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Wiffle bats: Not just for school gym class anymore


Well, I was FINALLY going to comment about that video that has been making the rounds recently.  The one where trainer Cyndi Plasch is trying to load her horse after a show and beats it with a wiffle bat?  People come over, presumably trying to help, and flap their arms at the horse to encourage it to load.  All the while, someone is videotaping this inordinate amount of stupidity.

I know you’re all going to expect me to go after the person beating the horse the wiffle bat – and believe you me, she deserves it, but I do so hate to be predictable and honestly feel that given the virality of the video, maybe my comments aren’t required.  However, what I am concerned about is the person standing around taking the video.  The one that recognized something bad was happening, that something needed to be done about it, and proceeded to passively condone the abusers actions by allowing the behavior to continue without even trying to stop it.

Why did NO ONE step in and take the wiffle bat from her!?  Oh wait, people did step in… and waived their arms around like it was greenhorn cattle drive!

There are certainly times when it is better to video and not risk your own health and safety – I get that, more so than most.  However, in a crowded area, in broad daylight, the risk was greatly reduced.  What could your justification be for NOT stepping in?  I’m sorry, but I just can’t imagine a scenario where they couldn’t have at least gone over there and said “hey, stop that” in a stern tone.  I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea to get up in someone else’s grill, but I just cannot comprehend a situation wherein you can idly stand by.  -that’s most likely a statement on me and my understanding of human nature because I can tell you right now that I have next to none (understanding that is, I have some human nature).

For an update on this story and a few more details, check out this article. BTW this article contains the videographers defense as to why she chose to videotape rather than help the horse.  To sum up: it was for the greater good.

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About snarkyrider

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Posted on April 27, 2012, in Horse News, Misc Horsies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. That’s kind alike people who recently stood around filming, laughing and cheering as one guy was beat to death by a group of people in USA.

    We seem to have become spectators who keep waiting for someone else to step in and do something. Or as is the case with the poor man who was beat to death, we’re a bunch of Roman’s reliving the glory days.

    Either way, she could have filmed it and gone over with the camera and told them to stuff it.

  2. And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody outside of a small circle of friends.

    • To expand a bit there was a lot of research done after the Kitty Genovese trial and the results were that if more than 4 people witness an event the likelihood is that none of them will step in. Each will want to wait for someone else to get involved and take the silence of the others as a cue that the behavior is socially acceptable. Humans are highly social creatures and it takes a lot to make us step out of a pack.

  3. Really? This is getting completely ridiculous. First calling an old man abusive, and now this.

    Did none of you get hit with a wiffle bat by one of your friends when you were kids? THEY DON’T HURT. Hell, I once walked in front of an adult swinging one full-force (at a ball) and that STILL didn’t hurt (I was about 6).

    The thing with the wiffle bat is that it MAKES NOISE – and a damn loud one at that.

    YES, using the bat was a stupid idea, but it WASN’T abusive.

    That article you posted had a comment from someone who was (presumably) at the show stating that NOT ONLY was this NOT the trainer’s horse (all of hers apparently loaded without a hitch), but this horse had been acting up BEFORE this incident (apparently to the point that said horse was pulled from the last day of showing) and the trainer had apparently tried other methods before using the bat.

    The person recording didn’t tape the trainer’s horses being loaded OR this horse’s behavior prior to loading OR any of the methods that this trainer may/may not have tried before this. WE DON’T KNOW THE WHOLE STORY. And until we do, I don’t think that we should go around ruining people’s reputations. IF she actually IS abusive to her animals, HELL YES, let’s get the word out. But we really can’t make an accurate call on limited information like this.

    • Um, the old man was abusive… just because he’s old doesn’t make what he did any less awful. And the fact that I have to explain that to you complete invalidates the rest of your argument…

      • No, he wasn’t. He was ignorant and made a stupid choice (he wasn’t a horse person, it came out that the horse belonged to his wife who has a progressive illness) .

        Also, go back and look at the pics the news station showed in their broadcast. (And my comment on the original entry about that incident) Notice how in EVERY SINGLE photo his brake lights are on and the horse is able to brace against the truck and be a brat, AND in the one where the horse is down, the truck is in park and the man has already started to exit the cabin.

        How the hell else was an old man supposed to get a mare in heat home when she was tossing him around as he tried to walk her in-hand and the neighbors have a grudge against him (and were likely threatening legal action if he didn’t get the mare off of their property)?

        • Playing devils advocate here (ok, it’s more of a calling than my playing at it!) but the mare was being a brat? because she wasn’t following a truck? That’s a bit of a leap. Also, since when is ignorance an excuse for hurting an animal? There was NO reason for that mare to end up off her feet like that. Who cares if he had the brakes on the entire time? My dad drives at 50mph with the brake lights on because he uses two feet! If he was going *that* slow there would be NO way for the mare to be pulled off her feet (or for her to trip and fall on her own accord).

