Thursday, August 27, 2009

My Arabian Dressage Horse

This was my first serious dressage competition horse. She was a purebred Arabian mare, and for you Arab owners and lovers, she was an Ivanhoe Tsultan daughter out of a pure Crabbet mare. For those of you who are not familiar with Arab bloodlines, she had really good breeding for dressage.

She was lovely, and I had her for 14 years. I actually saw her for the first time two years before I bought her, and her initial trainer had her earmarked to be a western pleasure horse, and even had shown her a couple times in "maiden" western pleasure classes, with a bit of success, but he also was a good enough trainer that he followed the training scale principles, even though he had probably never heard of it.

But when I tried her, I knew she had the qualities I was looking for....she was forward, and calm, and naturally pretty balanced for an Arab. I was actually looking more for the breeding than what kind of training the horse had. She also had an awesome disposition. She was an amazing horse. She would go anywhere, preferred the company of humans over horses, was bonded to me wholeheartedly, she was great at shows, didn't mind being by herself, calm, trusting, willing, and had so much "try" in her, that I swear she would do anything.

This is the horse that I could let loose to graze and would stay around the house before we had fencing, looking through the windows every now and then to make sure we were still around; would lower her head for a small child to put the bridle on; knew when a person had a learning or physical disability and would adjust herself to accomodate that person in whatever way they needed; would puff up in the show arena and bang out a relaxed and flawless test after just almost getting run over by the 17hh fire-breathing-dragon in the warm-up ring (and best that ruddy-warmblooded-horse, just for good measure LOL); who would give true collection and self-carriage to a student, if she sensed that is what they were trying for, even if the aids were not quite there, but would absolutely not transition from walk to trot if she felt that the rider could not balance, even if they were giving the aids for that transition....I could go on and on. She was self-assured, but incredibly generous to her humans. And that is an inherent trait in Arabs. I love them for that. A well-trained Arab is the consummate amateur's mount. They are intelligent, and sensitive, and generous of nature. They can do anything pretty well, and some things they can do better than anyone. :-)
I still miss her. She was put down in 2004, just after the hurricanes (which she weathered with the grace and courage that made her who she was) due to complications from Cushings Disease, and she is buried in her front pasture.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Other" breeds in Dressage

I have ridden, trained, and/or owned many different breeds and types of horses. I have also ridden and/or competed in many different disciplines. I won't list them all, but suffice it to say that in everything, the underlying principles of riding have been the same.

I believe (and practice) the same principles of riding and training the horse, no matter what breed or type it is, for the foundation of the horse's training. No matter what the horse will specialize in, the foundation is built according to the Training Scale guidelines (or pyramid, as some call it) of the USDF and the German FN, up through about third level (single flying changes and all lateral movements).

This has served my horses well, so the (what I call) standard principles of training carry over into all types of competition, and across all saddle-type breeds (walk/trot/canter breeds, that is--the gaited breeds need special consideration in the training scale, and will specialize much earlier in the training process, and I do not have much experience with them at all).

But, do all breeds carry over into dressage competition with the same consistency? In other words, is it a level playing field in dressage competition for all breeds? The one-word answer is "no". The qualifier is "with the same consistency". And it has nothing to do with not liking a particular breed on the judge's part. Dressage judges judge according to an ideal standard of quality and training, which are outlined in the USEF rules for dressage. And dressage judges, in my experience, have been the most educated, methodical, and fair group of judges among ALL the disciplines.

ALL 3-gaited breeds and types--they don't even need to be breed-registered, are (and should be) able to compete in dressage competitions, but when it comes to dispersing more favorable scores and awards, there is a component of judging that separates the breeds that are developed specifically with the sporting disciplines (dressage, jumping) in mind from those breeds developed for other purposes (flat racing, endurance, sprinters, pulling, etc.).

That component is quantified in the first of the collective scores (Gaits), but it is also the underlying theme throughout all of the figures and movements of the entire test. It is more than "gaits". It is the quality of those gaits, and it goes to the genetic physical and psychological type.

These (yes, I am talking about the warmbloods) breeds are developed with an "uphill" conformation that makes it easier to shift their point of balance back for greater collection, and move freely through their backs and shoulders; they have large open joints that make elasticity and collection easier for them; great strength through their loin areas, as well as other physical attributes that have been proven to be desirable specifically in the sporting disciplines.

