Hitting with crop as punishment for refusing jump - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:02 PM Thread Starter
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Hitting with crop as punishment for refusing jump

I don't mean to stir up controversy - I really don't. So please refrain from getting overly emotional about this. Instead, what I'd love to read are rational responses explaining why hitting a horse with a crop after it refuses a jump should or should not be used as punishment. I don't mean one tap, I mean 6 or 7 repetitive hits on the butt as "discipline".

I ask because I saw this done by someone I trust as a coach, and I feel a little torn about it. But I've also been accused of being too soft with my horses and I recognize that a horse that refuses to jump can create safety issues for both horse and rider (though mostly the rider in my experience).

Enlighten me. But please, once again, I'd like this to be a civilized, reasoned discussion.
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post #2 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:09 PM
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I haven't jumped in a million years but I remember that when I rode lesson horses that refused the would say kick, kick, kick.... Crop on the butt...crop on the butt... and you would basically beat the horse over the jump. (Probably not as physically abusive as I'm making it sound but it was very aggressive).


My personal horse never refused. He was a point and shoot kind of guy. I didn't even have to be lined up for the jump - if he could make it over, or if there was a chance - he was going. I didn't have "attachments" with the lesson horses so I never questioned the kick-kick-kick - whip-whip-whip. But I remember many lessons where aggressive tactics were used.


I have a different trainer now and I have learned a different way. What I do now takes a lot longer. Where maybe a horse could have been WAY further along then mine is now because I'm moving so much slower... I do the ask, tell, demand type of thing and then I rule out fear and pain before moving on to my next step. I've learned to find the reason for the refusal or issue before assuming it's "bad pony" attitude. Most of the time it's because I'm asking wrong. When I ask right - I get it right.


Not sure how I feel about the aggressive methods but... if a horse is refusing... I do wonder why is the horse refusing? Is it pain? Is it confusion? Is he not balanced? Is he not in a position to safely take the jump? Am I asking wrong? Is he a putz? So many questions...

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post #3 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:09 PM
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Refusal to go forward, a smack with a crop is in order with me. And they'll keep getting smacked until they go forward. When I do jump, which is rare, I haven't had a refusal so I don't know, the refusals were usually mine because I wasn't set up right. My coach didn't smack me with the crop though she just made me do it again, and again....

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post #4 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:13 PM
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If you did it, it would have to be pretty much immediately after the horse refused. I feel like this could be practically difficult. When I see riders on a horse that refuses, they are usually spending a few seconds just trying to get themselves straightened out (assuming they are still on the horse). I think that by the time the rider got themselves straightened out and then applied the punishment, the horse might not understand why it was being punished.

Also, I'm not sure about the multiple hitting. At that point, it seems more like you're just venting your anger on the horse. People have different feelings about natural horsemanship, but I feel like if you're going to punish a horse you should do it in a way the horse understands, which means like another horse would. So it would be one quick, hard whack: "NO!!!!!" and then it would be over. A horse wouldn't keep punishing another horse, from what I've observed, unless the horse being punished was continuing to disobey.

Also, finally, I think the horse itself has to be taken into account. Some horses, if punished severely, might just associate the punishment with the jump, and not with the refusal to jump. For anxious, worried horses, it might lead to even more refusals, as they don't want to have anything to do with the jump.

I watched a jumping lesson on Saturday. One of the horses, who is a good jumper but really neurotic (OK I'm anthropomorphizing but you know the type) kept refusing jumps with her teen rider. The instructor made her employee get on and get the horse to jump. This horse is super hot, anxious, and worried. The employee didn't use a whip, she just didn't accept the refusals, and there were some really dirty stops in there. She just kept going and going and re-trying until the horse finally took the jump. They jumped a few more and then the horse got to be done as a reward. I've talked to the employee about this horse previously, and she says she just needs a really calm and sensitive rider, and getting upset only makes things worse. That's what I mean about it depending on the horse. You would NOT want to whip this horse multiple times for refusing a jump.
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Last edited by ACinATX; 09-16-2020 at 12:24 PM.
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post #5 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:26 PM
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6 or 7 times striking the animal would upset me too AA...

A crop properly applied can reinforce direction the horse needs to take...
Did the horse run out at a jump a certain direction...apply a crop to correct that evasion direction.
Same as using a crop to the shoulder...there is a reason why and where you lay a crop to a animal..
The use of a "tool" went from being positive to now being potentially feared and that is not what you want either..
Now if you had that videotaped it would be very interesting to watch in slow motion and see who goofed...horse or rider error...
Still no excuse for striking so many times, the point was made on swat 2...by the time you had 6 strikes the animal had moved on and the territory was now abusive.

Sounds more to me frustration and it was taken out on the animal...
Sadly, that trainer just slipped to near the sewer when they allowed their temper to better them and they turned anger/frustration on the "dumb" animal who only did as the rider told them to do... ...truth.

