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The whip

horse training whip

An important tool with horse training is a whip. There are a lot of different types of whips available (you can call a whip also a training stick). The word “whip” does have a somewhat negative association since its original use is to punish men or animals by hitting very hard with it. But of course, this is not the reason why we use a whip during training!

Hitting a horse as a punishment is completely useless. On the contrary, it will only damage trust. Punishment with a whip does not belong in the Horsefulness Training system because it is not a horse friendly and respectful way of training.

Why do we use them?

driving-with-whipBecause you can use them as an extension of your body, of your arm. Working with a whip can therefore help you making wider movements. You can also move faster with it and you can touch body parts of the horse which you normally 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)

I give you 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
  • During the request to go forward during leading from the 2nd position
  • To ask you 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, and to move more energetic, etc. With driving aids you also indicate direction. The whip provides support for your  aids given by your body.

Physical aids (direct aids)

With this I mean all aids where you touch the horse in a direct way. Some examples of physical aids are:

teaching-piaffeStroking the horse with the training stick to teach the horse to accept touch

– Vibrate with the whip against the flanks as a replacement of a leg support during gymnastic groundwork.

– To touch the horse with the whip against the fetlock (joint) to let 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 would be long enough than you would do this with your arm. So with the whip you touch all body parts that you wish to touch with your arm, but which is impossible because your arm is too short.

whip-work-in-handThis way, 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 working in hand, where you walk next to the shoulder, you can give aids with the whip to the flanks, the legs, the croupe, ….

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 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

body language horseWith this, the word “support” is very important! A driving whip-aid without prior aids would 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 and not the other way around…If you would do this the other way around, your horse will not learn to react (anymore) to your energy and body language. You make the horse dull.

Different types of whips

In the Horsefulness Training system we use the following different type of whips.

  1. The short carriage driving whip

This whip is light and is used during Liberty Training, Groundwork and lunging.

  1. The dressage whip

This is a whip of about 1 metre to 1.20 metres long and is used during Gymnastic Groundwork and Riding.

  1. The twig

liberty-work-horseA 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 sissing noise with it. Look for a tough, thicker twig in case you 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 for 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 to emphasise that the whip should not hurt the horse in any way! From the moment this happens, the horse not only loses trust in the whip, but also in humans. 

The whip can only be used as a means of communication: to communicate in a respectful and clear way!


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    One thought on “The whip

    By james on 31 October 2015

    I know a equine trainer teaching horses in heels and witnessed him striking the horses lower legs with five heated swats to get the horse to hustle when it didn’t want to move. This troubled me can you give me any tips to get the proper reaction next time before he has a chance to do that again. There not my horses so I can’t really stop him but it really is horrible to watch as I am pretty new to this training.

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