We hear about "rideability" a lot in descriptions of the warmbloods, which speaks also to the psychological attributes of the horse allowing himself to be guided in all sorts of contortions, and remain calm and relaxed (this is quantified in the "submission" score in the collectives), and to not resist the rider. The horse gives himself to the rider; body and spirit and accepts the rider's guidance completely. These are the ideals that are in the forefront of the breeders' philosophies.

Other light horse breeds have been developed with other factors more in focus--run fast, jump high, be brave/bold (Thoroughbreds), think on its own, crouch down and pivot (quarter horses), pull heavy loads, take small steps and push weight through the chest (drafts), etc. Which is not to say that those breeds don't possess any amount of the same qualities that the warmbloods do--it is just that the emphasis of the physical and psychological aspects are different.

And that is one reason that ALL breeds can and should "do dressage"--(refer to my previous post from 7/25/09 "Is it REALLY dressage"), the "other breeds" will have a more difficult time winning in dressage competition against the warmblood types, all other things being equal. Of course there will be exceptions that prove the rule, and when it all comes down to it, TRAINING is key. If you spend the time necessary to develop a solid foundation on any breed or type of horse, you will get your share of the ribbons, and the scores as well.

I have found that the key to riding an "other breed" in dressage competition and winning is in the quality of the correct training that can garner enough points to win more and higher scores and ribbons in competition against the warmbloods--technically correct, well-ridden, and total focus by the partnership on each other makes a formidable presentation.

Just know that you have to be patient, and get help from a trainer/instructor that has experience with the breed you are working with. The journey is much easier if you have quality help.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Horses I have known and loved

I am very fortunate. I have heard lots of people say
"Consider yourself lucky if you own one truly great horse in your life". I have owned several, and have worked with
many! I was reminded of this when I found these old photos I have of Aize, a wonderful Friesian gelding, owned by a student of mine.

I knew I had some pictures of her riding him, but I forgot about the ones of me riding him in a clinic with Joaquin Orth! (at right~~~>)

Aize was such a pleasure. He was boarded and in training with me, both at Windsor when I was the Director of Equestrian, and at my home before that. He had a LOT of hair (about an hour's worth of grooming every day)! But he was fabulous to work around and to ride.

My student, a junior rider, has since gone to college, and made the difficult and very mature decision to sell
him (to another dedicated young rider, who still owns him).

They were both such a pleasure, and I am so happy to
be part of their lives. I will post some more stories of the horses I have known (that I have pictures of) in later posts. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

About Instructors and Giving Lessons

Wow, I forgot how many associations, federations, organizations, and subscriptions I had before I took a year off to help with an election. I spent all day today (and some of last night) updating, re-joining, and renewing all that stuff.

I also forgot how expensive the whole lot is. I mean, one organization at a time is not too bad, kind of like a monthly payment where you forget that the thing you bought is like, a gazillion dollars, because you don't have to come up with one lump sum.

I got this crazy notion that I would get quasi-serious about showing again. Now I HAVE to follow through with it because I have just renewed membership in USDF, USEF, gotten my HID and USDF Horse Registration, not to mention renewing my ARIA membership for certification (I have kept that current!), renewing my instructor's liability insurance, checking out the entry fees, show fees, stabling fees, USDF/USEF fees for showing, hotel fees, gas fees, etc. etc. etc.
Which is a great segway into the real topic of my post. :-)

I know that some people don't take lessons from me because of what I charge for a lesson. I do understand that, to the lay-person (which in this instance is someone who is unfamiliar with, or just starting to explore the world of horses and riding), what I charge seems expensive when compared alongside the person who is a trainer and instructor because they have owned a horse for a while, it hasn't killed them yet, and they "need the extra money". (Emphasis on the last clause)...I have seen people advertise that they give lessons (individual) for $10.00 or $15.00 per hour (!)

The problem is that it is not very easy to tell by looking at us, which one of us is more qualified than the other (or not qualified at all). In some cases, even the lay-person can get a gut feeling--well, "TrainerX" has a ribby nag with one shoe missing, his back leg cocked and ready and a nasty look in his eye, and he has no arena-just "over there in the corner of the pasture", is smoking a cigarette, and holds a finger up at them while telling the person on the cell phone--"hang on, a potential victi-I mean-customer just walked up" and IRIDE's facility is neat and tidy, the horse is shiny and looks happy to see Mary coming with the saddle, and the arena is clear, level, well-marked and maintained and there are signs to mark your path, and she smiles and greets you like she was expecting you--no, we all know those differences well. And I am certain that we ALL know a facility or two that would fit the "TrainerX" profile.