For such a large animal their brain is the size of your fists put together...that is their thinking power to govern that near 1000 pound of muscle and brawn.
We as riders are never going to out muscle so you better out think them and sadly that trainer/instructor failed big time.

I've seen 2 strikes, 3 at most since when you apply a crop/bat you are not love-tapping but meaning your message being felt...
To use a crop/bat 6 or 7 times...never would that person sit on my horse to "school"...
They just lost that right when they went beyond reasonable...
Something you will never forget and took the person you looked up to with respect and dropped them more than a few notches now didn't it...

So...did the trainer/instructor wear spurs and apply them?
Did she know the animal and stopping is/might/was a issue?
The answer to those 2 thoughts would/might crucify that instructor/trainer depending on that answer..

No one should be shred for a differing opinion but did the crime fit the punishment extracted...not in my book of overboard to much...
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post #6 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 12:42 PM
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A few thoughts meandering to a point

There are times when we can't give the horse the option to disobey. A different situation might be getting out of the way of cattle that are fighting in a pen. We need to move now, and if the horse is bracing or not moving it can be a big wreck. Like the jumping scenario where the horse and rider can be injured, disobedience is potentially dangerous.

Horses are physically tough but emotionally sensitive, and I know they can feel the hesitation and fear in a rider and will act/react to what the rider is telling them intentionally or not. In Reining one of the hardest things about learning to get a really good sliding stop is sort of hiding your intentions from the horse. If you are thinking about it and preparing for it more likely than not the horse will beat you to it and stop on their own before you can ask. In my opinion the horse gets unfairly blamed for this some times when the rider was telling them to stop with everything but the actual cue for it.

So back to the jumping scenario I'm thinking about what both the rider and horse are doing. Which one is hesitating in reality? Let's assume the rider is aggressive and really means to go over the jump. If the horse needs that extra little push and that is all it is then it is appropriate. When using something like spurs or a crop in my opinion it is extra important to remove it the instant the horse complies. So 6 or 7 times could be appropriate if that is what it takes to get compliance, but if not then no I don't think it is productive and potentially unfair.

Last edited by jgnmoose; 09-16-2020 at 12:50 PM.
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post #7 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 01:06 PM
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I just wanted to add that I'm not against using punishment when it's warranted, as horses can potentially be extremely dangerous, and sometimes you need to use a strong correction in order to make the horse understand something. But if what you're doing isn't helping the horse understand and learn, or if you're punishing them for not doing something they aren't able to do, then to me it's not justified punishment any more, it's abuse.
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post #8 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 01:20 PM
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I hate riding with a crop or quirt, though I have had to a few times.

When I sense hesitation going to a fence I speak sternly, and even growl, and horses go.

I wouldn't repeatedly smack a horse for a refusal.
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post #9 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 01:21 PM
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No, I do not believe in punishing the horse for refusing the jump or running out on a jump - there is always a reason for a horse to do that and I believe the majority of the time it falls into two categories:

1. Lack of confidence/experience on the horses part
2. Incorrect riding on the rider's part

Denny Emerson brought up a rather nervous horse, Rosie, who lacked confidence in the beginning (now she is jumping advanced, I believe). This is a post from him about this horse, that you can find on his FB page (rather a collection of many posts about her):

"The way that we got Rosie to stop refusing and to start jumping was, 1. to get her used to the idea that she was NEVER going to be punished for not going---
And, 2. that she wasn't going to get "lied to" about the take off spot.
And, 3. that she would not be held or tightly constrained on her way to the jump.
And, 4. that it was going to be casual, no big deal----"

"This mare used to quit at jumps one foot high. So we just fiddled around, tried to make her calm, and NEVER punished her when she would stop.
Jack LeGoff used to say,
"Boldness comes from confidence. Confidence comes from success. So it is the job of the trainer to create lots of situations which guarantee success."
We did that, and Rosie gradually lost her fear of jumping.
It seems so simple, Jack's little "mantra" but many riders and trainers still use force. Which is maybe why Jack won all those gold medals, and the others do not."

Here is a video of Denny riding Rosie when she was only 4, and just starting over fences:

And then a perspective from Shelby Dennis, who holds the same views as myself and Denny about punishing before fences, specifically her blog post "The Myth of a Bad Horse", linked here: https://www.milestonequestrian.com/blog

