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Why could my horse hate the whip?

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  • Why could my horse hate the whip?

    I've owned my gelding for 5 months now. From what I understand, he was a Hunter. Had dressage training, and sold to yours truly!

    My long term goal is for him to respect my lower leg. So no whips or spurs. I need a little bit of help right now because I'm not going to beat him up or dull him to my lower leg aids. With that being said, just recently I've started using the dressage whip.

    He honest to God seems to hate it. Our rides go miserably when I use it even if I never tap him with it. Kicking out at my leg, bucking, dodging and spooking, flattening his ears, hard tail swishes... It really breaks my heart. I wish he spoke English.

    I know the people who worked him before, and it's hard for me to believe they "abused" him or anything like that. I did have a clinician tell me last month he needed anger management... but I passed it off as something we could get past!

    If I ride without any aid or if I hold a crop, he goes beautifully. I NEVER have to touch him with the crop.

    Why could this be, and how on earth do I break him of it?
    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill

  • #2
    You make him associate the whip with pleasant things.
    ... _. ._ .._. .._

    Comment


    • #3
      Maybe he's ticklish .
      Why don't you just use spurs and the crop? I have no idea why your horse so overreacts, especially since you say he's fine with a crop. And some people may (validly so) say he has to accept it period, but if you just want a little backup for your leg, use the crop, or have a person on the ground equipped with a lunge whip to help you. You can also try carrying the crop holding it straight up, that usually gets them quite forward without ever having to apply it any other way.
      "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Originally posted by Equibrit View Post
        You make him associate the whip with pleasant things.
        I'm all for this idea, but the golden question is how? Especially in a bucking Bronco moment?
        "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by InsideLeg2OutsideRein View Post
          Maybe he's ticklish .
          Why don't you just use spurs and the crop? I have no idea why your horse so overreacts, especially since you say he's fine with a crop. And some people may (validly so) say he has to accept it period, but if you just want a little backup for your leg, use the crop, or have a person on the ground equipped with a lunge whip to help you. You can also try carrying the crop holding it straight up, that usually gets them quite forward without ever having to apply it any other way.
          This sounds like the best way. It's just so disheartening to me... I've never seen him act like this. Every time I think about it it gets me choked up, not going to lie. Do you think I should just try some Le Spurs first? I don't have much experience with them, don't know where to start!
          "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill

          Comment


          • #6
            I'm guessing he's an Arab. Any chance he had halter training? Maybe with a plastic bag tied to the end of a whip? Even if he wasn't shown in halter, he might still have had some halter-type training, or even been chased around with a bag tied to a whip. It's not exactly uncommon in the Arab world.

            Anyway, my Arab was terrified of the whip for a while. I got him used to a whip starting with a crop (if you want to make it less sharp, get a Nerf ball from the toy section at WalMart or Target, and replace the little leather thing with that soft foam ball). Once he accepted the crop touching him all over, and at any gait, then I've slowly moved back to the dressage whip. Now, I don't USE the whip. I just barely touch him with it and he responds just fine. Lay is on his flank or behind my leg. But it's taken a long time to get to that point.

            I have one mare who still sees a whip from the ground and comes unglued. She's been like that since I've owned her. My third horse couldn't care less about the whip, but I've had her since she was born.

            Comment


            • #7
              Why could my horse hate the whip?
              I can't imagine, I love the whip.

              Oh...did I say that out loud?
              Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Originally posted by Hampton Bay View Post
                I'm guessing he's an Arab. Any chance he had halter training? Maybe with a plastic bag tied to the end of a whip? Even if he wasn't shown in halter, he might still have had some halter-type training, or even been chased around with a bag tied to a whip. It's not exactly uncommon in the Arab world.

                Anyway, my Arab was terrified of the whip for a while. I got him used to a whip starting with a crop (if you want to make it less sharp, get a Nerf ball from the toy section at WalMart or Target, and replace the little leather thing with that soft foam ball). Once he accepted the crop touching him all over, and at any gait, then I've slowly moved back to the dressage whip. Now, I don't USE the whip. I just barely touch him with it and he responds just fine. Lay is on his flank or behind my leg. But it's taken a long time to get to that point.