The big problem is that most examples are not that dramatic. How do you tell if the nice lady with the horse in her back yard and gives lessons to the meighborhood kids is really qualified to keep you (or your children!) relatively safe in your first experiences around horses, and knowledgeable enough to guide you to an effective position and foundation of riding and caring for a horse? Because they say so? Because they give lessons to other people like you?

Remember, there is no requirement for licensing or certification requirement, no proof of insurance requirment, no business license; no proof of anything required on any level--local, county, state, or federal--for most of us (the exception in MA, where there is licensing requirement for riding instructors, trainers, and boarding facilities, although I am not familiar with the specifics). And a LARGE number of trainers/instructors (even some with credentials) do not carry liability insurance...which can be a disaster, even with the best of intentions.

And here is the real kicker--somehow, the public (even a lot of us who have been involved in horses for a while) has gotten the notion that it is rude or improper to question the potential trainer/instructor about their education, background, philosophy and/or experience. If we research a professional at ALL, we simply ask around about what they (or their students) have "done at shows". And we are not very thorough about that, even. Most of the time the trainer with the most first-places wins our confidence and undying loyalty, and that part also makes me crazy.

And frankly, most of the time, the choice of who is going to teach you to ride comes right down to who is going to charge you the least amount of money. And there is a certain amount of perceived logic in that, because you figure that the more times you are on the horse in a given period of time, the faster you will gain the skills you desire.

The problem with this logic is that learning to ride can be dangerous. The whole reason you take lessons in the first place is to learn the skills necessary to understand and guide these magnificent (BIG) creatures and STAY SAFE while while having fun and the exhilerating experience of catapulting over the ground, flying through the air (attached to the horse, hopefully), and moving more gracefully and in harmony with another species than you could ever do alone. But people who have never (or seldom) ridden have no basis for understanding just what it takes to learn to ride and avoid serious injury. They hear, but have no basis for understanding just how educated and dedicated the instructor AND the school-horse have to be.

And before this post gets so long that I lose my entire audience due to death by words, here are some tips for choosing an instructor:

  • ASK for a resume or CV--if they cannot produce one, whether it is by deflecting, stalling, or getting offended that you would ask, don't walk away--run.
  • RESEARCH their claims--check to see if they have the certifications that they claim. If they list shows where they have earned certain awards, such as USDF shows, reults are published for the current year in most cases on the USDF website. If they only list local shows, you might want to expand your search for an instructor--although that shouldn't be the only criteria for elimination.
  • INSIST on a trainer with certification in one of the nationally-recognized associations...ARIA, USDF, CHA, and others. The instructor's CV should state what organization they are certified with, what their level of certification, and a website that will list them as certified--and check the wesite! Make sure they are telling the truth! I have seen personally four different people who have lied or seriously misled clients about being certified....they think you will not bother to check.
  • SET an initial appointment after you have done your research (and be prepared to pay for it--an instructor's time is what they get paid for, whether it is mounted or not) to discuss lesson rules, ettiquette, format, attire, and get a feel for the instructor's philosophy, temperament, protocol, etc.
  • SET an appointment (if possible) to watch a lesson that is approximate to the level of instruction you will be receiving (the instructor will guide you in this).
  • SET up a lesson, make sure you know what the price will be
  • BE on time for your lesson
  • BE prepared to pay a reasonable price for a lesson. My prices that I charge are listed on my website and I have paid as much as $200.00 to ride in a lesson with an instructor where I had to trailer my horse in, which adds to the cost of the lesson in terms of time and travel...and I was happy to pay it because of the credentials that this person has (and my horse and I are at the level where it was worth it). But for basic riding lessons--which means from first time on a horse up through "third level dressage" equivalent lessons, expect to pay between $50.00-$75.00 for a session on your own horse, and $70.00-$120.00 for a lesson on a schoolmaster provided by the instructor. If you are not paying this much for a standard lesson, then you are likely not getting what you are paying for, no matter how cheap it is, and add to this the fact that the less you are paying the more increased is the risk of serious injury to you.
  • BRING the agreed upon amount and method of payment with you to your lesson and present it as you start the lesson.

Only book for one lesson, initially, even if they offer a discount for a lesson-package. You should certainly come to the lesson expecting that you will have a great experience and will come back as often as you can (please try for AT LEAST once a week if you don't have your own horse), but, if for some reason the lesson doesn't work out the way you planned, and you decide not to return, things don't get complicated. :-)

These are only my own opinions, and I would love to hear others' opinions, as well as additional elements that I may have not thought about...this post is long enough, but any comments are most welcome and appreciated!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Past Reminisces and Future Goals

I posted a comment on a discussion page on Barnmice (great horsey social site, BTW!), and I started thinking....just how long has it been since I have been involved in recognized competition? I remembered my last show was in late 1994.

