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View Full Version : Thoughts, tips, suggestions on getting respect, not fear, for the whip *Update*



yellowbritches
Jun. 28, 2012, 08:11 AM
I typically don't carry a whip on Toby except for at shows. I have found out the hard way that using it on him tends to send him into a bit of a panic, and while I DO use it when I need it on xc (like at ditches and such), I resign myself to the fact that we may land on the other side running. Thankfully, he's gotten far more dependable at his "scary" things this spring, and I haven't had to use it much.

However, last night in a jump school, he started to back off at some fences (highly unusual for him, and our thoughts on why he became backed off have been discussed at length...and, knowing me, will probably continue to be obsessed over for a week). There was a whip in the ring, so I was asked to carry it and use it to fix the issue, with the argument being he needs to get comfortable with a whip and I need to get comfortable using one with him (I agree on both points).

Well, it opened a whole can of worms, and while I did eventually get him back in front of my leg and jumping boldly again, the in between stage was not pretty.

My "homework" now is to get him to RESPECT the whip and understand what it means and allow me to use it properly (including being able to use it a stride out and on take off) without going into a panic. I can CARRY a whip no problem (he isn't one of those OTTBs that just the sight of it sends him into hysterics), but other than the occasional, very gentle tickle behind my leg to wake him back up after we've been standing, he is pretty over the top about it.

So, thoughts?

Hilary
Jun. 28, 2012, 09:35 AM
Star was unappreciative of the whip and reacted by bolting/bucking/kicking etc.

She also wasn't a fan of it just being around her, so I did some desensitization on the ground so she wasn't afraid of the object. Then made sure I could switch sides, move it around and not affect her.

I found 2 things helped wtih the acceptance. Use it on the shoulder. This gets their attention but doesn't tend to incite the bucking/kicking response.

Second, when you use it behind your leg, press it into them, then hit. use a dressage whip for this) The person who showed me this said that part of the problem was that she was surprised by the smack and thereforew too upset/outraged to give a correct response. If you press, then hit, they know something is there and are not surprised.

Do it at the walk as if you were teaching him to move off your leg to begin with. Whip = forward just like leg = forward.

Make sure when you do the smack you have loose reins so he can go forward without being told whoa at the same time.

GotSpots
Jun. 28, 2012, 09:47 AM
My older horse has a whip issue - sufficiently so that George Morris told me in a clinic that I did not need to use it off the ground even though that was the exercise. He on occasion will land, bolt, and can get semi-hysterical.

That being said, I still carry a stick every time I jump (and for awhile, carried one every time I flat). And I use it when necessary - often on the shoulder but occasionally behind the leg if I really need it - and am careful that I don't catch him in the mouth or punish the "forward" response that he gives me (it's the right response, even if there's some associated drama). He is much less concerned about it than he used to be -- my view is that repetition makes them more comfortable with the appropriate use of this aid.

yellowbritches
Jun. 28, 2012, 10:20 AM
You're right, GS. He's kinda sheltered because I almost never carry it, and when I do, I almost never use it, and when I do, it is a gentle tap-tap to wake him up, if that. This, I'm sure, is a large reason our school turned into quite the debacle for awhile last night. He was downright SHOCKED to having a whip used on him, and nearly had heart failure.

Poor guy. :no: Our "easy" jump school was a little stressful on a couple of levels. Ugh.

Blugal
Jun. 28, 2012, 10:38 AM
Totally agree with GS.

Also Hilary makes a great point about using it on the ground. You can take a driving or long dressage whip and do some in-hand schooling, with the horse against a wall, and work on acceptance.

I have found that getting them used to light tickles/taps with a dressage whip under saddle is the starting point. Also you must carry the whip every ride. Your jump whip start with using it on the shoulder.

And don't forget, praise when they go forward. If you practice the above on a regular basis, with praise, the horse won't associate the use of the whip with "very bad horse and horrible experience, running around like a loon."

alto
Jun. 28, 2012, 11:47 AM
Use it on the shoulder.
Your jump whip start with using it on the shoulder.

Desenstize to this on the ground first :uhoh: - it may have unlooked for dramatic effects ...

Robby Johnson
Jun. 28, 2012, 11:57 AM
So, thoughts?

There's more than one way to skin a cat.

Do you wear spurs and is he OK with those?

I am a big believer (and have come to this much more through experience than theory) in focusing the training of ourselves and our animals on who we instinctively are, and not who we aren't.

This doesn't mean there's no room for stretch goals and adaptation. For example, most horses would prefer not to get into a scary horse trailer, but it is a necessity. For many, the whip is a necessity. I personally never left the box without one, although I never used it. With Willow it was just an accessory, but with Rhodes its presence alone made him grow another hand taller and added 2 feet to his already enormous step. He wasn't OTTB freaky about it either, but he had a healthy respect for it, and my suspicion is that if I'd ever used it in an XC situation to "get in/over" I too would've been in the next county.

