I’ve been working on introducing my stockwhip to Moon this last week. I started out making sure that she was completely comfortable with the lead rope being swung around her and tossed all over her body. I made sure to also swing it so that it would wrap around her legs since that can happen when I’m cracking a whip to move cattle and I let it hang down for a minute and drag on the ground.
It’s also a good idea to desensitize your horse to ropes touching it all over its body if you ever have any intention of roping. In my opinion, you should desensitize your horse to every situation you can think of so that you have a safer, more confident horse that is prepared to handle any situation.
Ater about five minutes of swinging the lead rope all over her body I was satisfied that she was totally comfortable with it considering she was literally going to sleep on me. Two days later as I was leading her to put her in a different pen, I walked by where my whip was hanging as it waited for me to put a new fall on it so it could be cracked again. I had about fifteen minutes on my hands, so I decided to introduce Moon to the whip.
Before I even unraveled the whip, I worked her through some basic groundwork to get her in a learning frame of mind. I stepped her around in a circle on the front and rear quarters in both directions, and asked her to bend her head around to both sides. It is really important that our horses are soft and are comfortable giving us their head because that is our “emergency stop”. If the horse your on bolts, you can pull their head around to the side and wind them down to a stop. Also, if your horse spooks or bucks, pulling their head to the side bends their ribcage and disengages the hindquarters so they can’t take off or buck. It is for that very reason that we always get on a young horse for the first time with their head bent. We will continue to pull their head around until we are confident that they aren’t going to spook or buck. Even our experienced ranch horses sometimes get their head pulled to the side when we’re getting on if they are excited or nervous. We don’t always pull their head all the way to where our knee is when mounted, sometimes we just tip their head in enough to prevent forward motion.
Now that that explanation is out of the way…
I work the whip exactly the same as I did the lead rope, swinging it all around her and tossing it over her neck, back, rump, around her legs, letting it hit the ground beside, behind, underneath, and in front of her. I want Moon to be totally comfortable with the whip anywhere on or around her. She pricked her ears a little in the very beginning since the whip made a different sound than the lead rope, but after the initial interest, she made it clear that she found the exercise boring. 🙂 After less than ten minutes, I was once again satisfied that she was comfortable with what I was doing and I put her away.
A couple days after that, I had some time to spare so I took my newly repaired whip and set out to introduce the “popping” of the whip to her. I didn’t want to actually crack it around her yet, but hours of practice and habit meant that a couple of light cracks slipped by but Moon took it all in stride!
The video is a little long and most of it focuses on making sure that she is still comfortable with the sound the whip makes as it travels through the air with the brand new fall and cracker as that slightly changed the sound. I did not want to let it wrap around her legs this time since she was fighting flies so bad. I didn’t want to risk it getting wrapped and her breaking the end of my whip or accidentally whipping her especially since it was so early on in her training.
I realized just before I actually started popping the whip, that I had neglected to swing the whip or the lead rope anywhere above her, so I stopped and did that first. She didn’t even flinch and barely twitched her ears. I couldn’t believe she was doing so well on just her second time ever seeing the whip!
In the video, her head went up a bit and she stepped away from me after a fairly loud crack, and I stood still and kept popping/cracking the whip and after a minute she stepped back toward me.
As soon as she came back to me, I ended the session. It is important that you always end a training session on a good note. I want Moon to want to come to me because she feels safe and comfortable. When she stepped away from me because she got uncomfortable, I kept doing what was making her uncomfortable until she came back to me and as soon as she did that I removed the pressure.
The next time I work with Moon with the stockwhip I’ll work her up to louder cracks. Only after she stays relaxed with the louder cracks in front of, and on both sides of her will I start to crack it above or behind her.
The flies were biting really bad and I was out of fly spray, so Moon was fidgeting and stomping trying to find relief from the flies, not the whip.