A new ruling on “shanking” and the use of the whip at Arab shows has been introduced by the United States Equestrian Federation.
The federation’s hearing committee met last month (5 April) to discuss a complaint filed in connection with the US Arabian and Half-Arabian National Championship Show, held in October last year.
It was alleged that abusive correction techniques, including shanking and threatening use of the whip were being utilised by some handlers in the Arabian halter division classes.
Shanking involves the handler jerking on the lead rein, often with a chain under the horse’s chin.
The federation said that these techniques come into play most frequently during the “hard stand up” element of competition, where the horse is stood before the judges with its head held high.
After the hearing, the panel concluded that these practices did not adhere to the federation rules, except in specific instances.
It was determined that shanking should only be allowed in emergency situations when the horse becomes “dangerously unruly and immediate shanking is required in order to gain control of the horse and prevent imminent harm to the horse or others.”
Similarly, threatening use of the whip as a visual cue while preparing or presenting a horse in Arabian classes “must be recognised as intimidating behaviour that is disallowed”.
Judges, stewards, competition vets and show committees are expected to uphold the new rule and must issue penalties if competitors are found to be breaching the rule.
The federation also suggested that the Arabian halter community re-evaluate the “hard stand up” element of the competition as it is “potentially stressful and intimidating for a horse”.
The organisation added that this revaluation is particularly relevant given the new ruling as handlers may “turn to other abusive techniques that do not involve shanking or threatening use of the whip to achieve the best ‘hard stand up’.”