So let's say you view this training session as the razing of an old casino in Las Vegas, but instead of starting anew with new materials, you're challenged with rebuilding a new casino using the existing materials.

How do you re-purpose what you've extracted from the demolition and, really, is it worth it? My boss said to me about 5 years ago, "Don't hold out for perfection when 'good enough' will do." This was foreign to me, as a control freak/perfectionist, but it did affect me. Because what I've realized is that this doesn't mean I have to abandon my standards or ideals regarding the big picture. In fact, I get more things done and actually get closer to the goal/big picture.

I am not sure if this is helpful or not, but I know you and I share a lot of very similar qualities. I once overheard a trainer teaching a lesson say "pick and choose your battles." It was also something I "heard."

bornfreenowexpensive
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:15 PM
My opinion...first you stop making a big issue over it.

Carry a whip...everytime and on every horse. If you put your leg on and do not get the response you want...use the whip. One smack behind the leg. Then IGNORE the drama afterward. Just ignore it and ride on. He bolts...address the bolt by putting on your leg, bending etc. End of the day, most sensitive horses will react to the whip....you have to teach him (or unteach him--on the track it meant go faster) what the whip means. It means respect my leg. And just as you wouldn't ride him without your legs....don't baby him about carrying a whip or over think about his over reaction to the whip. He is likely a horse that you do not need to use the whip on often (or more than one well timed smack)....great, far better then those dull ones who don't react. But if you overthink too much about using it, then you increase the drama in my experience.

findeight
Jun. 28, 2012, 12:33 PM
Start by carrying the stick/whip every single ride. Carry it properly, never threaten, wave it around or just tap,tap,tap with it, that just irritates them. Use it like you mean it, one quick smack when you know he knows what he is supposed to be doing. Then forget it. NO temper or frustration should be involved.

Remember it is a back up for the leg when the horse chooses to take offense at what you are asking it to do. And, personally, I don't like it on the shoulder, the horse will want to go away from it and might start to duck instead of come straight forward. Sometimes that's what you can reach but generally, use behind the leg.

Anyway, you know you have to walk before you run so start by using it to sharpen up your transitions on the flat. Work thru all of them remembering to give him someplace to go, don't stiff him in the mouth. Introducing it on the flat at slow speeds and being consistent, you avoid using it only when there is already a crises and he is not sure what you want and gets surprised.

You don't ever want to surprise him with a smack and it should not be a surprise he HAS to respond correctly or he will get a smack. Once he learns this, you almost never have to use the whip and when you do, they understand and the wheels don't come off.

Hope this makes sense to you, you just don't want let things schlep around most of the time and suddenly make him have to be precise in response. Same way every ride is how they learn so you don't need the whip.

Twisted River
Jun. 28, 2012, 01:11 PM
This is how I was taught to desensitize and train a horse to the whip:

In stall, stand in the middle with the horse on lead (halter). Tap the horse, on the rump, with a stick. Horse should go forward, circling around the stall. Any forward is acceptable and you'll get variations based on the animal. If it's not forward enough, you immediately re-tap much harder. Point is to teach that yes you go, and no, there's nothing scary about the whip or going forward from it. Let them go forward for a several seconds and calmly whoa them back to a halt when they're ready to. Then tap again. Lots of praise and calm happy talk. Go a few times in both directions. Repeat the process each day, a few days in a row. Doing this in a stall was nice as they all seemed to feel safer in the stall and the size confinement kept them from getting to wild and reactive. It also lets them focus all their attention on the stick, and not worry about riding/jumping/etc.

I would try the stall method with him. I don't think training him to accept the stick while under saddle is the best method. It's not particularly safe for you or for him, and it causes both of you an enormous amount of stress. Even if he does eventually calm back down, I would imagine he's got a very negative mental association with the stick. Sure, some training you just have to grit your teeth and push the horse through whatever barrier they're at. But I think oversensitivity needs to be approached with mindfulness. When possible, and hopefully most of the time, your horse should trust you, trust your training, and like doing it.

findeight
Jun. 28, 2012, 01:23 PM
Most horses are not afraid of the whip itself. They just don't like getting hit with it, which I understand and I can't blame them.

But teaching them to think of it as a passive object on the ground is not going to do a thing towards getting them to accept it as a correction under saddle. For that you have to ride them, use all aids consistently and correctly and use the stick fairly if they do not respond correctly. Then they learn to respond correctly when asked.

Ground work is great but alot of stuff that happens when being ridden needs to be fixed when being ridden.

yellowbritches
Jun. 28, 2012, 01:37 PM
Most horses are not afraid of the whip itself. They just don't like getting hit with it, which I understand and I can't blame them.

