Chifney tribulations

Smew

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Nov 15, 2018
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It's about 35 years since last I worked with horses, until a few weeks ago. I began working at a local riding stables in Newcastle upon Tyne. One day, I was asked to bring down on of the flighty boys from the top yard and told to take a chifney. I had no idea what a "chifney" was, but after some hmmms and haaas from the yard staff, one was handed to me and off I set accompanied by one of the riding school pupils to collect flighty pants. When we reached the top yard, neither of us knew how it should be fitted- being a complete ring, I thought it must go round the muzzle (remember I'd never seen one before) so as neither could figure it out, we left it off and led him back, without incident, to the stables. The boss's incredulity at our failure was disappointing to say the least. Without any prior knowledge of this bit (I have since researched its use and know how it should be employed correctly) two of us were given the task of using what is a potentially very cruel piece of equipment without any advice. The stables' is manned by volunteer teenagers, in the main, none of whom, to my knowledge, has been taught about the "pressure and release" principle.
 

Bodshi

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Apr 23, 2009
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Well that sounds downright dangerous to me - what were they thinking? I have heard (although I don't know whether it's true) of horses losing their tongues because of a mishandled chifney. On our yard, we're told to put the lead rope round the horse's nose if they're being dangerous to bring in - say if they're shooting in the next field and all the horses are thoroughly wound up by the beaters. I've only ever seen the chifney used (and only by YO's OH) to load a difficult horse. I've no desire to use one myself!
 

carthorse

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Jan 6, 2006
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They do have a place, but in experienced hands & with horses that have been trained to respond to them. In my opinion a horse that needs to be handled in one shouldn't be handled by someone who is very rusty &/or a riding school pupil so neither of you should have been put in that position. I hope this stables has a good insurance policy because it sounds like they're very lax with safety!
 

diplomaticandtactful

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Apr 25, 2003
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sadly they seem to be becoming universal in racehorse handling and they are very severe. Should really not be used at all and certainly not in the wrong hands. A flighty pully strong horse would be better trained in pressure release and a rope halter. My filly went through the terrible twos and was on two legs a lot of the time, with patience and training we taught her to yield, to stay in her place and not be a pain in the a. All without touching her mouth or hurting her. She was taught to move her hinds and every time she tried to barge, block, she was made to yield. In the end it made her safe to handle and lead across a field and she still remembers how to do it. If she gets a bit feisty, we just revert to those exercises to get her attention and listening.
 

Jessey

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Dec 20, 2004
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Suffolk, UK
I had a big fight at the vets when Jess was 2 and had to go in for colic (surgical team on standby bad) the very first thing they wanted to do was put a chifney on her for during the examination/triage, I refused, they refused to handle her without it and they didn't let owners handle them for the vet, we were at a stalemate. Eventually seeing as she was in a right state they relented and said I could handle her without the chifney at my own risk. She behaved impeccably even for a perotoneal tap (big needle in the belly).
I don't object to the use of a chifney when warranted, by an experienced person.
They certainly shouldn't have put you in that position, it's possible to do serious permanent damage with a chifney used wrong.
 

fourlegs

Horse addict
That was irresponsible of the boss - I sometimes wonder about yard owner's mental capacity!

I use a dually halter if Scully is excited - as soon as she sees it she calms down and you can use the normal ring or the training rings depending on the situation, but I always train people who are going to handle her how to fit and use the dually correctly and read the riot act if I see them going to tie her up while the lead rope is on the training rings!
 

carthorse

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Jan 6, 2006
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@Jessey I had a similar experience with a hospital, I told them that Jim's immediate reaction to a chifney was to go up & strike out & they'd be far safer with a bridle or dually. They still tried - once.

I think they do have a place, but that place isn't as widespread as people seem to think & the horse needs to know how to respond & the handler needs to know what they're doing. I know some people seem to believe every horse can be trained to NH methods to be calm & responsive in all situations but I don't agree & in a busy environment with a large fit horse everyone's safety has to be the priority.
 
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Smew

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Nov 15, 2018
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Well that sounds downright dangerous to me - what were they thinking? I have heard (although I don't know whether it's true) of horses losing their tongues because of a mishandled chifney. On our yard, we're told to put the lead rope round the horse's nose if they're being dangerous to bring in - say if they're shooting in the next field and all the horses are thoroughly wound up by the beaters. I've only ever seen the chifney used (and only by YO's OH) to load a difficult horse. I've no desire to use one myself!
It seems, like so many things before it, to have become a fad. There's no reason why they couldn't be lead from their bridles with the handler using the reins sans leadrope. I'm quite pleased I'm no longer there. The horses were tied up using baler twine too- another controversial fad that began years ago for no apparent reason. Its tensile strength is greater than that of most horses, unless only a single strand is used. I'm back on my soapbox now...
 

Smew

New Member
Nov 15, 2018
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I had a big fight at the vets when Jess was 2 and had to go in for colic (surgical team on standby bad) the very first thing they wanted to do was put a chifney on her for during the examination/triage, I refused, they refused to handle her without it and they didn't let owners handle them for the vet, we were at a stalemate. Eventually seeing as she was in a right state they relented and said I could handle her without the chifney at my own risk. She behaved impeccably even for a perotoneal tap (big needle in the belly).
I don't object to the use of a chifney when warranted, by an experienced person.
They certainly shouldn't have put you in that position, it's possible to do serious permanent damage with a chifney used wrong.
It worries me immensly because the horses at the stables are generally bombproof but become skittish if spooked. Experienced handlers should be able to cope with a little shying without resorting to "faddy trends". It's the horses that suffer constantly. I saw one of our horses being lead back to the school and he looked as miserable and subdued as hell. It takes about a minute to walk from the top yard to the school (I'm aware anything can happen in a minute with horses in the equation) so it just seemed, to me, far too excessive a measure especially as they were used by inexperienced hands.