A handy stick can be invaluable for training a young horse. Whether on the ground or in the saddle, the handy stick can aid equestrians in communicating with their horses. This tool may also be known as a "carrot" stick or "training" stick, and is usually recommended by natural horsemanship trainers. Knowing how to use a handy stick can make horse training easier and ensures a safe experience for horse and handler.
The Handy Stick
A handy stick, carrot stick or training stick can be commercially purchased or homemade. Typically 4 feet in length, a handy stick is usually made of flexible fiberglass and covered with nylon webbing, including a rubber grip for the trainer's comfort. Handlers can attach ropes or plastic bags to the end of a handy stick for desensitizing purposes. The handy stick is not a whip and should be used gently.
When working with a new or young horse, a handy stick can be used as an extension of the trainer's arm. Horses may be sensitive about certain areas of their bodies such as hooves, flanks or hindquarters, and a handy stick allows humans to reach these areas without the potential danger of being kicked. When horses have grown accustomed to being touched with the handy stick, trainers may choose to add a rope or plastic bag to the end of the stick. Used properly, these objects serve to further desensitize young or green animals and help keep the handler safe from kicks and bites.
Reacting to Pressure
Many training techniques focus on the horse's response to pressure. A horse learns to understand his handler's request through the increase and release of pressure on his body. When asking the horse to move laterally or sideways, tapping the handy stick lightly on his haunch will cause him to yield away from the stick, according to the Natural Horse Supply website. In this way, horses learn that yielding away from pressure will cause the pressure to cease. Using exercises like this can increase a horse's flexibility on the ground and prepare him for lateral movement in the saddle.
When you're using a handy stick with a green or new horse, getting him accustomed to the stick before training with it can prevent frightening him. As frightened horses can be dangerous to themselves and their handlers, a thorough investigation of the stick by the horse might be warranted. Allowing the horse to touch the stick with his muzzle can help him feel at ease. Natural Horse Supply suggests laying the stick down for the horse to see. As horses are sensitive around their flank area, take care not to use the stick in this spot to prevent ticklish horses from lashing out. Another spot to avoid is the tender coronet band, the hairline just above the hoof.
Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images