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WWYD: trainer using spiked poles?

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    WWYD: trainer using spiked poles?

    Hi all

    I recently by complete accident came across poles at my barn which were wrapped in plastic spikes, and I was initially horrified. When I spoke to others about it, it was pointed out that there are still worse methods that people use and it certainly isn't uncommon with top trainers. I've never seen them used so I'm assuming I've been kept in the dark about it purposely, which concerns me as to what else I'm oblivious to.

    I really don't know what to do, I'm not in a position to say anything as I also am a working student as well as having a horse there, my horse is ridden solely by myself (I would never do anything like that myself) but my question is how bad do people think this is and would it be enough cause to quit and leave for you? Or am I overreacting as an 'amateur' in a high-level pro environment?

    I would not want to be learning from this person since if they resort to bad short cuts you will not learn correct methods.

    However do you actually know these poles are used? They could be something inherited that's packed away. Don't jump to conclusions but keep your eyes open. You also want to observe for horses being drugged for performance and for overuse of harsh bits and gadgets.

    I would bide my time, keep my mouth shut at the jobsite, learn what I can and silently evaluate. COTH is good for a reality check from experienced people but be careful to keep your posts very anonymous so you don't end up panicking that your boss would see them.

    If your barn is otherwise a good place for you at thus stage I would stay, but keep my eyes open, and eventually do an organized move elsewhere if you think that's best. It would be silly to quit on principle just because you saw some bad gear in a corner

    On the other hand I would not send my horse to a trainer that did this . It's counter productive imho.


      They are called "tack rails" and they are typically made by attaching the bottom side of plastic carpet runner to a rail so that it bites if a horse hits it.

      I am not a fan (understatement) but it is true that they are fairly common at show barns.

      I would not automatically leave a barn if I happened to see one stored somewhere, but it would certainly make me pay close attention to the training going on.
      We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        Why not ask the trainer (or trainers, if more than one) if these are used & why?
        Be non-accusatory, just curious.

        Accept explanations without becoming hysterical, file away info for further use.

        If your trainer subscribes to the use of the poles, you are within your rights - as owner - to decline the use on your horse.
        *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
        Steppin' Out 1988-2004
        Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
        Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


          If these poles have been in use with sanction, permission, or by instruction of management and/or your trainer, I would quit.

          Saying that there are worse ways to train a horse is a red herring argument and I despise it when people try to justify something by saying "well, it could be worse, other people do worse!" Person B doing something that's more objectionable does not mitigate the fact that Person A is still doing something that's also objectionable.

          At the end of the day, who I associate with is a reflection of me: my standards, my morals, my ethics, and my integrity. If I knowingly continue working relationships with people who participate in behavior I find objectionable (even if it's not to my horse), I am implicitly sanctioning that behavior. I understand that being in this position is a privilege and not everyone will have the resources to be so willing to cut ties. That said, I would not be willing to continue any form of relationship with someone who uses implements like this.

          The caveat on this: if they are in use. While it bothers me that they are even around (seriously, if they're relics of a former trainer who has since moved on or a different era of a trainer's past that they have grown from and learned from their mistakes, why do they still have them? Either dispose of them or deconstruct them so the poles are not just wasting space..) I do think it is possible that people go through phases in their education and their understanding so just because a professional used inhumane training devices in the past does not mean that they have not come to conclude that doing so was a mistake and do not do so now.

          If you cannot identify for certain if they are in use, the advice above is solid. Observe, make note of what you see, and weigh the benefits of the position against the horse care and training.


            I'm surprised by the sentiments that these are common at show barns. I've spent significant time at a handful of A-circuit barns as well as numerous others that are less competitive, and I've never seen one of these in person.

            I wouldn't jump to conclusions - they could have been left by a previous trainer, or maybe a boarder made one up, who knows. The reactions of your barn mates sound like they would concern me personally in terms of the general attitude of the barn, but that's for everyone to decide.

