Hello! I've been lurking here for some weeks, reading as many of the threads as I can as well as taking weekly lessons for the last four months. I had no idea how much I didn't know!
The more one learns, the more one realizes there is much more to learn!!
Congratulations on seeking knowledge!
2. Riding crops. I uh, don't like them. I really don't want to use them at all, because as I've improved and my communication gets more clear to the horse it's becoming more apparent that "lazy" behavior is more my fault than the horse's. Eg, now that I can feel them slow down, a squeeze and a cluck before they change gates is so much more effective than nagging at them after. (btw not knocking my trainer here, she's the one who helped me realize that). When do you get to understanding when use of a crop appropriate vs it's "user error" and you need to fix yourself instead?
You are on the right path! I bolded a part of your statement, because it tells me that you have a natural understanding of horses and the gift of FEEL.
This is CORRECT! Better to influence the horse before he changes gaits, than to wait until after the error is made to correct him. If you don't need a whip to influence the horse, there is no requirement to using one. However, it is important to learn how to carry a whip while riding, just in case you might need one.
A whip is nothing to fear, however. A whip is just an extension of an aid, usually a leg aid, and is used for various reasons, some already listed.
For a horse lacking good impulsion, it can amplify the leg aid.
For a horse deadened to aids r/t ineffective riders, just carrying one can tell the horse you mean business.
For a horse endangering a person or other animal, it can be an effective deterrent.
5. Kind of a joking-not-joking question here. How can I cure myself of this horse crazy bug??? I feel like I'm going to drive all my non-horse friends nuts because it's all I want to talk about
Hmm. No cure that I am aware of! Really, do you even want to be cured??? Those non-horsey friends will look at you a bit oddly at first, but eventually they will realize that all they need to do is buy you a meal and you will spend time with them!
(horse people are always broke)