Reply To: Fear of crops, whips, etc.

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My mare had been owned by people who did little but hit and jump, to the point that she is terrified of anything that looks like some sort of thing with which she might be hit (she is getting over her fear of jumps, because we just don’t do that). She is doing nicely with lateral movements, and I’d like to progress to some more advanced things. Most of the books and videos recommend tapping the horse with a whip, very gently. Anyone have some helpful advice on how to get her over this fear? Just carry something around with me until she realizes that I would never, ever hit her? Use the lead instead of a whiplike thing?

She is very responsive to the leg, and I do not even need to use my heels on her, so she is sensitive, and she is willing to try new things, so long as jumping isn’t involved.

I have a 3 year-old gelding who was very afraid of whips. Start with a dressage whip, or some other short crop type whip, and just start touching your girl on the nose with it, and move it away. I used a dressage whip, as it had a short lash that I started with. I would touch him and move the whip away immediately, praise him, and repeat. It took a few weeks of starting with his nose, then moving to his face, neck, body … slow but steady, talking to him constantly, letting him sniff it and mouth it, praising, rewarding (treats work amazing with him, but might not for every horse), and continuing on … he now uses longe whips, dressage whips and any other whip in reach as a toy. He had clearly had someone in his short past use a whip on him in a heavy handed manner (he was only 2 when I got him). I just recently was able to clean his stall using a fork and muck bucket in his stall with him in it. That took a full year, he was that terrified of the forks.

As far as using the whip for some of the more advanced stuff you want to do, if she responds without the whip, then you don’t need it, but I do recommend getting her past that fear. You may not need a whip with her, but someone else nearby might be using one, which could bother her, or she might accidentally get touched with one … things happen. Time and patience and exposure ….