            I wouldn't drop everything and leave over this finding, but like others said, I'd keep an eye out for other concerning signs. It's either an anomaly for this barn, or you'll find that it isn't.
            If the pony spits venom in your face or produces a loud roar, it is probably not a pony. Find another. -The Oatmeal


              Original Poster

              Thanks for all the advice - it's difficult to ask people I know directly as obviously don't want to spread rumours without proof or jeopardise my current position there. I definitely will keep an eye out (I'm there a lot of the time so should notice something), but they definitely are from the current trainers as were attached to jumps that were only bought a couple months ago by them..


                They could have bought a set of jumps that included the poles. Maybe they bought them from another barn as a package deal. Wait until you see them in use. See if they raise the pole to knock the horse in the knee! Of course it strikes me that if you jump in sport boots the horse won't feel that tacks. Also most horses hate hitting poles anyhow.

                Anyways just wait and watch. It's generally a good idea in life anyhow when you are an employee.


                  Originally posted by BritishEquestrian View Post
                  but they definitely are from the current trainers as were attached to jumps that were only bought a couple months ago by them..
                  So this is a new thing.

                  I wouldn’t panic much as of now. Like Scribbler said, it was most probably poles in the lot of jumps they just bought.

                  If they’ve bought it a couple months ago and haven’t been used since, maybe they will never be used.

                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


                    Even if these tack poles (or plain poles used to hit and "pole a horse) aren't used often at all, they do say reams about the training professionals at this farm. If you know they are on the property, the owners/trainers do too. I would not even allow these on my property for fear that anyone even THINKS I'd use or condone them. Just like I wouldn't have double twisted wire bits or bike chain nosebands in my barn for the same reason! And while a simple snaffle can be abusive in the wrong hands, sorry - just having this other gear around speaks volumes.

                    There's a saying, "Abuse begins where knowledge ends". I would put these artifacts in that category.
                    Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...


                      Originally posted by Lusoluv View Post
                      Even if these tack poles (or plain poles used to hit and "pole a horse) aren't used often at all, they do say reams about the training professionals at this farm. If you know they are on the property, the owners/trainers do too. I would not even allow these on my property for fear that anyone even THINKS I'd use or condone them. Just like I wouldn't have double twisted wire bits or bike chain nosebands in my barn for the same reason! And while a simple snaffle can be abusive in the wrong hands, sorry - just having this other gear around speaks volumes.

                      There's a saying, "Abuse begins where knowledge ends". I would put these artifacts in that category.
                      Trainers bought this jump lots a couple months ago.

                      You know that these poles can have their tack carpets removed? They might just be waiting to repaint/repair/repurpose whatever they bought.
                      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                      Originally posted by LauraKY
                      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.


                        I too am in the wait and see if the jumps were just brought in a few months ago - heck I gave a bunch of old poles with the plastic tack carpets that had been in the back corner at a h/j barn for years to a pony club barn, and they sat there for a few months until it was warm enough to repaint them.


                          They were fairly common decades ago in hunter/jumper training barns. They may still be common. IMO, it shows a "trainer" who has missed the point of training and jumping horses. A "trainer" who has some incorrect opinions about jumping horses. The same trainer may have some OTHER quite adequate advice, that may well be useful to you. But if they use those poles, that tells you something about them, and their lack of horsemanship skills in this respect. Don't panic, don't say a thing. Just watch and form your own opinions. Your saying anything is not going to change them, stop them from using the poles, or improve them as horsemen.

                          There are many people out there, hanging a shingle that reads "horse trainer" on their barn driveway, who may do things that you, personally, don't agree with. It is possible that they are complete fools in their horsemanship, training and riding skills. But they not be completely incompetent fools, and may have other information that you find helpful as you learn from them. It may be that not only do you learn what you WANT to do, you may also learn what you DON'T want to do. You do not have to fully emulate or worship anyone. But you can learn something from everyone.


                            If these jumps were purchased used and are currently sitting in a corner waiting to be repaired and painted, I would not be concerned yet. If they are being set up and used as is, then I would move my horse. If jumps are repaired and repainted and the tacks are kept and used, I would be horrified and move my horse ASAP.

                            Caveat: I am a regular amateur boarder. I can move my horse at any time as long as I’m willing to pay double board one month. I’d likely consider the use of spiked jump poles to warrant paying double board. I can understand how working off board might change perspective and time frames.


