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Thoughts on neck stretchers and chambons?

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  • Thoughts on neck stretchers and chambons?

    Hi gang. This post is a total hypothetical question. I don't have any horses that wear neck stretchers or chambons. I just see other people using them. I guess, in theory, they're much like draw reins (which I don't love, but primarily because most riders' hands aren't educated enough to use them -- including my own).

    I'm not sure I understand the point of these things. Does teaching the horse to go in a "frame" with it's head strapped down really serve a lasting purpose? Doesn't the horse revert back to it's natural shape the second you take it off? And if you're not creating this shape naturally by riding from behind into your hand, how does the horse develop the right muscles -- or the understanding -- to maintain it? That's really my main question right there.

    A lot of people more experienced than I use these tools, so they must serve a purpose. I guess I just don't understand how these training aids have a lasting effect. Can anyone chime in?
    Last edited by gertie06; Aug. 14, 2019, 08:48 AM.

  • #2
    I use a chambon regularly for lunging, and very rarely for riding (it's said never to ride in one, but I can't find any safety reason why it's worse than other contraptions, so I don't mind riding in one if the situation warrants it).

    A chambon doesn't put a horse "in a frame" because it doesn't influence the nose, only the poll. I use it to encourage my mare to stretch down and out when I can't directly influence her on her back. Are you thinking of a DeGogue?

    I will sometimes lunge with just that on, or sometimes I'll add the Equiband (?) system to get her to step deeper underneath herself. Depends on what I'm trying to do while lunging - loosen her up, or give her a workout.

    EDIT: I didn't answer your question. Does she revert back? No, because I don't rely on it as a crutch. It's an aid, to be used when needed. If she's high headed when I do X because she's uptight today, the chambon helps her figure out where a better place to be is. I also use it when I'm working on a loopy rein, to have her not go into giraffe mode and help her stay focused.

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    • #3
      I haven't used a Chambon in ages.. especially once found the Neck stretcher. I prefer the neck stretcher because has so much give, and it is more forgiving than a chambon. I like the neck stretcher because on a horse that responds to poll pressure I've found it helps them relax and learn to accept contact. That being said some horses hate the poll pressure and it isn't helpful at all. I also like the fact that when/if a horse tries to throw its head in the neckstretcher it isn't harsh jolt to the poll ,mouth or nose like standing/running martingale can sometimes have. I also feel on the horses that I've used it on it helps them learn that they are just fighting themselves if the choose to come up over the bit and way past the vertical. ( of course if a horse likes to suck back the neck stretcher can't help you..but then again i don't know of anything that will other than more leg). I have never used a neck stretcher to get a set frame, but rather to help them learn to use them selves and come thru their back more into the contact. i feel it is nice quiet reminder... and if the horse responds correctly helps build the correct topline muscles. So that when you aren't riding in it the horse will have the right muscles.
      I usually use at most for a 1-2 weeks if I think a horse needs it, i call it bungee boot camp. and usually i end up w with a softer more balanced horse after that. I did have one gelding who i always flatted in it at shows, we called it his dumbo feather, he didn't really need it but it helped him focus and relax at shows in the warm arena... and then we took it off for jumping.

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      • #4
        I hate neck stretchers. Seems like it sticks them in a false frame behind the motion. I will lunge rarely in a De Gogue.

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        • #5
          I have one that uses his head and front end as a weapon when wild. The neck stretcher can prevent him from turning into a dangerous dragon in these circumstances. I call it the Equalizer. I can't lunge this one as he is prone to bad behavior and shoe ripping antics.
          Trinity Hill Farm

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          • #6
            Like everything, they're a tool that can be used extremely effectively IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING.

            I love neck stretchers. I love my Equiband system. I use them when I'm trying to accomplish something specific (strengthening, stretching, etc.) at specific times.

            I'll also add, I love draw reins. I very rarely use them, but when I horse just isn't getting it, I've found they can be a great tool to help reinforce what you're trying to teach.

            Tools are rarely cruel or hard on the horse by themselves...it's up to the rider/trainer to implement them wrong, and only then can they be harmful.
            __________________________________
            Flying F Sport Horses
            Horses in the NW

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            • #7
              Hmmm. I don’t know about the poll pressure and I suppose would depend much on the horse. The more classical “neck stretcher” I think would be the use while longeing the horse of Vienna or “sliding” side reins. These go from the saddle or billets through the bit to between the front legs and there is no fixed point to the bit. They are adjusted so the horse can reach down and “stretch” into the contact and seek and maintain it on their own. Not used under saddle only while longeing. Very popular in Europe with dressage folks. Really encouraged my young horse to stretch long and low and work over his back—used while keeping impulsion from behind. I like this because it encourages the horse to SEEK contact, not avoid something. The horse is free to find his own comfort area and relax into it.

