By Karen Nelson
The Degogue is primarily a lunging device, but is also used for riding. It can be used
with German martingale reins to give the rider some control over the contact.
It is used to lower the horse's head, and tuck its nose in towards the chest.
How it Attaches:
A leather strap connects between the horse's legs to the girth, then it splits into two ropes at the chest, which go up to
the poll strap, run down to the bit, and then back to the chest strap to form a triangle (see Option A below).
Alternatively, instead of running back to the chest, the ropes can snap back to the reins (see Option B below)
Snapped back to the chest
Snapped back to the reins
How it Works: Option A
- As the horse raises its head, downward pressure increases on the poll. The amount of pressure added to the mouth is
dependent on the position of the horses head. The more poked out the nose, the more pressure on the mouth as well.
The horse can evade the pressure to the mouth by hyper flexing (also called over bending) and creating a straight line
from poll to chest strap. The pressure on the poll is similar to that of the chambon, whereas the pressure on the mouth
is more of a down and back nature, similar to that of a gag bit.
- When the horse lowers its head, the pressure on the poll is reduced as long as the horse keeps its neck flexed, and its
poll tucked. The lower the horse's head, the more freedom the horse will have with its head position.
How it Works: Option B
- With Option B, the rider has some control of the pressure on the Degogue. The attaching of the strap to the reins
does somewhat change the action of the device, as there will be more pressure on the bit.
- As the horse raises his head, the ropes will tighten on the poll, and also up and back on the bit, creating a pinching
action between bit and poll. With this set up, the horse cannot evade the pressure of the bit by over bending.
- When the horse lowers its head, the strap running from the girth to the poll will slacken however the length from the
rider's hands to the bit will tighten and encourage the horse to curl its neck as the neck is lowered.
What is happening to the Horse
The Degogue forces the horse to both lower its head, and curl its neck with the head tucked in. Having the nose tucked
in this matter makes a big difference to the horse's posture, as the nuchal ligament that runs along the top of the
horse's back, is connected to the horse's skull. As the horse is forced to curl its neck, this ligament is stretched to its
maximum, similar to a horse ridden in Rolkur. If this important ligament is stretched to its maximum, it no longer has give,
and subsequently will pull the horse's spine into a tense state, with the pelvis being pulled up, rather than being allowed
to be round. As this is a painful state for the horse to maintain, most horses will develop tension and incorrect gaits.
CONS/Risks of using the DeGogue
1) If the horse does not understand to give to poll pressure, then the horse may resist violently to the feeling of pressure
up on the mouth and down on the poll. Rearing may be a consequence. The DeGogue is VERY restrictive of how the
horse can hold its head without feeling pressure, and so a horse may get frustrated trying to find release from the
pressure. A DeGogue or any piece of new equipment, should ALWAYS be done up in the arena and not on cement in
case the horse panics.
2) As this device works so well, it is easy to over do it, and cause back strain. If you decide to use this device, be sure to
warm your horse up first, limit how tightly it is done up, how long it is used for, and increase the tension and time as the
horse's fitness increases. It is important that the horse is encouraged to stretch, but not allowed to over do it and
potentially damage the Michal ligament, poll, back, and pelvis.
3) Only Option B is meant to be used with a rider, but if used, the rider must take into account the power of this device
and give the horse frequent breaks. The DeGogue puts an increased amount of strain on the spine, back, poll and
pelvis, and the weight of the rider will increase this strain.
4) If the horse is not encouraged to track up and use its hind end actively, then the DeGogue will effectively pull the
horse onto its forehand and will not have the desired effects. A horse may learn to go behind the bridle through the use
of this device.
5) The pressure on the bit is up towards the poll, which can pull the bit up into the teeth, and does not teach the horse
to give to the bit pressure in the same way it will encounter it when ridden "normally.
6) The DeGogue will no correct a horse that sucks its head up and back, and contracts its neck in an extreme manner.
This device will actually encourage hyper flexion/Rolkur.
7) The DeGogue does not allow the horse to use its neck in the walk and canter, nor does it allow for changes in
position associated with lengthening of gaits. Using the DeGogue for these gaits will disrupt the natural rhythm of these
gaits with the results being pacing walks with no over track and four beat canters.
8) As seen in the picture on the top right, when faced with pressure from the bit to "give" into a frame, the horse will
usually end up breaking midway along the neck rather than at the poll as this is the weakest portion of the neck. This
break in the neck breaks the fluidity of the back and will compromise the horse's ability to use himself.
An experienced handler is important to ensure the DeGogue is being used correctly and doing the job it
was designed to do, however most experienced trainers will not find this tool useful in training a horse in a
physically and physiologically healthy manner.