Understanding whip use in riders in sports horse disciplines

Jane Williams, Linda Greening, David Marlin, Hayley Randle

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Equestrianism is subject to increasing public scrutiny with non-equine stakeholders questioning iftraditional practices such as whip use are ethical and necessary. Evaluation of whip use in racing hasresulted in regulatory changes to protect racehorse welfare. However high-profile examples of inappropriatewhip use in non-racing disciplines have turned the spotlight on how wider equine disciplines protect horsewelfare. 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 askedriders a) if, b) how and c) why they did/did not use a whip, to establish if potential issue with whip abuseexisted 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 experiencedriders. 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) —stronglydisagree (1)) for 12 statements related to how the whip could be used and the response of the horse to whipuse. Riders regularly riding with a whip recorded significantly different opinions on whip use compared toriders 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 onlyexperienced riders should use whips (P>0.05). Thematic analysis identified riders predominately carrywhips to reinforce the aids or as an emergency aid, whilst respondents who didn’t use whips believedtraining negated their use, due to horse sensitivity, or whip use was not ethical. Respondents felt whipsshould 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. Theseresults suggest mixed practice and knowledge exists regarding whip use in horse riders. Further work isrequired to understand how to better educate riders and to ensure equestrianism operates under a sociallicense that promotes equine welfare.Lay person message: Whip use in horse sports outside of racing is receiving more attention as thegeneral public increasingly question if traditional equestrian practices are ethical and necessary. This surveyfound most horse riders regularly ride with a whip and use them to reinforce the aids and in emergencysituations. 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 howto train horses and stricter whip regulation is needed in equestrianism to protect horse welfare.


ConferenceInternational Society for Equitation Science
Abbreviated titleBringing Science to the Stable
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