          • Sort of Anonymous

            I disagree. A horse bracing back against a nonmoving post can slide herself off her feet. We’ve all see it, in one way or another.

            Do people forget horses were regularly tied to the back of the buckboard/wagon/whatnot as a means of transporting the non working horse. The man was not going faster than the mare could walk.

    • We don’t know the whole story, you’re correct. What we do know is that a trainer hit a horse that wouldn’t load with a wiffle bat. I was not aware that a wiffle bat was an acceptable training aid. Silly me, I thought it was for hitting wiffle balls. If this horse was scared to get in the trailer than it doesn’t matter if the bat hurt or not, this was the wrong response and as a trainer she should have known that. If this horse was being bad and acting up then again the wiffle bat was the wrong way to go. She’s a trainer at a horse show so it’s unlikely she left her lunge line and whip at home – there are proper tools to use and then there’s what this person did. If you would like to withhold judgement until the entire story comes out, that’s fine and you’re a better person than I, however the facts that we do know: this person is a trainer who chose to hit a horse that wouldn’t load onto a trailer with a wiffle bat rather than use proper tools. Given that she’s a trainer with students watching…. well let’s just say I’d pull my kids from her program in a heartbeat.

      • Honestly, in that kind of situation, it gets to the point where you HAVE to get the horse into the trailer (shows like that ime tend to have scheduled trailer depart times, and ONE late person can screw EVERYTHING up), and then go back and work on things in a more palatable manner at home.

        And we have NO WAY of knowing exactly what she may have tried before the bat – such as those “proper tools” you mentioned. Maybe she tried a lunge whip, or a crop, or a dressage whip, or food – WE DON’T KNOW. And UNLESS we know, we have no real place to call a situation like this abuse.

        Not to mention that at a show like that there are specified areas to lunge and you get in massive trouble if you lunge outside of those areas (or at least you’re supposed to) – and at the end of the event like this, those areas are CLOSED.

        • lol I don’t think I know ANY horse people that use pen in their daytimes, if you know what I mean. All times are penciled and you’re early if you’re only 20 minutes late! I just mean that horses seem to love to throw off our schedules and 99.9% of horse people recognize that. I *hope* the show people would be ok with taking some time to load a horse properly rather than beat it with a wiffle bat. -actually I’m sure I read somewhere that they condemned this woman’s behavior…

          I didn’t mean she should lunge the horse but rather create an artificial barrier on one side with the line and use the whip as encouragement (although, given her display with a bat maybe putting a lunge whip in her hands isn’t the best idea…).

          • I was just thinking I’m glad she didn’t use a whip, because if she would have done that with a whip in her hands rather than a wiffle bat, she could have done some serious damage to the horse. Thankfully, she took her frustrations out on rather harmless “tool”. I’d rather see someone loose their cool with something stupid but pretty much harmless, than to cause actual pain with a proper training tool.

            And I’m thinking the people who filmed the whole thing just wanted their 15 mins of fame because, if they really were that concerned, they would either have offered to help or report the situation.

          • Correct. I would have used a longe line as a butt rope. You cannot pull a horse into a trailer – you have to push from behind. Sawing back and forth with the butt rope is irritating but not abusive and truly DOES cause MOST horses to load. It’s an oldie but a goodie…nothing wrong with it. The problem with the wiffle bat wasn’t that a wiffle bat was going to hurt the horse, it was that it was just scaring the horse and causing a scene for no reason when there was a perfectly quiet, humane alternative (a butt rope).

        • It wasn’t a show. It was the Midwest Horse Fair. As for scheduled trailer depart times – I’ve never heard of that happening. Maybe it might happen at someplace like the Washington International for the sake of logistics, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s not happening at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. People leave when it makes sense for their animals and travel schedule.

          As for what other methods she did or didn’t use, the first one that would have occurred to a competent horse trainer would have been to open BOTH doors on the trailer while loading and unloading a difficult horse. Trying to drive a frightened prey animal through a doorway sized for a human is just plain stupid and lazy, too.

          • Okay, so I might be wrong about the schedule, but still, there are only so many hours in a day, and there were likely things to be done back at her barn.

            Honestly, to me it looked like she was trying to load into one of those trailers with the stupid and badly placed tack rooms at the back, so opening the other door wouldn’t really do anything.

