Welfare-in-Action Rapping


Forward by Milly Shand

Rapping, also known as poling, may be defined as any method used to make horses jump higher or more carefully.

Most notably used by show-jumpers, the methods involve either the rider or an assistant deliberately causing the horse to hit something as he jumps over an obstacle.  The pain is used to make the horse pick his legs up higher.  By sensitising the legs or wrapping the pole in sharp objects any knock to the legs is even more painful.


The rider puts the horse in a position where he cannot avoid hitting a fence by jumping fences that are too high or wide, using difficult to see metal poles just above the visible poles, creating false distances between or up to fences, setting false ground lines, or, intentionally putting the horse too close to an obstacle and thus making it impossible to clear.


Hits the horses legs or deliberately causes the horses to hit something itself.  This is done by many means including smacking the horses legs with a stick or bamboo as he clears the fence or picking the top rail (sometimes a metal rail) up so that the horse hits the pole that he had jumped high enough to clear.

Sensitising and sharp objects

In order to make the horse more sensitive to hitting a fence.  Practices include sensitising the legs with acid that blisters the skin and/or using sharp objects around the pole, for example, hedgehog skins or brambles, or putting sharp objects inside the boots of the horse.  All these methods make hitting a pole even more agonising.

These practices are illegal in training and competition under FEI rules, however, punishment is not fixed and may, therefore, be lenient.

Following the exposure of high-profile show-jumpers using these practices in the 1990s, those in the sports would like us to believe that these methods are rarely used in modern training, however, rapping in any form is virtually impossible to enforce.  Some federations will do spot-checks on private training yards where it is likely to be commonplace because like many cruel training practices it can be effective.  Even used in a seemingly innocuous form an experienced rider can easily place a horse too close to a jump that can legally have a heavy iron water-pipe as a top rail causing unnecessary pain.

Concordia believes any method of rapping or sensitising to be inhumane and a welfare issue.  Ethical training should never involve punishing an equine for doing something that he was asked to do.  Causing a horse pain for jumping adequately high to clear an obstacle in order to make the horse over-compensate by jumping too high does not only cause pain but may also cause fear.





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