I believe horses often need "tough love." They are unpredictable, big heavy strong animals, and we need to treat them as such. However, jerking down on a halter's lead rope, or prodding with small spurs is a far cry from other more extreme uses of force.
Currently I am researching animal welfare and the law. The professor I work with has requested that I look into animal abuse and to see if there are ways the law can stop the abuse. I love that I am in a position to advocate for horses that are abused. But I dislike the fine lines that are often drawn between punishment and abuse. And I HATE having to see the photos and watch the video clips of forms of abuse.
I've been focusing on whipping because New York has recently passed laws regulating the use of whipping racehorses. I'm not a racing expert, so I never knew the limitations that were needed in that field. For example, Europe permits only ten smacks with a whip on the homestretch, whereas the US does not have any limitations. However, California has passed strict laws regulating the type of whip that can be used, and requires that the end of the whip be padded. This has been met with great argument in favor and against. I've read that one jockey was quoted saying that the whip is no longer a whip, it is like hitting the horse with a marshmallow.
As I am more proficient in non-racing English riding, namely jumping, I was "happy" to come across an article about the use of the whip in show jumping. (Happy is in quotes because it is fortuitous as to my research, but unfortunate as to the experience of finding the information)
Here is a video clip accompanying the article:
As the article says:
"The FEI and the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) have both initiated charges under their respective rules against Michael Morrissey (USA), following an incident in class 101 at the Wellington CSI 2* held on 27 February 2010. The FEI will also be investigating the role of the Ground Jury in this incident."
I imagine some will find this clip completely harmless- that the horse is a large animal and the whips are like mere taps.
Others will likely say that if a horse is not well trained enough to perform without that kind of hitting, then the horse and rider shouldn't be out there at all.
Then of course there are the more ardent activists who would say a whip should never be used on a horse, just as you should never whip a child (though perhaps a hand slap would be okay on the flanks, like spanking a child's bum?)
If you think excessive (unreasonable or cruel) whipping should be regulated, should it be done by individual industries (dressage or racing federations), etc, individual equine organizations (such as AQHA, HJA, etc),
or should it be done by the law?
Should it be civil with fines imposed (jockeys are typically fined about $500 for misusing a whip in a race),
Or should it be a criminal misdemeanor, and the equivalent of horse abuse, such as neglecting a horse causing it to die of starvation (California Penal Code Section 597.1)?
Whips can be beneficial in riding- sometimes a whip is used in dressage with no more force than a single fly landing on the horse hide.
Sometimes a whip is used in racing to guide the horse off the rail where the footing is often deep and dangerous.
I personally don't carry a whip on my horse. I believe he must have been abused by an owner in the past, and so now is terribly scared of any whip in any situation.
And with my horse, he responds better to firm kindness and persuasion than to force. I think he knows that at nearly 2,000 pounds there isn't much I can force him to do!
I am firmly against excessive whipping.
But I am having a harder time defining the line,
and then knowing the remedy.
(Thus, my research project!)