Then I subtracted that from the current year, and OMG!!!!!!! 15 years?!?!?! Now, to be fair, I have shown in a few recognized shows over the years since I was serious about competing my own horse; catch rides for students, one REALLY cute New Forest Pony that I showed for an acquaintance down in Wellington, and a few schooling shows over the years with clients' horses, but I have not thought about consistency, or awards, etc. in 15 years!

And the real crime is that when I was showing all those years ago, I never gave awards or certificates, or medals, or such, much thought. I briefly gave thought to the Bronze medal from USDF (two scores above 60% at each level 1st -3rd) and achieved all the scores except the third level scores. I was ready for the third level competitions, and then I got a bit disenfranchised over a perceived injustice (not to me directly, but involving a third party), and so I lost the desire--it was also just around the same time that I quit showing and concentrated on furthering MY education and training in dressage.

For the past fifteen years I have concentrated on MY learning to ride and train horses up to the highest levels of dressage, and giving lessons and clinics to students, so any ambition for showing and the medals and awards just went by the wayside.

Well, now I am re-thinking this whole showing thing. Thing is, I do miss it. I have a lovely horse, Bogart--the one in the picture (in my mind, he is perfect), but he is 24 years old. He is in great shape, and doing all the elements of the training scale through second level and into third.

He is my schoolmaster for those students who don't have horses of their own, or need to feel a particular thing on a horse that is already trained so they can transfer that to their own horse, or those who need/want to work on their position (he is a wonderful longe horse, as well), and that is part of the reason that I haven't really considered this earlier.

I actually had a thought that I might start looking for a new horse, and then scratched that idea (or, well, put it on a back burner), since that takes a LOT of time and money in itself (that I could use for lessons and showing).

So my plan now is to ride Bogart more regularly myself, and start taking clinics with Michael Poulin again, and get his opinion as to the show-worthiness of my old man.

I will show him through the levels as long as he is happy and sound, and it is not too much for him, and then I can take my time in looking for something younger and with more upwards potential (ahem, I mean, time).

So, I think this is a good plan--I am also looking on the USDF Website for the next scheduled Certified Instructor Testing. I went through the whole series of Workshops in 1999-2000, but they never offered the testing at the end.

I also audited the USDF L program way back in 1993-1994, and (of course hindsight being 20/20) should have gone through as a participant(!!) as they haven't offered another program here in Florida since then.

I know, I know, they have offered it in other parts of the country, but the way it is set up it would be WAY too expensive to go through because it is over 5 or six weekends, and the travel expense alone would kill me. Same with the Instructor Certification. Jeez, now I sound like I am whining.....sorry.
Sooooo, showing here I (we) come! First opportunity, Sept. 19-20, Wellington.......

Follow-up Thoughts

I love riding my horse. I just wanted to say that first.

I have been thinking a bit about the comments I received on the "whips" blog below. A couple of people commented that they agree with my post, but do not use whips/spurs on a daily basis because they do not need them. (Please read the comments--they are very good and very thoughtful) I see where they are coming from, but today, when i was riding my horse, I had kind of a lightbulb moment...not exactly the kind where you think "AHA! That is how it is done! or I feel it now! or I understand that point of theory now!" But a combination of all of that. When I was trying to explain why and how I use the whip/spurs in the post, I was clear in the explanation, but now I know it didn't go far enough into the theory behind the why and how (here is another level).

My horse is very responsive to my leg, but he is not explosive. That is a good thing because I DON'T want him explosive. I WANT him relaxed when I put my leg on him. I want his reaction to build smoothly and fairly quickly, but I don't want it to be "over-the-top", because that is always the result of tension. The whip (and/or spur) are used to indicate to him to shift to the "next gear" when he reaches the "RPMs" maximum of my leg aid....does that make sense? I don't WANT him to go into overdrive the second I put my leg on him...I want him to shift smoothly and effortlessly up and down--and for the record, horse gears don't necessarily mean just faster/slower, as we know. The whip and/or spur aids give me more adjustability in my horse. It brings the communication to an even higher level. That, in theory, is why spurs are mandatory at the FEI levels. I only wish that everyone learned, knew and practiced the CORRECT use of all the aids, natural and auxillary.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Should whips be banned?

