Is it better to punish firmly once? or ineffectively multiple times then get hurt? While we do out best to love our horses when the situation calls for it discipline is necessary; to keep us safe, and indirectly give our horses a better life.
I can't tell you how many people I see giving little weak tugs on the lead rope and saying quietly, "Stop." every day. Think of how much better off they would both be if they just took charge and firmed up with that horse! They would be much safer, and the horse would be much happier because it knows who is in charge and that they don't have to lead.
There's a horse at my barn who is known for being very pushy and poorly behaved. The dentist came out the other day and kicked the snot out of him for giving him flack. By the end of the appointment the horse was happier and more relaxed than I'd ever seen him.
Too many people are afraid to get after their horses (and children, but that's a whole other matter) for bad behavior. Not only in fear of what others will think (horse abuser!) but in fear that 'their horse won't like them'. Trust me, a horse likes to know who's in control, and they don't want it to be them.
Let me tell you something - abuse and punishment are separated by two things, emotion and motive. When I was a kid and I disobeyed my parents, I got spanked. Not more than I deserved, not out of anger, and not for no reason. And I very rarely tried to repeat that same behavior because I knew if I did what I would get. For my action, there was an equal, natural reaction.
Now, if a horse in my care misbehaves, he gets whatever punishment he deserves. If he tries to bite me (for no reason), I will smack him into next week, and he knows what to expect if he tries it again. Horse knows who's in charge, and I won't get a chunk taken out of me.
Abuse is when a horse does not understand
what is being asked of it or that the behavior is not desirable, if the horse is doing those behaviors out of pain or if the punishment is excessive or unnecessary. Like beating a horse with a lunge whip. Also, if you bring your emotions into the punishment (anger, frustration, annoyance).
There's my rant for the day.