A Good Rider Doesn't Need a Stick

When I was learning to ride, I was taught how to use a stick 'correctly' and later I was instructed in how to use spurs. I accepted this as normal riding practice until I saw sticks and spurs and other gadgets being wrongly used by riders at shows and other equine gatherings. It is human nature to get frustrated if things are not going well and if a rider has a stick or spurs only too often the poor horse or pony gets beaten for the rider's incompetence. I have seen this happen at all levels, from small children with ponies to professional showjumpers. Over the years of running a riding school I have become more and more aware that these 'aids' often used in riding and in training can only have a negative effect on a horse or pony.

Horses are willing to please and can be trained easily without the use of force. A quiet gentle approach is far better. It may take a little longer but I even question this if we start with an animal that has never known a stick. Very often a horse gets whacked with the stick for shying at something or refusing a jump etc. There are a number of reasons why he may not be willing to comply ~ e.g. he may be scared or in pain, his tack may be hurting him or a jump may be too big for him, or simply he does not undersatand what is being asked of him. The stick may get a result if the horse becomes more scared of the rider than he is of anything else, but is this the relationship we want with our horse? Very often the horse will learn to associate the scary object with his rider beating him, and so the next time he is in the same situation he is expecting a beating and becomes more afraid and more difficult to handle. Sticks are often used to make a horse or pony go forward when the rider has never learned to use a squeeze from the leg, and I donít mean a kick. Reluctance to move may be boredom or discomfort or worry or lack of effective training. We have to show our horse that riding out is fun for him as well as for the rider. If we hit him he will associate being ridden with the stick and will never want to go forward.

Our horse is our partner, with emotions as well as physical feelings of pain and discomfort. Good riding is communicating with your horse and understanding what he is saying as well as conveying to him what you want.

A good rider doesn't need a stick ~ and a bad rider shouldn't have one.

Mavis Petrie.