            • She had things to do back at her barn? She had things to do AT THE FAIR, namely training a horse to load quietly and calmly. If she can’t even manage that one, then she probably doesn’t need to be trying other training challenges, like… I dunno, standing tied, leading, or picking up its feet? This trainer gave me a good hour’s worth of educational examples to use in a clinic on how NOT to load a horse, and the video only ran for two minutes. I’m not even remotely shocked that she had already been at it for over an hour. Her methods were guaranteeing her failure.

    • Mmmkay, “abuse” doesn’t mean “causing physical pain.” It means ABUSE. As in, causing fear, trauma. Yes, the horse may have been experiencing little pain and no bleeding. That’s why I’m mostly okay with the videographer not stepping in when she didn’t feel comfortable. But that doesn’t make the bat lady’s actions okay either. Or do you really thing this was an appropriate way to get a balky horse to trailer? I sure as hell don’t.

      Bat-lady is a professional trainer, entrusted with the safety of the children and horses she teaches, and yet threw such a major temper tantrum that this was a result. I have a feeling that if she had had an ACTUAL bat in her hand, she would have used it. Just look at her swing over and over in a rage! HOW is that living up to the trust placed in her? Especially when her students were watching her bad example!

      And so what if the horse was acting up before? Does that mean that when a horse or kid escalates, you’re justified in escalating too? So, what, it’s okay to take a chainsaw to a habitual bucker, or savagely beat a kid for stealing for the third time? Um, no.

      A parent, a trainer, a teacher should NEVER resort to these kinds of tactics. And yes, I was spanked or pinched for being naughty– but that’s NOT what this was. This was not a swat on the nose for biting. This was not a rap with a crop. This was a continuous hitting– a temper tantrum taken out on a living creature.

      Other things that are abusive, but not bloody or immediately painful:
      -Locking a horse in an isolated stall with no exercise for weeks.
      -Deliberately traumatizing a horse with firecrackers, chasing with a four wheeler
      -Not providing basic vet care
      -Riding yearlings

      • I don’t agree with the use of the wiffle bat – quote from my first comment “YES, using the bat was a stupid idea” – but like I responded to DE/JG’s comment, it DOES get to the point where you end up exhausting your other resources/tools and have to resort to something you’d normally never do because the show assoc. has put you on a depart schedule (and since even local 4-H shows here have depart schedules for the bigger shows here – in one of the smallest counties on my state – I’m pretty DAMN sure they had one at the Midwest Horse Fair), and then you go home, TAKE YOUR TIME and work through the issue.

        • No artificial rule or regulation is an excuse for the inexcusable. I’d much rather “get in trouble” with show organizers for leaving late than do this to a horse. Your biggest priority should be the welfare of your horse, not somebody’s time schedule. And since the Midwest Horse Fair condemned this trainer’s actions, I’m pretty sure THEY would rather have someone leave late than do this as well. Anyone reasonable would understand.

        • hmmm… my thoughts on this, having been at the MHF at the end. There are a TON and I mean a TON of professional horse people there who could and would be happy to help you if you were standing out on the grounds with a horse that wouldn’t load like she was. But, you have to admit defeat and ASK FOR HELP. Hard for a lot of people.. Not me. Talking from experience and exasperation at my horse not loading and everyone leaving a show in the pouring rain, I asked for help. I told people closing things up that I am loosing my temper and at my wit’s end, so please some one give me some advice. And guess what?? Not only did some wonderful people step up, they kindly set my Arab straight and got him on the trailer safely. They were happy to do it and I know MANY people at the MHF that are there at the end and would have happily helped her.
          She lost her temper and showed her true ways and frankly I’m glad she was caught on
          video for all to see. I think the video taker did a good thing.

        • Nup, lots of trailers still sitting there. And honestly, when it reaches a point where the argument will need to be made on another day at another time, then you call a vet and tranquilize the horse– far less violent, stressful, or abusive than deciding that as a trainer you have ‘had enough’ and are going to beat a horse into the trailer. Btw, good training results in a shorter fight each subsequent time, so it is always in a trainer’s best interest to handle horses correctly, instead of giving up and going for the violent short cut methods.

    • designerchick2

      The old man drug a horse behind his truck. Old age is not an excuse for stupidity. He’s not a horse person – no shit. Sorry but I am not buying into the “I just wanted to get her home to breakfast and apples” crap. If he couldn’t get the mare to lead (tricky w/out a halter – even my nonhorsey boyfriend knows how to put on a halter and lead my mare – he would have been better off leaving her until he could find someone to help him. Oh wait that might have cost him money right?

      Sorry but I call bullshit and abuse. Period

      • Yes, and as to “what was he supposed to do” — well, call someone who knew what the fuck they were doing sort of comes to mind! As for Cyndi Plasch, when you can’t load a horse, it’s worth LETTING SOMEONE ELSE TRY. Trust me, by the time you are angry and frustrated, the horse knows and it makes the situation worse. Let someone calm give it a shot.

