutriBit system in the works for driving. Just think about how wonderful it will be to positively reinforce your horse while remaining seated in a cart or carriage from 12 feet away!
So here it is, three cheers to new inventions, happy horses, and a positively prosperous New Year for everyone!
I’ll definitely keep you posted!