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              • #8
                Using a neck stretcher properly is similar to a martingale. When the horse raises his head he hits the end of the bungee and feels a release of pressure when he lowers his head. A standing martingale works on the noseband and a running martingale works on the bit. A neck stretcher works with a combination of bit and poll pressure.

                As with anything else, it's best used sparingly by a rider who understands what it feels like to have a horse truly on the bit and taking contact, knows how to get a green horse to that point, and knows when to ditch the extra tools and just work it out with a snaffle.

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                • #9
                  I have used a neck stretcher under saddle. The horse was fit and athletically capable of engaging his hind end and lifting his back, but he simply had no clue that it was an option for him in motion. His way of going even in the field was head up, back down (suggested by his conformation and the way his neck tied into the shoulder.) I used a neck stretcher loosely adjusted to teach him that he could put his neck down. Since he understood engaging his hind end and he understood feeling contact, at that point, his response to the leg, and the poll pressure, encouraged him to push up and through his spine. It was a lightbulb moment. Used in concert with ground stretches to develop the topline and proper flatwork, it was part of the training wheels that helped him to understand that he had another postural option. Maintained through proper flatwork, the horse's carriage completely changed.

                  What I like about a neck stretcher as opposed to draw reins is that in a neck stretcher, the correction is applied by the horse coming up against poll pressure. In draw reins, the correction is applied from hand to mouth. It is much easier for an uneducated rider to cause harm with the draw rein.
                  "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden

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                  • #10
                    The difference is the chambon doesn’t pull the nose in. They both encourage the horse to lower the head, however, the chambon allows a true unlimited longitudinal stretch whereas the neck stretcher has a limited range of motion because the nose is fixed at a certain point. When the horse is learning to stretch you don’t want to limit their range of motion. I would not put uneducated horse that doesn’t know how to work over it’s back, in a neck stretcher. It’s way too easy to get a false frame that “looks pretty” but the horse isn’t actually using its back properly. In the classical method, the chambon is the only acceptable head lowering device.

                    In the classical sense, a horse with a correct foundation that is taught to stretch into contact (rather than evade) only uses the chambon in the preliminary phase as training wheels (and may not need one at all). If the foundation is correct, the horse will have a mouth that follows the hand and will naturally lower its head with an allowing hand and engaged back. The stretch is a result of relaxation and the engagement of the inside hind.

                    A horse that needs repeated reminders with gadgets probably has some holes in its foundation and/or isn’t truly relaxed in their work.
                    Last edited by Satin Filly; Aug. 18, 2019, 09:04 AM.

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                    • #11
                      People get into trouble with this stuff because they use them as short cuts instead of developing muscle and balance and only then adding something to fine tune or get the horse to understand what to do. They are simply a tool for a job with the right preparation at the right time. The object is not to need them every ride to force compliance. They are sometimes usefull when serious misbehavior is expected...like an anchor.

                      When you see people riding well behaved horses in them all the time, the horse learns nothing except how to evade them,like curling behind in draw reins or dumping on the nose to avoid poll pressure. Mark of a lazy, uneducated rider or one that is scared of their horse. IMO. And that includes some Pros.

                      Right time, right place for the right reason with a horse physically and mentally ready to accept the fine tuning and a rider who knows why and how? Useful tools.

                      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

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                      • #12
                        Chambons are the only gadget I'm familiar with that doesn't restrict the horse when it stretches down and out. Everything else limits the nose moving forward. They're considered dangerous for riding for the same reason as side reins, the rider is unable to release them in an emergency. (also the reason most disciplines don't allow standing martingales) The DeGouge attaches to the rein of a german martingale and some release happens at the rider's control.

                        Personally not a huge fan of a neck stretcher in the conventional use. I prefer to use them 'backwards' like true side reins, and quite loose with horses that have issues accepting contact. The horse can toss and yank and root while I quietly keep them working. The horse never hits a hard limit and there's a point that the bungee goes entirely loose.

                        That's just what works for me and the type of horses I tend to find.