                              I think you could ask a question in a way that does not sound accusatory...
                              “I saw these in the jump storage, and I wonder how they are used?”
                              Possibly they were part of a set, and would never be used...but if I bought a set of jumps with tack poles, I’d rip them off immediately so that no o e would think I’d use such a thing.

                              i would not not want to participate in a program that uses tack poles. I speaks to a system that has holes in the training, and holes in ethical horse care. “Others doing worse” is a piss-poor reason to support this behavior with your presence.


                                Nope. Leave. No legitimate use for these, no legitimate reason for them to even be around. I worked for a man who had these in his possession from days gone by and you bet there's a reason he never dismantled them and disposed of them--because he never knew when they might come in handy and saw no problem with their use.

                                Bad news. Move on.

                                So many threads on bad news trainers. So very many. How these people continue to make a living is beyond me. They thrive because of ignorance of the customer base. OP-please leave and take your money with you. Good for you for asking questions and not blindly accepting answers. Double good on you for seeking out a third party educated opinion. Now PLEASE act on it and get the flock out.

                                Ps. I love all the people who say--oh just make it clear that you do not condone their use on your horse. Excuse me while I died laughing and had to pick myself up off the floor to type this reply. Yeah right. Leave.
                                Power to the People


                                  Way back when ago the barn I lessoned at had one. It lay along the rail in an obscure corner, nobody really seemed to know how long it had been there, where it came from or who might have ever used it on the property. I don’t recall ever seeing it used, it was always in the same place, covered in dust, dirt around it undisturbed. One of those bits of detritus that sprouts up and you plan to get rid of it or rehab it or whatever, and something else is always more pressing and it isn’t really in the way or causing harm, so there it sits.


                                    Can you describe the spikes in more detail? Are they long, short, etc?
                                    Some people use poles with spikes on them for other reasons not having to do with jumping. For instance as a scratching post or as a prop for trail competitive classes.


                                      I have seen them used in the 70's and 80's I never used them but the lady I trained with sometimes did. The ones I saw were "carpet tacks ----- Those strips that carpet layers used when laying wall to wall carpets. They are about 3/4" high. and when applied to a rail they were less than 1/2" high.. That part of the pole was usually turned down.. but it might be turned up if a horse always was late with one leg and had a lot of rail's down with that leg. With this method, the horse could avoid hitting the rail if he jumped with his legs square. The current, legal way to get the same results was to meet the jump at an angle. If the rider rode to a deep spot, the rail would usually come down, no matter how hard the horse tried to jump to avoid it
                                      Q: Which method is worse?
                                      Q: Would you talk to the trainer and leave
                                      Q: If faced with the same problem, what would your solution be?
                                      Q. Would poling be 'better'?

                                      The way I saw it used never made me gasp in horror or leave. But those days are long gone. However meeting the jump at an angle is still allowed, I think.
                                      Last edited by Lord Helpus; Feb. 9, 2020, 02:15 PM.
                                      "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"


                                        Can I be ignorant for a second?

                                        First off, I've never even heard of these poles with carpet runners on them.

                                        That said, what is the fundamental difference between using a REALLY heavy rail (lots of trainer do that), or a 4x4 with barely rounded edges (a facebook "god" with the initials D.E. has many many 10' poles like this that are heavier than sin), and a pole with plastic spikes on it? The spikes will hurt (so will an ultra heavy rail, or one with an edge), but won't actually injure the horse (like a really heavy rail, or one with an edge).

                                        Lots of times you hear people say don't use PVC for the top rail because it doesn't sting enough if the horse biffs it (amongst other reasons).

                                        What makes this different than all the other training "thoughts" on making sure the horse learns a lesson if they rub a rail? Pain is pain, no?

                                        **please note - I use 8' landscape ties for every jump I make at home. I don't know what shows use and don't check honestly, so maybe I have jumped an ultra heavy one - it's not something I aim to do regularly. I'm just trying to understand the visceral reaction to this, yet not to the XH rails**.

                                        ETA: Wait wait. Are these plastic carpet things, or the metal ones? That would TOTALLY change my thought process, as the metal ones can actually do damage.
                                        Last edited by endlessclimb; Feb. 10, 2020, 09:33 AM.