Woohoo, that heading should cause a few ripples :-)
So I'll start this post with the statement:
There are no bad bits, whips or spurs. But like all tools, they can be used to create or to destroy something.
To elaborate on that, what makes a bit "severe" isn't the measurements or the design, it's the hands of the person which hold the reins. Whether the person is ignorant, insensitive or deliberately cruel, any bit can cause pain to a horse and destroy the trust between horse and rider. That said, there are bits and nosebands which (I think) are made sloppily (eg: have sharp edges) or are designed to cause pain (because the inventor thinks that's the way to make horses do the rider's bidding), but even crappy bits in good hands can work. And then there is the issue of correct fitting and suitability for the horse and purpose... But that aside, it's generally the person who holds the reins who inflicts the damage, not the bit in itself.
But I digress!
What I really wanted to write about was my ride yesterday on Flamenca.
It's been a long time since I've been riding while carrying a stock whip. It used to be second nature when I lived in Albury and clip-clopped along the streets in the suburbs. Was really handy for keeping yapping dogs away. And my horse, a seasoned Stockhorse by the name of Horse (how inventive is that?) didn't give a toss about whips, so I could crack away to my heart's content.
Since then, I've only rarely used it. A few times when I competed in Stockhorse classes on Yallatup Regal Remedy, and a few times here on the farm. The last horse I used it on was Reina, a Peruvian mare, when a bunch of the neighbor's sheep invaded our horse paddocks. Reina was cool with it.
Off the horse, it occasionally comes out for lunging, but rarely indeed. I seem to have enough "energy" to send horses out on the circle without it ;-)
Reminded by Natalie's reports of wild dogs in her area (Kyogle, NSW), I've been thinking it would be nice to again have a horse that's whip proof. Just in case we need one. We're pretty lucky around Dereel, there are dogs, but most leave you well alone when you are out riding. But you never know...
I had the one short try on Flamenca a few weeks ago when I showed her the whip for the first time. Not impressed! Photos here. She JUST put up with it when we stood still, but that was it. But I have to add that when I just ride her around the shed, she gets notoriously wound up, and the spins, levades and terre-a-terres probably would have happened with or without whip :-).
Yesterday afternoon I saddled her up and out we went. With Whip. She was in a bit of a hurry, but no more than normal. Once we were off the road in the forest, I started swinging the whip and "accidentally" (and gently) touched her butt, her neck, her legs etc with the fall. I let it drop down on her left and right side, then started to make noises with it. The whoosh did't impress her but she coped. Then, shock horror, it touched her ears. AAAaaaa! Aaah! She didn't die. I nearly did from laughing so hard. I pushed her eyes back into their sockets and on we went. Further (deliberate) touching of ears was ok. Not long after, I added a couple of small cracks and that was fine. The walk was awfully animated, but she coped ;-). The worst part was the bracken fern on the side of the track, the fall got tangled several times, and then I had to reef it back which meant it came flying back to my poor, poor horse.
All this took maybe 5 minutes. Then we had a good toelt down the trail. Magnificent, that mare can really motor along! Went through the forest, turned up the main road, had a bit of a breather at the walk and then turned towards home via Swamp Road.
I started swinging the whip again and she was pretty cool. The lo and behold, a dog started barking and next thing a Maremma comes bounding out of a driveway. Dragging several meters of chain behind it. I told it to go home. I have a Maremma so I know that's futile. I gently cracked the whip. No effect. Flamenca wasn't too impressed about the dragging chain, but the dog stayed a little way away and in any case after seeing my whip drag alongside her for some considerable time, I think she was pretty desensitized to that. So I kept walking. Shortly after, a woman and a girl came racing out in hot persuit of the dog, which promptly lost interest in my horse and took off up the road at quite a speed. The woman told me the dog always takes off and it's not theirs anyway, they are looking for the owner.
Then they came back without the dog but said he's coming back, let's stand behind the tree and see if we can jump on the chain to catch him on the way past. I offered to walk back the other day to help them. Dog comes trotting past. Girl jumps out from behind tree. Dog sees girl and takes off at rocket speed in the other direction. Girl and woman run past me, thanking me and all three disappear in the distance in a cloud of dust. Wow (headshake). I turned Flamenca and we took off towards home.
Had another fabulous toelt across an open paddock and down a sand trail. Did some more sporadic whip cracking here and there, had a gallop and got home pretty soon.
I enjoyed it, and I'm pretty darn sure my hot little Paso enjoyed herself, too. She is now our designated Peruvian Stockhorse!
Now I need a new cracker on the end of that whip. The one on it is a little bit worn from all that dragging along, and lost a bit of it's bark. I've never had success making them from horse hair, so I'm sticking to baling twine. And I have the choice of bright blue, pink, yellow or drab black.
So that's what happens when you show your horse the whip. It's all in how you do it :-)