Horse Whips, Study on Whip Use

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Study on Whip Use Presented at ISES 2019

Jane Williams from Hartpury presented some research on whip-use at the 2019 ISES meeting at the University of Guelph. The use of the whip in equestrian disciplines has become an emotive topic that has been increasingly debated, with occasional high-profile cases of abuse. It’s therefore important that we understand how riders view whip-use. For me the big surprise is that only 30% of the sample of 3463 riders believed that the whip causes pain. Maybe we should get the other 70% who don’t believe to try it out! 🙂

  • 3463 riders responded
  • 96% female
  • 46% held equine qualifications
  • 96% considered themselves experienced riders 
  • 60% regularly rode with a whip
  • 12% sometimes rode with a whip
  • 28% never rode with a whip

Riders regularly riding with a whip recorded significantly different opinions on whip use compared to riders who sometimes rode with a whip and those that never carried a whip (Kruskal Wallis: P<0.0001, posthoc Mann Whitney U: P<0.01), but agreed whip use does not boost rider confidence and that only experienced riders should use whips (P>0.05).

Thematic analysis identified riders predominantly carry whips to reinforce the aids or as an emergency aid, whilst respondents who didn’t use whips believed training negated their use, due to horse sensitivity, or whip use was not ethical. Respondents felt whips should only be used when absolutely necessary for education and reinforcement, and not as punishment, due to rider frustration/anger or to cause pain, although only 30% (n=1036) believed whips caused pain. Most riders advocated tighter whip regulation in competition! 21% of respondents believed public perception of horse sports will lead to a future whip ban. Lay person message: Whip use in horse sports outside of racing is receiving more attention as the general public increasingly question if traditional equestrian practices are ethical and necessary. This survey found most horse riders regularly ride with a whip and use them to reinforce the aids and in emergency situations. Riders who don’t use whips believe good training reduces the need to carry them. Generally, riders felt whips should not be used in anger or as punishment, and better rider education is needed on how to train horses and stricter whip regulation is needed in equestrianism to protect horse welfare.

O11: Understanding whip use in riders in sports horse disciplines 

  1. Williams1*, L. Greening1 , D. Marlin2 , H. Randle3 

1 Hartpury University, Gloucester, GL19 3BE, UK; jane.williams@hartpury.ac.uk 2 PO BOX 187, Cambridge, UK 3 Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia 

Equestrianism is subject to increasing public scrutiny with non-equine stakeholders questioning if traditional practices such as whip use are ethical and necessary. Evaluation of whip use in racing has resulted in regulatory changes to protect racehorse welfare. However, high-profile examples of inappropriate whip use in non-racing disciplines have turned the spotlight on how wider equine disciplines protect horse welfare. This study aimed to create a preliminary evidence base for how horse-riders use whips. Participation was voluntary via an online survey, available on equine-related Facebook pages, which asked riders a) if, b) how and c) why they did/did not use a whip, to establish if potential issue with whip abuse existed in horse sports and recreational riding. 3463 riders responded; the majority were female (96%, n=3325), 46% (n=1593) held equine qualifications, and 96% (n=3311) considered themselves experienced riders. Most riders regularly rode with a whip (60%; n=2047), 12% (n=412) sometimes did and 28% (n=966) never carried a whip. Respondents were asked to rate agreement (Strongly agree (5) —Strongly disagree (1)) for 12 statements related to how the whip could be used and the response of the horse to whip use.

Riders regularly riding with a whip recorded significantly different opinions on whip use compared to riders who sometimes rode with a whip and those that never carried a whip (Kruskal Wallis: P0.05). Thematic analysis identified riders predominantly carry whips to reinforce the aids or as an emergency aid, whilst respondents who didn’t use whips believed training negated their use, due to horse sensitivity, or whip use was not ethical. Respondents felt whips should only be used when absolutely necessary for education and reinforcement, and not as punishment, due to rider frustration/anger or to cause pain, although only 30% (n=1036) believed whips caused pain. Most riders advocated tighter whip regulation in competition, commenting: good riders do not need a whip, professionals regularly abuse horses in public and better training/education is needed. Interestingly, 21% (n=727) of respondents believed public perception of horse sports will lead to a future whip ban.

These results suggest mixed practice and knowledge exists amongst horse riders regarding whip use. Further work is required to understand how to better educate riders and to ensure equestrianism operates under a social licence that promotes equine welfare. Lay person message: Whip use in horse sports outside of racing is receiving more attention as the general public increasingly question if traditional equestrian practices are ethical and necessary. This survey found most horse riders regularly ride with a whip and use them to reinforce the aids and in emergency situations. Riders who don’t use whips believe good training reduces the need to carry them. Generally, riders felt whips should not be used in anger or as punishment, and better rider education is needed on how to train horses and stricter whip regulation is needed in equestrianism to protect horse welfare.

file:///C:/Users/David/Downloads/ISES_Proceedings_15th_International_Conference_Guelph_2019.pdf

 

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About Author

Dr David Marlin is a physiologist and biochemist who has worked in academia, research and professional sport. He has worked in the equestrian and veterinary world and in human sport, healthcare, medicine and exercise science. In 1989 David obtained his PhD from the UK’s leading sports university, Loughborough University following a four-year study on the responses of Thoroughbred racehorses to exercise and training, undertaken at the renowned Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. You can read David's full biography in the Our Website section.