Do you NEED CA's tools to get the job done...NO
Are CA's tools nice and effective....YES!
I've been owned by horses for 23 years and I've never been one to go with the "rave" products from anyone. I rarely got/get new stuff and if I did, it was because it was on sale, some how fixably defective, or a few times I was lucky enough to find something "amazing" at a yard sale and the person just didn't know the value of what they had. "Score for me!"
I took my daughter whom saved her money for "something special" to a CA Walkabout tour about 5 years ago. At that tour she purchased a halter, lead and handystick for her horse. Spent every dime she'd saved.
I was skeptical. I had tried many different styles of rope halters, I didn't have any success with them, they stretched, they frayed, they didn't seem to be very effective in my opinion. I didn't know what all the rave was....until I used my daughters CA Halter and Lead.
I have been completely converted! They are REALLY nice! It took us 3 years and finally we had a halter and lead for EACH of our 4 horses and then last Christmas, someone broke into our barn and stole 2 sets, my daughters and my husbands, mine was "hidden" under some dropped hay and obviously not seen and my ponies set was at a friends house.
I've been "making due" with the one horse size we have left but fully intend on replacing them in the near future.
I'm thinking who ever stole them either knew their value or knew how amazing they are to use...They didn't take anything else, none of the knockoff rope halters, none of the other lead ropes, none of our saddles (and I have a nice crates) Nothing else was taken. Thankfully! :)
If you decide to buy a set, they ARE nice and in my opinion, totally worth it. But you CAN get the job done without them.
As for the handy stick...that's one tool I rarely use. It's cumbersome to me, we have a standard and child size one. However if they were stolen, (luckily they were in our house) I wouldn't be so anxious to replace them as I am the halters and leads.
Several years ago at a walkabout tour that I took my husband to, I bought a bridle/bit/mecate rein set. I've been very happy with it...I love the look and feel and quality of it, however if it had been stolen (phew) I'd have been upset, certainly...but I wouldn't be as anxious to replace it as I am the halters and leads. :)