I plagiarized the title from the survey since this was the catalyst for this duo of posts. My answer to the question is no, whips are fine; it is the people who abuse horses with whips/bats/crops, or anything else for that matter, that should be banned.

My standpoint is (as many of the other people in that other group concurred with) that 99% of the equipment that is available to use on horses has some value in training/riding. Depending on what piece of equipment we are talking about, that value ranges from carrying/using the equipment/tool/aid all the time right down to almost never or as a "last resort". I don't do "last resorts".

Let's stick with just the whip- type tool, because a post about all training aids would probably crash the world wide web....just as Al Gore invented the internet, I would single-handedly be responsible for frying it.....LOL

So. My standpoint is that I carry a dressage whip (32-36" because longer is not allowed in the competition arena) on most of the horses I ride. The only time I don't carry one is on a horse that is over-reactive to the whip, and then it is just until I can show the horse (from the ground) that I will not hurt it with the whip (some call it de-sensitizing, but I think horses should be sensitive to the whip, so it is a question of semantics).

The reason I carry a whip is that I communicate with the horse, not through a spoken dialogue, but through a physical one. I communicate with every part of the horse's body by touching, pressing, brushing, tickling, etc. I teach the horse, not to move because he already knows how to do that, but to move in the way that I want--to create the coreography for the dance, as it were....because, think about it; every time we ride, we (the horse and the rider) move together in balance and harmony. The rider is the lead partner, and the horse "follows" in the definition of dance. In otherwords, the horse is submissive and supple to the riders aids, allowing the guidance to "come through" its body and be expressed as it moves over the ground.

Our primary aids (seat, leg, hand) direct this to a certain extent, but when we want to ask for more than the horse understands to give, we have we apply the leg harder? Do we kick? Do we yank on the reins and hope that the horse understands that we want him to step more under with the hind leg, not just go faster or quicker? Or do we touch the horse with the whip a little closer to the hind leg and encourage that quicker, more engaged step from behind without having to be abusive on the reins by kicking the bejeebies out of him and yanking on the reins to prevent him from going faster over the ground? The correctly-applied whip aid helps the horse to understand the degree of "try" that we want.

Now, there are plenty of people who do not use the whip correctly. This group includes the people who abuse the horse with the whip, as well as people who are learning to use the whip correctly. It takes time to learn how, when, how much, and most important--when to cease using the whip. I mean, come on...if we take this to an extreme, we can call tickling or brushing the horse with the whip inavertently or for too long, abuse....because after all, this may annoy the horse, and may even lead to an adverse reaction from the horse, such as ears pinned, scooting forward, kicking out at the whip, or giving you a buck (I am being facetious).

So what is the definition of abuse? To me, if you even touch a horse with a whip when you are angry, frustrated, confused or scared, that is abuse. If you don't know WHY you used the whip (no matter how soft), you are abusing the horse. If you use the whip more than twice without allowing the horse the chance to respond, no matter how soft, you are abusing the horse.
It comes down to, what is the intent of the person using the whip that is the issue.

If you know the reason, are not emotional, try to use the correct timing/intensity/placement, and fail in that moment, you are not abusing the horse. You are human, after all, and you just need more practice. And the horse will forgive you. If you do use the whip in all its infinite ways to communicate with the horse on a higher level, you are not only not abusing the horse, you are creating a powerful and lasting partnership with a creature by communicating with it on ITS terms rather than anthropomorphizing the horse. You are respecting it for being a horse.

And one more thing while I am at it. I do not know ANY valid reason to "hit" or "whip" a horse. Anything beyond a tap is counter-productive and just shows that you do not know how to properly use a whip...which falls into the abuse category.

And that supports my original reply to the question, should whips be banned....

Whips should not be banned, people should. ;-)

Monday, August 3, 2009


A discussion came up the other day about the use of whips. I was going to give the whole background story, but it was long a boring, so I deleted it. Suffice it to say, that in a subgroup of a networking site that I am a member of, someone posted a "survey" about the use of whips that I thought took a rather slanted position (as most surveys do) to lead the answers to favor a certain outcome (that whips and their use should be banned). Now, in fairness, not everyone read this into the survey, and the author of the survey denied any preconceived ideas, or alterior motives in the survey.

I still take exception to the survey as it is presented (and true to my nature, was not at all bashful about sharing my viewpoint about the survey itself, and told everyone that read the discussion that I would not participate, and why). There was varied response to my position, and that is fine. I presented a viewpoint, and they could take from it what they would.

