A New Trick in How to Use a Lunge Whip with Grace and Ease

Carolyn and FirelightA New Trick This old dog has learned a new trick in empowering others in using a lunge whip more effectively. I have watched others in the horse world needing more ability with a whip and I did not know how to develop this skill better for them, but now I do.

You want your lunge whip to inspire the horse to follow your lead, rather than scare a horse to perform.

Timing and accuracy is crucial. Knowing how to use the lunge whip with ease and grace will bring out more willingness in your horse and a closer working bond.  A whip is your voice attitude and your directional aid.

Let’s look closely at why whips work with horses rather than for dogs, cats or even each other

Why horses? Understanding this is important. A dog would think you are being aggressive with him and a cat would play with it or think you are going to hit him with it and would not see it in any way as a communication aid, no matter how soft you are. As for us, we would take offense or have our feelings hurt if someone tried it. Because we would feel this way, we feel that a horse would too.  However, horses look at driving aids differently.  A horse is a herd animal and can be directed easily by asking him to go where you want him to go by directing him with a lunge whip.  This is quite natural to horses.

You might ask, “wouldn’t the horse accept our body language instead of a whip for a driving aid?” and you would be right, when you are close to a horse.  However, when you are not close to a horse, he or she looses this response.  It is similar to the loss of the magnetic connection when you move out of the heart area.

With a lunge whip we can give the feeling to a horse that we are still close to him. While working a horse from a distance we can bring the whip close to his body, which causes him to listen and fit in with it as he would in a traveling herd.

Directional Aides

Photo taken by Teddie ZieglerA lunge whip has a cracker on it (it is the little string that is attached to the end of the whip) and this has the ability to make a sound for the purpose of drawing attention to your directional aids. It has a strong bite on it if you crack it loudly, just like a nip of a horse to another to move him on. But rarely do you ever need to use a whip as a nip if you have properly trained your horse to accept your leadership and your driving aides through the Waterhole Rituals.

A soft crack of the whip in a timely manner will not break the bond or the trust and will influence the horse positively.  Interestingly the louder you crack the whip the more likely a horse will not respond to it or will react with confusion. I am going to give you some exercises to practice in using a lunge whip in a more graceful manner.

We do not want the horse to respond from fear because we will loose our rapport with the horse. What we want is that the horse responds and takes our direction because of his herding instincts. When a horse is born, he is born with the instinct to move away from any influence that is approaching him and to move towards anything that is leaving him. This keeps the herd together. This is why, when lunging a horse from the ground, it is often hard to get them to go out on a circle. They naturally want to stay close.

What are Your Intentions?

I can read the intentions of a person using a whip easily and so can a horse. Many people say, “my horse is afraid of a whip” and I point out to them that I have never seen a horse afraid of a whip when he finds one by itself.  If you have the skill and see nothing wrong with using a whip, a horse looks favorability on it and will respond easily to light requests.

The exercise below will help you to use a lunge whip as a driving aid. I want you first to learn how to crack a whip softly and gracefully.


What I find is that I can influence a horse strongly by where I put my focus and by what I am thinking about.

If you are thinking that you want to drive your horse and then try to influence him to move, he will not respond as well as if you think that you want to get close to your horse so that you can touch him with the whip to move him, then he will leave in a hurry.  Be specific and choose a spot on the top of his butt that you would like to touch softly with your whip, as if you want to remove a fly and you would like to catch him, then he will move off easily. If you do it right he will also see it as a game.

This is the Exercise

  1. Practice cracking a whip softly so hardly any sound is made while aiming for  targets, on the ground. Make your targets in a straight line. I use the edging along my barn.
  2. Once you can do this well, change your target to flowers. I got this idea from my student, Diane Ursch. Such a good idea. We do not want to whip flowers, do we? This is similar to how we feel about our horses.  On the first step we were focused on the accuracy and a soft crack and now we are about moving the flower and not disturbing the petals.

Here is the video from Diane Ursch.  Watch the video from beginning to 1:28 to show you the second part of the exercise.


When you can do this, your horse will love you for it.  Good luck, and may the spirit of the bond be with you.

Once you have developed the skill to influence a flower with the touch of your whip, you now have the ability to influence your horse with the whip without having to touch him at all.  You won't know this until you practice.

Have a great weekend!  Be on the lookout for new horse and human sightings and may the horse be with you.

Warmly, Carolyn