An important tool in horse training is a whip. There are a lot of different types of whips available. You can call a whip also a training stick, as the word “whip” does have a somewhat negative association since its original use was to punish men or animals. But of course, this is not the reason why we use a whip during training!
Hitting a horse as a punishment is completely useless; it will only serve to damage trust. Punishment with a whip has no place in the Horsefulness Training system because it is not a horse friendly and respectful way of training.
Why do we use them?
We use whips because you can use them as an extension of your body, specifically your arm. Working with a whip can therefore help you to make wider movements. You can also move faster with it and you can touch body parts of the horse that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to reach.
The arm, with the whip as an extension, can be used as a driving aid (in an indirect way). Or you use it as a physical aid (in a direct way).
Driving aids (indirect aids)
Here are some examples of driving aids, where the whip/training stick acts as an extension of your arm.
- To demarcate your personal space during Liberty Training and Groundwork
- During all connection-exercises from Liberty Training
- For a request to to go forward during leading from the 2nd position
- To ask your horse to leave on a circle during circle work
- To encourage your horse to make a transition to a higher gait
- To lunge your horse
Driving aids are therefore aids where you ask your horse to start moving, keep moving, move more energetically, etc. With driving aids, you also indicate direction. The whip provides support for aids given by your body.
Physical aids (direct aids)
By “psysical aids,” I mean all aids where you touch the horse in a direct way. Some examples of physical aids are:
–Stroking the horse with the training stick to teach him to accept touch
– Vibrating with the whip against the flanks as a replacement of a leg support during gymnastic groundwork.
– Touching the horse with the whip against the fetlock (joint) to ask the horse step under during lunging.
– Putting the whip against the inner shoulder to take the horse from the inner shoulder during riding.
– Touching the horse with the whip when teaching the piaffe by hand.
Physical aids are therefore aids where you actually touch the horse with the whip. If your arm were be long enough, then you would do this with your arm. So with the whip, you can touch all body parts that would be impossible to reach with only your arm.
With the aid of the whip, you can do touching exercises at the height of the tale, while you are standing at the height of the head. Or during in-hand work, where you walk next to the shoulder, you can give aids with the whip to the flanks, the legs, the croupe, etc.
During riding, you can use the whip as a support for a leg aid; for example, by touching your horse with it on the outer hip when you would like to ride haunches-in, or on the shoulder as a reinforcement of your indirect rein aid.
The whip supports your body, not the other way around
The word “support” is very important here! A driving whip aid without prior aids will be less effective or will be given too mechanically.
The aids that precede and accompany a whip aid are always: your intention, your energy, your body language, and ONLY THEN your whip aid, if necessary. If you did this the other way around, your horse would not learn to react to your energy and body language; you would make the horse dull.
Different types of whips
In the Horsefulness Training system, we use the following different type of whips.
The short carriage driving whip
The dressage whip
This is a whip of about 1 metre to 1.20 metres long and is used during Gymnastic Groundwork and Riding.
A twig is a cheap and full replacement of both the short carriage driving whip as well as the dressage whip. Look around for a twig that is flexible in case you use it as a driving aid. If necessary, you can also make a noise with it. Look for a tough, thicker twig in case you would like to use it as a physical aid (touching stick).
The advantage of a twig is that you can make it as short or long as you like. With a horse with fear of whips, it can be good to start with a short twig.
The whip is a means of communication and not a means of punishment!
I would like to conclude this article by emphasising that the whip should never be used to hurt the horse in any way! From the moment that this happens, the horse not only loses trust in whips, but also in humans.
The whip should only be used as a means of communication: to communicate in a clear and respectful way!