I also stated in the discussion that I would be more than happy to share my views in the comment section of the discussion board where the questions were open-ended and required essay type answers, not multiple choice.

The author of the survey was not really interested in this type of forum to get her questions answered, I guess, since she has not posted any directed at me since I made my position on the survey clear.

But I do want to discuss whips--the different types, uses, and abuses, because there is much to discuss. Her bottom line (and the title of the survey) was "should whips be banned?"
In the survey, if you had answered the questions in the affirmative, then it was an absolute. No whips, anywhere, anytime. If you had answered in the negative, he answer-choices would lead the reader of the survey to believe that you condone what most of us would consider abuse.

What kind of survey is that??

Okay--off the survey now, and onto the whip...I will tackle this in two posts, since it is a subject that has many layers. I gave the background, and now I will quantify whips as I see it.

Others may have different opinions, and I really do want to hear how others view whips, so please feel free to add or argue whatever points you want.

The categories of whips and their description as I see it.....

1. The Bat--a short stick (10-16" end-to-end), most of the time with a wrist-loop at the handle end and a wide leather, folded-over flap that is oval or round at the terminal end for "popping" a horse on the shoulder....should be used only on the shoulder, since the rider would have to twist around in the saddle, and take one hand away from the rein and stretch into an uncomfortable position in order to "pop" the horse on the rump or even behind the leg. It would be extremely difficult to physically cause harm to the horse if used even remotely close to the way it was intended. Typically, you see this in hunter-type or jumping-type uses, in which the reluctant horse is popped on the shoulder and the noise gives him encouragement (excites him a bit) just before take-off over the jump. I have also seen this used to correct a young horse that tended to fall over the inside (or outside) shoulder....

2. The Crop--a bit longer than the bat (18-30"), still has a folded over leather flap at the terminal end, but it is thinner, and may be a bit longer from the stick to the fold. This is made to be used much in the same way as the bat, but may be used on a larger horse, and can also be used on the rump since it is longer, and would not put the rider out of position as much as the shorter bat (although the rider still has to take the whip hand off the rein in order to apply the crop behind the saddle). Again, the noise of the popper is the catalyst for the response from the horse in a well-timed and placed pop, not the strength of the pop. I have seen a crop that was dressage-whip length, but had the wide leather popper at the end, and can see a benefit of that in certain applications.

3. The dressage whip--this is a longer (30-48"), thinner, and more or less flexible shaft, very seldom includes a wrist loop (in fact, I have never seen a dressage whip with a wrist-loop), and at the terminal end is a lash (2-3") that may be made of leather or a woven or braided material. This is used to tickle, tap, brush, stroke, or vibrate behind the rider's leg (99% of the time) to encourage the horse to step forward with his hind legs, step more lively (in the higher collection), step over (in the lateral work), or lift its back or bring the hind legs more under by engaging the stomach muscles. This whip is and should be, in my opinion, part of our normal, everyday conversation with our horses......when applied correctly.

4. The in-hand whip--this is longer (48-60"), a bit stiffer generally than the dressage whip, and may carry a lash that is the same or a bit longer (up to 6") than the dressage whip, and is used in the same way, for the same purpose as the dressage whip.....only, from the ground and close to the horse.

5. The Longe whip--the shaft is generally 60" or so, and the lash is 60-80" in addition to the shaft, and is specifically for work on the single longe on the 10-20meter circle. In the educated riders hands, it is mostly used as a signal for the horse (walk/trot/canter, etc.) and does not touch the horse, but uses the noise of the lash end when popped in the air behind or on the side to encourage the horse forward. In more educated and skilled hands, the whip position is also part of the communication, and in the most educated and skilled hands, in addition to the position of the whip, the horse can be touched, flicked, or brushed with the whip on different parts of the body to indicate a higher level of communication. This level of longeing the horse is a wonder and a joy to behold. I fear that this level is becoming very scarce, as is true "in-hand" work. But that is a discussion for a different time.

There are other crops/whips that I know of that I did not mention here because their application is more specialized than the scope of our conversation, and I am sure there are whips out there that I do not know about. But for the sake of not boring you to death, I thought I would limit our conversation to the ones we typically use in the realm of "sporthorses". If I have missed one of the major ones, please let me know.

Next blog will give you my views on use/abuse issues with whips...and maybe other training aids and "aids" if I can't contain myself. ;-) Also, notice my spelling of Longe and Longeing, as we will most assuredly get into this at some point. That will most assuredly be a rant.....LOL