Are you harming your horse by using a whip?

My first blog for Troton!

Loved writing this, quite a controversial topic that may provoke clashes of opinion. To whip or not to whip?

Good horsemanship sees the whip as an extension of the leg, an aid to help enhance and control your horse’s performance. Using a whip whilst riding is fairly harmless, or is it?

New research by Dr Lydia Tong, veterinary pathologist from Sydney University, has shown that horses may feel pain in similar ways that we do.

This begs the question, Are you harming your horse by using a whip?

Dr Tong compared sections of horse and human skin, taken from the same physical area, the flank. It’s been discovered that the supposed “thicker skinned” horse is much more physically sensitive than we all thought. The top layer of the skin where the pain sensing fibres are, is thinner in the equine specimen than this part of the human skin.

From this we must question whether it is morally acceptable to use whips in the same way as the overall thickness of horse and human skin differs by just 1mm.

With this new information we can see that the pain felt being on the receiving end of a thwack from a whip is arguably very similar in the cases of both horses and humans. Dr Tong affirms that, as horses are prey animals, they are more likely to shield their pain;

“If a prey animal shows its pain very overtly, they are more likely to then be noticed and picked out by a predator”.

Therefore, your horse may be hiding the stinging aftermath of a quick tap on the rump because of their base position in the food chain, not because it doesn’t hurt them.

This new research has brought into play a whole raft of questions about whip use in the equestrian world.

We’ve all been there, where the use of a whip seems necessary, in the case of a young horse in training or a big old cob who drags his/ her feet a bit. But sometimes just carrying a whip is enough to give your horse the boost he/she needs to work to the best of their ability, alternatively, padded whips can help in softening the blow so to speak.

Perhaps riders should think twice about using the whip and get those legs going instead!

What are your thoughts




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