                I have one mare who still sees a whip from the ground and comes unglued. She's been like that since I've owned her. My third horse couldn't care less about the whip, but I've had her since she was born.
                How did you know! Yes he's an Arab! I do not know if he has any halter training. This also sounds like a brilliant idea! So there is hope!
                "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill

                Comment


                • #9
                  Saw your thread and had to come over for a look. I have a Danish WB jumper that Hates the whip. You can carry it fine, but don't be waving it around for him to see out of the corner of his eye, and if he gets tapped with it, he is mildly manageable...anything more will send him over the edge and then he goes where he wants when he wants how fast he wants, and he is 17.2.He literally believes he must outrun it or DIE trying!
                  and this is an 18" H/J bat...hard to rub it all over him from the ground as like I said he will go where he wants in this scenario and is big enough to do so if he pleases. Trainer tried to rub it all over him with a rider on his back, and he about took out half the lesson kids in the ring at a rapid action half pass fom one end of ring to the other...so anyone have any suggestios???and not carrying a whip or being able to use one when needed at 1.40m jump or bigger is not an option..

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Equsrider View Post
                    Saw your thread and had to come over for a look. I have a Danish WB jumper that Hates the whip. You can carry it fine, but don't be waving it around for him to see out of the corner of his eye, and if he gets tapped with it, he is mildly manageable...anything more will send him over the edge and then he goes where he wants when he wants how fast he wants, and he is 17.2.He literally believes he must outrun it or DIE trying!
                    and this is an 18" H/J bat...hard to rub it all over him from the ground as like I said he will go where he wants in this scenario and is big enough to do so if he pleases. Trainer tried to rub it all over him with a rider on his back, and he about took out half the lesson kids in the ring at a rapid action half pass fom one end of ring to the other...so anyone have any suggestios???and not carrying a whip or being able to use one when needed at 1.40m jump or bigger is not an option..
                    I wish I was as far as you! I can't even hold the d@mn thing!!!
                    "No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle" -Winston Churchill

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      LOL, AnotherRound.

                      OP, you need to work on desensitizing him to the whip. There's no reason to be emotional about it--there may be absolutely nothing in his background that "caused" this reaction, and it's water under the bridge even if it did.

                      The easiest way would be to do what Equibrit suggests. There are a ton of different ways to go about this, but here's one that uses elements of positive reinforcement:

                      First, teach him to target something for a reward. Start in a place he feels safe, like his stall. Hold out something he's not afraid of (the more it resembles a whip the better--the bat would be fine) and when he looks toward it say YES (or whatever word you pick) and hand him a small piece of carrot. He'll quickly learn that looking toward the bat gets him a treat. Work up to having him touch the bat with his nose for a treat, saying YES the instant he touches the bat. This teaches him that when you say YES, whatever he's doing at that very instant is the right thing and he's earned a treat.

                      Now associate touching HIM with the bat with a treat, as long as he is standing still. Hold the bat toward his shoulder for a moment (he may turn to target it, if so fine, reward that) and if he keeps his feet still while you hold out the bat, say YES and treat.

                      Take it closer and closer, rewarding each stage, until he will stand there with the bat in contact with him for however long you want, without moving or becoming tense. This is called "shaping." You break down what you want into the smallest possible stage and you reward for each stage.

                      If he becomes tense at any stage, you went too fast for him, so go back to previous stage until he's ok. Any time things don't seem to be working, you are going too fast. You will do this in sessions over as long as it takes. Probably it won't take more a couple of sessions over a day or two. Keep sessions short, 4-5 minutes.

                      Remember that for him, touching him on the shoulder is one thing, rubbing him with the bat is another. The right side is one thing, the left side is another. Break it down into tiny, tiny pieces. Don't assume that because he's fine in the stall, he'll be fine in the aisle. It takes animals doing something in about 5 different places and situations before they generalize it and start to react the same anywhere.