Here are is a story pulled from her blog post:
"Let me tell you a story that really opened my eyes with regards to these cases of “bad” horses. Recently, I took in a client horse who had a history of competing in eventing and doing quite well. The horse was successful over fences, never stopped and was forward to fences. Overall, he was always a lazier horse who required lots of leg to ride and didn’t have an aptitude to go forward much. Randomly, he started sucking back more and more under saddle. He would also start resisting lateral work like leg yields, crow hopping or tripping instead. He became more and more dead to leg and the solution suggested to his owner by a trainer was to use a crop or spurs to urge him forward. Not an odd request, a very common one seen in most training barns, in fact. Also, not inherently problematic, but let me tell you why it sometimes can be and why it’s so common for people to make this mistake.
So, this horse would express disobedience or “disrespect” by backing off, trying to move down to slower gaits or jogging around like a western pleasure horse. He would get a smack with crop, asked to go forward, and pressure was removed when he did. Oddly he just kept backing off. More pressure, more smacking, “send him forward”," “make him go”. He would resist sometimes by hopping up to rear, but then going. The owner was doing what they were told by a trainer, a professional they trusted and at the time, they trusted the method to work for the horse. For a while, it worked just enough and they even did a basic veterinary exam, got him some maintenance of joint injections which seemed to help for a short time, even though he still remained lazy and in need of motivation to go forward. Then his behavioural issues increased. Walking away from the mounting block, then rearing when riders would mount. Evading the bit, hollowing out his back, refusing to go forward even when the pressure of a whip or spur was added, slamming on the brakes randomly under saddle and rearing. The owner did everything that many would suggest like checking saddle fit, chiropractor and massage. They even went above and beyond to check for kissing spine, to no avail. After further therapy to rule out any back pain, the horse was put back into work and was a bit better about not evading the bit, still not forward. The owner was still having to heavily use a whip to send him forward and smack him hard right behind their leg to “reinforce” their aids. Again, a very highly suggested and commonly used method by many many trainers and suggested to this person by their trainer.

The use of the whip to force him forward worked for a short while again, so his work load was increased as he got back into fitness on the flat, still requiring fairly heavy use of the whip. He started back over fences and was better behaved over fences than he typically was on the flat. The owner then went away and had a friend getting on him. The horse started to squeal and rear very high up when the friend first got on, but since this was after him having a short time off, it didn’t raise any major alarm bells. Friend was a good rider so rode him through it and was fine. Owner came back, could not get the horse forward under saddle and he would start to resist the heavy whip use and still lose forward motion. He would bolt away from the mounting block before getting on. The owner sought help out from another trainer, who proclaimed the horse as a “dominant” type and proceeded to try to enforce further dominance over him, getting fairly aggressive in their quest to have him relax at the mounting block. Owner admitted to being quite uncomfortable, but was not a professional so let the professionals do their job despite said discomfort. The horse then started to strike out or kick at people even during ground work, resorting to biting and acting out. The suggestion by many was predominantly that the horse was just ill-behaved and needed to learn some manners and be put in his place…."

Here is a video of her and her horse Milo's transformation, who would very often refuse fences:

He's Ultimately Fine - Toofine - 1998 Half Arabian
Wilhelmina - Minnie - 2013 Morgan
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post #10 of 37 Old 09-16-2020, 01:32 PM
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And from my own personal experiences with this, I will share a recent story.

I was sharing the arena with a jumping lesson lead by a hunter-jumper trainer/competitor. There was a specific horse in this group, I will call her Susie. Susie was very backward to jumps, and didn't have the necessary building blocks to be going over jumps, at any height. Susie had zero confidence with jumps. The first time I saw the trainer ride her and "train" her over fences, she would get cropped and spurred when she would refuse or run-out. I stopped watching, knowing that she was doing wrong with that horse.

When I riding with the owner in this jumping lesson (I was not participating), ever time Susie refused with the owner, she was yanked on, spurred on, and cropped. Susie became more and more anxious and worried every single time this happened, despite her 'improving' by going over the fences occasionally. Had she been given the building blocks and the confidence over poles, and very low crossrails, I would be willing to say that she would be a fantastic jumper - but at this point, the damage has been done over fences. They worry her, they make her anxious and tense, and any chance at her being truly successful in the hunter-jumper ring is gone, without being restarted and having a really positive, slow experience.

The trainer then got on her, and immediately commented on how tense she was, and I bit my tongue, knowing that she had been the root cause of this horse being so worried and tense with fences even just set up in the arena. Of course the trainer forced her over more fences, to "train" her, instead of listening to poor Susie screaming that she was anxious and worried.


After the lesson concluded, I started my horse over the set-up fences. Toofine was brought up on fences slowly, and has never been punished for refusing, the few times that he has. I realized that if he refuses, we need to take a step back, and either go lower to build his confidence, or I need to ride better and set him up better before the fences. In Toofine's youth, we could go over a full course bareback & bridleless, and could go over jumps set at the top of the standards (~4ft).

From my previous comment on this thread, but bolded and enlarged,

"Boldness comes from confidence. Confidence comes from success. So it is the job of the trainer to create lots of situations which guarantee success."

He's Ultimately Fine - Toofine - 1998 Half Arabian
Wilhelmina - Minnie - 2013 Morgan
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