Johanna & Jensen

Then there’s this from Johanna and Jensen her PRE Andalusian stallion, (and the first stallion she’s ever ‘trained’). 

We’ve had couple of interesting occurrences since starting pre conditioning… First was a few weeks ago, and it’s a bit of a confession.

Jensen’s physio/body worker was due to come for a follow up visit, and she always needs to see him move. I didn’t want to do a formal trot-up/lunge/whatever though, as I want to do everything in liberty just now… so the week before she was due, after one play session in the school I thought I’ll see if I could have him do a trot up/lunge in liberty… the first attempt wasn’t very successful, he didn’t seem to understand what I wanted. He just wanted kisses!

As much as I loved the kisses, I also felt frustrated and felt I needed to come up with a solution. Then I had a really stupid horrible thought which I’m embarrassed to admit, but here goes… I thought, “well he’s never had a bad experience with a lunge whip, never been hit with one.. so what harm would it do if I tried to guide him with one, so he’ll understand where I want him to go? I’ll hold it wrong way round, and just point with the handle, that way it won’t really be a whip as I’m not using it as one”.

I’m sure you will tell me off and tell me how utterly wrong my thinking was… I know, because Jensen already told me so! As soon as I pointed the whip handle to his general direction, he GALLOPED off the school at lightning speed – this is the horse that usually runs IN to the school, and needs to be tempted out with treats. His message was loud and clear, and I was, and am, utterly embarrassed. So I waited, scolding myself for breaking his trust, feeling unworthy and cruel. He was a little distance away, looking offended.

I apologized, told him how wrong I was and how sorry I was… I said I didn’t mean it in a bad way, I just wanted to guide him and help him understand, but that I realized now I was wrong and did it all wrong and wouldn’t do it again… and I promised that the whip would be put away and never return… he came for a kiss… we spent some cuddly time together… then he walked back into the school. So we ran about for awhile playing, and then it occurred to me that I could just show him, by running with him & with gestures, what I had wanted, which direction I needed him to go… and he did perfect trot ups, and circles too… and the day the physio came, he did perfect trot ups and perfect circles again, all in liberty (the physio was impressed, lol).

I learned a VERY good lesson that day. And again I apologise for doing such a stupid thing, I don’t know what came over me and wish I’d just asked you for advice instead of going with the first stupid thought that entered my knotted little brain…

Needless to say, anything that even MILDLY resembles a whip is now banned from our school, whether its upside down, inside out, left to right or right to left or whatever…

As the embarrassment gradually diminishes and I can think back to that day more objectively, what I find really interesting is that even a horse whose never been hit with a whip, when presented with one held “wrong way round”, still KNOWS without any hesitation that it’s a BAD thing…

I think you once said something along the lines of taking the whip away robs the user of the connotations the whips have, or something like that… I don’t think I fully understood what you meant then, but I think I do know… upside down, handle in or handle out, just carrying one seems to change something in US – which the horses instantly sense.