                      Once you can touch him all over with the bat, rub him anywhere, tap him lightly, etc, with out tension--in fact, by now he should be thrilled to see the bat because he knows carrots are coming, then get the dressage whip and start at the very beginning, by holding it out a couple of feet away from him and asking him to target it.

                      Then follow the same procedure, when he's comfortable touching it with his nose. Work from his shoulder, both sides, to touching him all over. Work in different locations. Whenever you take him to a new location, start at the beginning, offering the whip as a target.

                      This is a very rough rundown of one way to go about not only desensitizing, but making him actually love the sight of the dressage whip. It will take a bit of time and patience, but if you are upset about how he feels about it now, just ask yourself if you are willing to put in that time to make him happy.

                      Now...just because he loves the whip when you are rubbing it on him doesn't mean he's going to love it when you mount and tap him with it. It's going to be a whole new thing again. He won't have generalized to this necessarily.

                      So start on the ground, and teach him now what the whip actually means. he's not going to be afraid of it, but now he has to learn it will tell him what to do.

                      One simple task will be to teach him to take a step sideways with his hindquarters. In hand, stroke him over the back with the whip, (you've previously desensitized him so he should be fine with this now, just standing there blissfully), then position it where you can tap him lightly on the big muscle just above his hock. Tap him lightly there until he shifts his weight--watch for the first "try". Even a cock of his leg. Remember he doesn't know what you are asking, so say YES, stop tapping, and reward the moment he even thinks about moving away from the tap.

                      The tap is "pressure" and ceasing the tap is the "reward." (Or release if you like.) The timing of the release is what teaches, so this can be done without treats if you prefer. Though he will learn faster and better if you continue with your word and treat at least for awhile, then you can fade that after he's learned the cue.

                      Shape this to where he will cross his hind leg over the other from 1-2 light taps.

                      Before, you were rewarding him for standing still while you touched him. Now you are rewarding him for moving away from a light tap. Do this on both sides. Do it in a number of different locations, just as you did the desensitization. Always start back at the beginning, don't expect as much, when you move to a new location or situation. He will very quickly figure it out, faster each time.

                      You can teach him to move forward from a light tap at the location just behind your leg, where you would use the whip for that undersaddle. Again, just start by releasing (stopping the tap) the moment he shifts his weight forward. Work up to one step, then multiple steps. Take it on the road to different places.

                      Does this begin to make sense?

                      Essentially I'm giving you a clicker-training approach, without the clicker. Also called behavioral training. If you are interested, there are a lot of book out there about clicker training, most of them for dog training.
                      Ring the bells that still can ring
                      Forget your perfect offering
                      There is a crack in everything
                      That's how the light gets in.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        What would happen if you just sent him forward. It sounds like he reacts to the whip, and then you react to his reactions. How about sending him forward, and keeping him reacting to you. If he is bucking, he is not forward

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I love this method and have used it to teach my babies their ground work...and I can lunge him with a lunge whip to make him go, and step out...but once I walk into HIS personal space its a whole different issue... unless I have a bigger stall I'm not sure if that option you provided will work because he is sooo large and I don't really want to be stuck in their with him spinning around until he finally decides that I am "safe" and am not gonna beat the holly crap out of him, which is what I believe started this whole issue somewhere in his past...I know, I know, baby steps and patience!!so I'll give it a try tomorrow, with a friend just in case I get run over by a semi and see if I can just stand in there with it...and then he can have carrots!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            sorry SonsaFire, didn't mean to hijack your thread! carry on! but I will be reading as I am curious and desperate to overcome as well.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Absolutely do this in a space you and horse feel comfortable and SAFE. If you need to start targeting over the stall door or a fence, start that way.

                              DON'T start with the dressage whip. Start with something that he is ok with. Establish the nice things that happen with the targeting. Go through the whole sequence.

                              Then you can start at the beginning with the whip. If you need to have a friend bring it up to where he starts to notice it, that's fine, start that far away. But I'll bet if you establish the targeting first with another target, maybe over the stall door, then when you present the dressage whip with the same body language "Here, if you'll touch this nice things will happen!" he'll stick his nose out the stall door at least, and that will give you a start.