But teaching them to think of it as a passive object on the ground is not going to do a thing towards getting them to accept it as a correction under saddle. For that you have to ride them, use all aids consistently and correctly and use the stick fairly if they do not respond correctly. Then they learn to respond correctly when asked.

Ground work is great but alot of stuff that happens when being ridden needs to be fixed when being ridden.
I agree. On top of that, I don't know if I want to make him any sharper on the ground than he already is. He can be very strong on the ground (a chain lives on his door for whenever we're having one of "those" days), and I think smacking him with a whip on the ground is just going to make him manic. Besides that, he DOES go forward from the whip...too forward in a panic!

Robby, I do agree with you. I am a firm believer that you have to train the horse you have and not try cram it in a box. Part of the reason Toby and I have clicked so well, I think, is that I understand who he is and make room for some of that abundance of, umm, character. I would like to see if we can work this out a bit, though. He's a wickedly smart horse (he was certainly VERY aware of the "GO FORWARD" lesson he had last night, as he was sharp and "yes, ma'am"ing all over the place today).

I think part of the reason this hasn't really been addressed is he is a mostly very forward thinking, obedient horse. But last night I found myself in a new place with him and I didn't have the tools to address it. He's never backed off like that before (again, I am pretty sure I know what was on his mind, so I am addressing THOSE issues separately), so I've never been in the place to need to fix that kind of behavior (vs "EE!!! Ditch!!!" type stuff). I do ride him with spurs and he is typically pretty obedient to my leg. When he's not, we go to the George Morris/petite attack type school to get him back to where he needs to be. So, he DOES get the concept of staying in front of my leg, usually, he just doesn't understand that when I use the whip it means the same thing and not "OMG!!! Run for your life!!!"

(He was a HORRIBLE race horse, so I've always wondered if this had something to do with it).

Thanks for tips and thoughts, etc. I did carry the whip today, and will do so from now on (I WAS raised in the school of spurs and whip every ride. I just got away from it with him).

findeight
Jun. 28, 2012, 02:18 PM
Um...when I said smack him on the ground I meant riding him doing flatwork, not from the ground off of him. Somebody else was talking about desensitizing him from the ground to cure fear of the whip...but I don't think that's the problem. Not really fear of it, he just does not like it.

Carry it all the time and maybe you won't need it. He can get used to it being there and that should help. Try to avoid only using it as a last resort when things are already headed to hades-unless you think you are going to die there. If you only use it when he is already upset, he will learn to be upset at it's use Only use it to back up exsisting aids in regular, non stress situations.

retreadeventer
Jun. 28, 2012, 02:43 PM
Every ride. Every horse. But with the fearful ones, I use a little short bat to start.)

ACMEeventing
Jun. 28, 2012, 04:31 PM
This is how I was taught to desensitize and train a horse to the whip:

In stall, stand in the middle with the horse on lead (halter). Tap the horse, on the rump, with a stick. Horse should go forward, circling around the stall. Any forward is acceptable and you'll get variations based on the animal. If it's not forward enough, you immediately re-tap much harder. Point is to teach that yes you go, and no, there's nothing scary about the whip or going forward from it. Let them go forward for a several seconds and calmly whoa them back to a halt when they're ready to. Then tap again. Lots of praise and calm happy talk. Go a few times in both directions. Repeat the process each day, a few days in a row. Doing this in a stall was nice as they all seemed to feel safer in the stall and the size confinement kept them from getting to wild and reactive. It also lets them focus all their attention on the stick, and not worry about riding/jumping/etc.

I would try the stall method with him. I don't think training him to accept the stick while under saddle is the best method. It's not particularly safe for you or for him, and it causes both of you an enormous amount of stress. Even if he does eventually calm back down, I would imagine he's got a very negative mental association with the stick. Sure, some training you just have to grit your teeth and push the horse through whatever barrier they're at. But I think oversensitivity needs to be approached with mindfulness. When possible, and hopefully most of the time, your horse should trust you, trust your training, and like doing it.

I would be VERY hesitant to try this technique. Being in the stall with a horse who is known to over-dramatize the response to the whip sounds like a recipe for disaster.

FlashGordon
Jun. 28, 2012, 04:38 PM
Um yeah I'd definitely NOT be trying to "desensitize" a horse to a whip in close quarters like a stall. Especially one that is known to over-react to one.