                        The stories of the T-Rex Eventer

                        Big Head, Little Arms, Still Not Thinking It Through

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                        • #13
                          Gimmicks. 💩

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by gertie06 View Post
                            Hi gang. This post is a total hypothetical question. I don't have any horses that wear neck stretchers or chambons. I just see other people using them. I guess, in theory, they're much like draw reins (which I don't love, but primarily because most riders' hands aren't educated enough to use them -- including my own).

                            I'm not sure I understand the point of these things. Does teaching the horse to go in a "frame" with it's head strapped down really serve a lasting purpose? Doesn't the horse revert back to it's natural shape the second you take it off? And if you're not creating this shape naturally by riding from behind into your hand, how does the horse develop the right muscles -- or the understanding -- to maintain it? That's really my main question right there.

                            A lot of people more experienced than I use these tools, so they must serve a purpose. I guess I just don't understand how these training aids have a lasting effect. Can anyone chime in?
                            In my personal experience I don't like the "feel" that draw reins, side reins, chambons or neck stretchers develop. Maybe it's how I ride? I'm not sure - FYI I have 40 years of amateur horse ownership and have had my own barn for 20 years, yet my experience is still much more limited compared to those that have worked with hundreds of horses over a long period of time. Or maybe it's that I have not worked with a horse that really needed one of these training tools.?

                            Maybe my hand cannot coordinate the right feel with the training tool and how I have my horse go. I like forward thinking horses... that reach under with the hind, that is soft in the aides, flexible in the neck and rib cage. The feel in my hand is soft but connected with the poll at the highest point. Taking the feel of my hand forward with them. I find when I have used the training aides such as a chambon; it lowers the poll too much and even with the softest feel the horse will curl behind the bit. I get nuts when the horse ducks behind my contact.... maybe it's that I don't have the right feel for it.

                            If I need a horse to listen to my hand because he may be disrespecting it I will go to a bit that has more leverage like a rubber pellham or I have used a mini gauge with a regular bit; so I ride off the regular bit but when the horse decides he wants to take over I can go to the gauge.

                            I have also recently found ground work (somewhat like the western people do with the flag and all) is very helpful in getting control and the ability to maneuver the hind, front with a soft rib cage and soft neck to be really effective and wonderful.

                            I know I am not much help because I think I pretty much said what you were saying.....
                            Last edited by doublesstable; Aug. 20, 2019, 01:40 PM.
                            If you like the distance you see; continue forward. If you don't; stay still and the shorter distance works out. ~GM~

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                            • #15
                              I’ll lunge in a chambon to build muscle if I have a real stargazer. I don’t like a neck stretcher. They teach can horses to curl.

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                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Renn/aissance View Post
                                I have used a neck stretcher under saddle. The horse was fit and athletically capable of engaging his hind end and lifting his back, but he simply had no clue that it was an option for him in motion. His way of going even in the field was head up, back down (suggested by his conformation and the way his neck tied into the shoulder.) I used a neck stretcher loosely adjusted to teach him that he could put his neck down. Since he understood engaging his hind end and he understood feeling contact, at that point, his response to the leg, and the poll pressure, encouraged him to push up and through his spine. It was a lightbulb moment. Used in concert with ground stretches to develop the topline and proper flatwork, it was part of the training wheels that helped him to understand that he had another postural option. Maintained through proper flatwork, the horse's carriage completely changed.
                                I had the same experience with one of mine. He came to me completely inverted, ewe necked and hollow backed, hocks trailing out behind him and that is how he went in the field too. He had the bone structure to be a balanced horse, but his muscles were completely upside down, and he moved like a washing machine.

                                Under saddle, he was so committed to being hollow he refused to try stretching down and would become rude and dangerous when asked, he would lose his balance and scare himself. I'm sure it was very uncomfortable at first too.

                                So into the chambon he went on the longe, slowly and patiently until he had his lightbulb moment and discovered his ability to balance. Between the chambon, poles, equiband, carrot stretches, in hand work and jumping out of hand, he stretched and suppled and learned he could use his body a new way. It took a few months for him to prefer his new way of traveling.

                                Life intervened soon after and I haven't been back in the saddle for over a year, but he has transformed his way of going and is a completely different looking horse now. From his ears to his tail he's round and muscled and all 4 legs are in their corners. With good nutrition, good farrier work and an outdoor life on terrain, he is self-maintaining his topline.

                                The chambon was an essential tool to achieve this because it gave him the gentle encouragement to stretch down and out, while giving him the freedom to find it at his own pace and not scare himself.


                                Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.

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