                              Begin farther back then you think the beginning is!
                              Ring the bells that still can ring
                              Forget your perfect offering
                              There is a crack in everything
                              That's how the light gets in.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Thanks! will do!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Skip the whip. There is NOTHING that says you need to use the whip aid in dressage. Go for a pair of prince of wales spurs (small nub) and stick with that.

                                  If you must carry a whip, get a shorter one. Don't worry about an uber long dressage whip. And if/when you use it, open your hand and touch his side with it. Do NOT ever tap him with it. Just touch him and leave it on his side for a few seconds as a reminder.
                                  "And I'm thinking you weren't burdened with an overabundance of schooling." - Capt Reynolds "Firefly"

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Just a word of caution? or color commentary - I too wondered if the horse was an Arab. Some truly heinous things are done to Arabs shown in hand in main ring (not sport horse) classes that involve whips. Talk to people who've been around Arabs for a while and you will hear horrifying stories of how they are trained. Some horses never recover - meaning they can't be taken to a show grounds at all. A trainer got savaged at Scottsdale about 2 years ago by a stallion who he was trying to rehab from prior abusive halter training. Brought the horse into the ring and it had him on the ground pronto. There are some good people showing Arabs at halter, but for the most part, whip abuse and halter horses are the dirty dark side of Arabian showing.

                                    All this is just a runup to commenting that if this is the case with this horse, it's not something that they just have to "get over" as someone mentions above. It's more like PTSD and they may or may not be able to be conditioned out of it.

                                    Bottom line: proceed with caution. If you can't make any progress, use some other tool to get what you want. I have had the same problem with my Arab, who I do not believe was abused, but did show halter a few times and is *very* sensitive to the whip. I'm going to try riding him again this winter with a whip, but I don't plan to make a big issue of it.

                                    Good luck!
                                    Last edited by oldernewbie; Jan. 14, 2011, 08:27 AM. Reason: clarity

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      On the Arab I was riding who we KNOW had show training and freaked out about the whip we just went with the "deal with it" method. Now, he was just squirrely and rushed when you carried it at first, no bucking. So you may not want to go with the "get on, hold it, and ignore it" method that we used.

                                      In that case, do ground work first. Go to your arena/round pen/whatever with a halter and lead rope and the whip. Stand by his shoulder and hold the whip. If he freaks out then just stay where you are and do NOT move out of position. If you move away, you're teaching him that freaking out will make the whip go away. Instead, as soon as he stands quietly, move out of the way and let him relax. Rinse and repeat until you can tap him calmly with the whip. Repeat under saddle.

                                      The key is that you cannot release the pressure of you having the whip near him unless he's being good. Just break it down into safe, manageable sized chunks for him to deal with. If you go near him with the whip and he freaks out and you back away/drop the whip and then go love on him, you just taught him that the correct thing to do when he sees the whip is freak out.

                                      The good news is that within about 2 weeks with the horse I worked with you could ride with the whip the same as without it. After about a month you could actually use it effectively. Arabs are smart; he'll catch on that it means something new now.

                                      Clicker training (Melanie's way) should also work. I just can't feed my personal horse treats by hand or he'll start nipping so I'm out of the habit of hand feeding.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Even if they haven't been shown in MR Halter by a bad trainer, a lot of Arab people still use the plastic bag tied to the whip to get them "excited" so they will show off more. Most of the hrose world desensitizes the horse to certain things, whips being one of those things. But a lot of Arab people sensitize them instead because that reactive look is rewarded in the show ring. Not saying it's bad, it's just a different way of doing things, and it'll take some time to undo it.

                                        But Velvet does have a good point. If you don't need the long whip, then don't worry about it too much. Sure it's a nice tool to be able to use, but it's not necessary. I've gotten nutso-mare to second/third without the use of a whip. She's finally to the point where I can carry one occasionally, but she doesn't need it so I don't bother.

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