Sounds like a good way to get dead.

yellowbritches
Jun. 28, 2012, 05:55 PM
Besides above concerns (which, yeah, doesn't seem the brightest, especially with a horse like Toby), I also tend be feel that their stall is THEIR space. While I feel the need to be respectful while I am in their stall with them, I avoid needless uncomfortable situations in there when I can. Smacking him with a whip and spinning him around is one of those needless uncomfortable situations. :yes:

Peggy
Jun. 28, 2012, 11:01 PM
Cool came to me with a horrific fear of whips. Not sure if it was the track (he was galloped but never ran, perhaps b/c he was lazy and probably didn't see the point) or the person who ran him through a jump chute, but I couldn't carry even a short bat without him getting a bit worried and a dressage whip was out of the question. So, I carried a jumping bat every ride. Then graduated to a dressage whip. Didn't do much with it but I carried it literally every single ride. I also used a whip when I lunged him, teaching him to go forward off of it. He got used to it just fine

RiverBendPol
Jun. 29, 2012, 08:02 AM
Carry it every single time. Whenever you stop to chat, pat him with it. Stroke slowly to start, patpatpat his neck with the popper, switch hands, rub it around behind the saddle all over his rump. Obviously you're doing these rub-arounds slowly and gently according to his comfort level. My boys love the patpatpat on their necks when we're standing around in the all-important chat sessions. Use it as a beater only when it is well deserved and probably only one good whack will be sufficient.

subk
Jun. 29, 2012, 03:51 PM
I think this quote is the important part of the question:

I do ride him with spurs and he is typically pretty obedient to my leg. When he's not, we go to the George Morris/petite attack type school to get him back to where he needs to be. So, he DOES get the concept of staying in front of my leg, usually, he just doesn't understand that when I use the whip it means the same thing and not "OMG!!! Run for your life!!!"
Really all you're trying to do is relate in his mind the use of the whip as the result of his lack of response to a correctly given aid. He doesn't fear your spurs and responses to them appropriately because he's a smart horse and you're a good rider so you only use them in a situation where it is clear in his mind that he has not responded to you the first time you ask. You just need to transfer that same thought process he has for spurs to the whip. Meaning more than anything it is important you use the whip fairly and only when it is clear in his mind as to why your are using it.

He doesn't do something and he knows and expects the spur as a result. He overreacts to the whip and is surprised by it because he doesn't understand it too is a result of his own behavior.

One way you might do this is take your spurs off and go do a flat/dressage school. In those moments that occur in every school where you would give him a nudge with the spurs give him a light smack with the whip. I'm not sure what the GM/petite attack is, but I bet you can do the same thing using the whip instead of the spurs--probably get the same effects with less effort on your part.

Remember too, the ultimate goal isn't to be able to hit him with the whip it's to have him obedient enough that you never need to use it.

yellowbritches
Jul. 4, 2012, 05:30 PM
Well, I've taken a good deal of these tips over the past week. I've left the spurs off, carried it every ride, stroked him with it, etc. Up until yesterday, I hadn't needed it at all. So, we've been fine.

Early in our ride yesterday, he went to suck back a bit (he can be ever so slightly homebound, and he didn't care to walk down the drive with any expedience yesterday). Normally, I would have rattled him with my spurs, so instead, I tapped him behind my leg. He shot forward like he was getting shot from a cannon, but he got the point, and stayed nicely forward from then on.

Later on in the ride, I used it in an exercise on the flat. The first time, I was far too aggressive with it (ALL my fault. I really need to pull my punch with it on him!), and just about go bucked off. Toby DOES NOT BUCK, so I knew I had really offended and upset him. He was a bit of a basket case after that, so we went back to walk, and I stroked him with it and tried to remind him that it isn't a torture device. Tried the exercise again, really pulling my punch and just barely touching him. It helped, but he got very anxious and tense and needed to keep going back to "You are NOT going to die" type stuff. Ended by stroking him all over again with it while we hacked around the property.

Today he was very spritely and forward (and obnoxious, but that had nothing to do with the whip!). I did gently tap him with it again late in the ride when he went to back off and spook at something (vs rattling him with my spurs as I would normally do). Again, he shoots forward, but I think he is kinda grasping that, yes, forward is correct, and, no, it isn't the end of the world (but maybe it is, so be on guard! He thinks).

This may be quite the process. :rolleyes:

bornfreenowexpensive
Jul. 4, 2012, 05:38 PM
This may be quite the process. :rolleyes:


It will take time. Think how long it takes a green bean to understand what the leg means. This isn't different. Give him time with it.

yellowbritches
Jul. 4, 2012, 05:44 PM
Good point! :yes:

deltawave
Jul. 4, 2012, 06:08 PM
Sounds like his producing the drama is half the fun for him. Carry on. Let him be the ONLY one who gets offended and it will soon be boring for him to do so. :)

Blugal
Jul. 4, 2012, 07:45 PM
Sounds like his producing the drama is half the fun for him. Carry on. Let him be the ONLY one who gets offended and it will soon be boring for him to do so. :)

Agreed. I had two horses like this this fall/spring. There was major drama. I just had to ignore the drama and carry on. They are now much more polite about it (and I try not to smack them unless it is well-deserved. Light taps generally do the trick.) Also leaving spurs off every so often makes me sharpen up my aids - I tend to rely on them too much rather than insist on a proper reaction from my leg.