In the various photos I’ve posted of late, my horse has been wearing a neck rope (or lariat) and I’ve had several questions asking why I use it. The neck rope is something I put on every time I saddle up, and I use it frequently and for varying purposes, with all my different horses.
In the first instance, adding a neck rope allows me to increase the sensory input to the horse when I am teaching an aid or movement whilst allowing my rein and body aids to remain subtle. My big horse Dee, for example, is naturally more go than whoa, and I use it frequently as part of our downward transition work to reinforce what it is I am asking of him without applying any more pressure through the hand or bit.
In my groundwork and in hand work, I often apply pressure at the chest for various cues, and the neck rope allows me to take some of that understanding and apply it to my time in the saddle.
The actual base of the horse’s neck also contains a large cluster of proprioceptive cells, and their ability to engage this part of the body will also have flow on effects to the back and the entire hindquarters. Given that it’s the unconscious brain that is ultimately deciding how and where the body is positioned at any one time, the neck rope stimulates this area and increases the sensory feedback, providing the brain with more information to be able to adjust itself in space.
The other reasons I use my neck rope include:
- Teaching neck yielding
- Encouraging the wither and back to lift in more collected work
- Supporting myself out and about if I feel a certain exuberance and I don’t wish to increase my contact on the rein
- Supporting any work I do with the bridle and bit
I’m big on knowing why you use the gear and equipment that you do. Many of us saddle up and use various items simply because that’s what we’ve always seen or been shown. I ride by the principle that less is more, and if I do use something, I want to know exactly what purpose it serves and how it supports the experience of my horse.