A product that allows you to start a young horse without venturing on to its back has been launched in Ireland.

The Ardall is designed to resemble a human torso and is placed on the back of an untrained horse — or one that hasn’t been ridden in a while — to accustom the animal to the sensation of being ridden.

Showjumper and trainer Paul Murphy of Co Kerry, launched the Ardall at the Dublin Horse Show (3-7 August).

Paul, who starts around 30-40 horses a year, told H&H: “Breaking is a main part of our business. I originally created it to make our lives here easier, but decided to market it.

“I’ve had a few near misses with young horses — it’s dangerous — and as a showjumper I couldn’t afford to be injured.

“This [the Ardall] gets horses accustomed to a rider, without the risk of someone falling off.”

The dummy, which weighs 35-40kg, fits all standard saddles and can be used during long-reining and lungeing.

Paul said it speeds up the backing process, but the aim was safety.

“It stays on — the first rule of breaking a horse is not to come off it, as if you come off today, he’ll try again tomorrow. And if you come off again tomorrow — then you’re in trouble,” he added. “It doesn’t matter how good a rider you are — horses can still be unpredictable.”

The Ardall costs €669. For more information, visit: www.ardall.com

Read this story in full in the current issue of Horse & Hound (25 August 2011)