Northants Horse Trader Magazine follow many local businesses on social media and when ‘EJ’s Equestrian’ a local breaking in and reschooling business posted about the work they carry out using ‘Duncan’ we were keen to find out more.


Ellie has many years experience with breaking in and reschooling horses. The process can be stressful for some horses (and trainers!). Ellie was keen to look at ways she could minimise the stress of the horses that she worked with; after some research Ellie decided to import a dummy from a company called Ardall based in Ireland that she affectionately calls ‘Duncan’.

The Ardall is a device for training horses. Designed primarily to accustom unbroken horses, or horses that have not been ridden for some time, to safely accept a rider, it can also be used for training performance horses.

The Ardall Comprises of Four Main Parts:

1. The Torso

The main part of the product resembles a legless, human torso with short arms. At its core, there is a coiled spring, which facilitates movement when mounted on a horse. This spring is enveloped with medium-grade foam in the shape of a torso, which is covered with high quality, UV-protected leatherette.

2. The Base

The torso is affixed to a flat, solid base, which has been specially moulded to fit any standard saddle. This is covered in the same leatherette as the torso. On either side, there are two straps - used for securing the Ardall onto the horse - and one screw-on ring, through which the reins go during lunging and long-reining.

3. The Harness

An essential component of the product when in use, the harness fits onto the torso. The extent to which the Ardall moves when mounted on a horse is regulated by the tightness or looseness of the harness.

4. Weights

These weights serve to make the Ardall heavier helping to introduce the horse to the sensation of a rider’s legs on either side. These take the form of two boot-shaped canvas bags, which are filled evenly with fine sand (up to 2 stone/12.7KG in each.) These are clipped onto the Ardall, one on each side, and secured with straps. We also add a riding hat to him to make him seem more realistic.

You can find out more about the Ardall dummy by visiting

Ellie believes she has reduced the stress levels of the horses she works with significantly. Ellie told us that this method has in her opinion “proved to be a much kinder transition to the riding experience for the horse”. Ellie added “I feel that as well as being kinder, it is a much kinder method to start a young horse or to restart a problem horse. Some horses do not like the sensation of legs when they first touch their sides, or the height of a rider above and behind the back of their heads. I find that using ‘Duncan’ helps to desensitise them before a rider gets onboard and therefore minimises injury to both horse and rider. It also initially eliminates the pull on the horses mouth, when and if they react”.

Firstly Ellie begins the work by introducing the basic ground work, such as lunging, long reining and wearing tack. After the basic training, it's then a natural progression to ‘Duncan’ the dummy.

The timescale varies with each horse as to how long they take to accept ‘Duncan’, it can be as little as 10 minutes to start with up to 45 minutes. Ellie finds that 2-5 days use is all that is usually needed in most cases.

Backing a young horse or retraining horses does require experienced and knowledgeable handling as every horse is different and you need that knowledge to be able to adapt to each situation and to keep both horse and rider safe and calm.

Ellie always uses ‘Duncan’ initially on every horse or pony that comes to her to be backed or restarted in their ridden career; as she never knows how each horse is going to react and it's just a safer and kinder start. 

NOTE: Always seek professional advice before riding, working, training and handling horses.