  4. Eh, I dunno Snarkyrider… you and I write blogs about horrific stuff every day, but neither of us (at least I don’t) often directly confront the people who perpetrated it. Or did you contact that yearling-riding trainer from your post a few days ago and tell her to stop screwing up babies?

    Instead, we publish that crap to make others, including authorities, aware of it, to show people the BAD examples so they don’t follow them, and to (hopefully) shame those who have done it. I can’t get angry at the waffle-bat-incident videographer without getting angry at myself for not being more confrontational.

    Lastly, I would feel differently if the horse had really been being hurt. Yeah, wiffle bat = OMFG stupid and abusive, but not causing actual wounds. That’s absolutely not a defense of the abuser, but certainly a mitigating circumstance when it comes to deciding whether or not to castigate a witness who did exactly what we’re doing– showing, documenting, informing authorities.

    • I’m kinda with you on this one, NorthHorse. If the “trainer” had a whip or wooden paddle or something that really would hurt the horse, I’d be pissed that the person didn’t step in. In this case, I’m not as up-in-arms that they didn’t and just documented instead…

  5. I’m with NorthHorse – where do you draw the line? If this is truly your opinion, shouldn’t you be directly confronting people rather than spending time spreading awareness?

    I’ve been a longtime reader of both this blog and Fugly, but have never felt compelled to post before. This blog post made me lose a lot of respect for you. I think that the types of stories you blog about would be very difficult to find well supported information on if people did not document.

    I definitely agree with NorthHorse’s statement “Lastly, I would feel differently if the horse had really been being hurt. Yeah, wiffle bat = OMFG stupid and abusive, but not causing actual wounds. That’s absolutely not a defense of the abuser, but certainly a mitigating circumstance when it comes to deciding whether or not to castigate a witness who did exactly what we’re doing– showing, documenting, informing authorities.”

  6. rockin rc ranch

    So who carries a wiffle bat in their trailer? Is this a common training tool for her? hhhmmm…..

  7. A trainer trains. Any trainer who has to resort to whacking a horse with anything, is only showing their lack of training skills. Trailer loading is basic horse training. For her to bring her bat with her, shows she was expecting the horse not to load. If I had a horse that I knew was a bad loader, I would first train it to load…dah…at home before taking it out in public.

  8. And, no trainer worth their salt ever stands behind a horse and whacks it with anything shorter than the horses’ hind legs. An accident just waiting to happen. (I was rooting for the horse to nail her.)

  9. If no one was willing to step in and stop the hitting, why then didn’t anyone go get help from an official or even a security guard? Someone whose job it is to ensure the safety of the horses at the show. I personally hate confrontations, but I damn sure would have gone to show staff for help. I agree with North Horse, though the bat might not have hurt, it was still used to cause fear and intimidation and as a professional horse trainer she should have known better. Also think of the horrible example she was setting for others around her, especially if there where children watching.

  10. Donna Lee Jones

    That is not the way you encourage a scared horse to get in a trailer! Cyndi was in a mad rage whacking constantly at the horse whether he took a try or not. That teaches the horse to get scared when standing near the door of the trailer…the exact opposite of what she was trying to achieve. She should have had a stick and string and a butt rope. She looked like a 2 year old child having a temper tantrum. I’d hate to see what she does to horses when she is not in the public eye. Shame on her! Abuse also includes causing fear and mishandling so this is also abuse in my books. If I was videoing this, I would have confronted her (while still videoing) and told her a better way to load the horse. I doubt in her state of mind that she would be willing to listen to someone who knew better than her. I get that most people don’t want to confront an angy, crazy person but I would do this to help the horse. Most people don’t even have the balls to video something like this and give it to the media so I think the lady that videoed this deserves an award! Name and shame to promote awareness! : )

  11. I have learned from experience the kind of person who would do such a thing is the kind of person with so little common sense they’d see anything wrong with their great idea. In other words, they’d refuse to stop. And some get downright nasty. Some will turn that anger towards the only thing they’re allowed to hit: the horse. and then things get even worse for him.

    If she was using something that bordered on criminal abuse, I probably would say something to her — then I’d call the show steward and possible animal control. But this being a plastic bat seemed more dangerous to her than to the poor horse.

    I would make a mental note of who it is so I’m sure I never go to her for training, lessons, or other horse services.

  12. designerchick2

    I agree with Spots – no decent trainer would stand behind a horse and whack it. Dangerous shit right there. Hey let’s teach our students dangerous behvior! Furthermore, what trainer brings a horse to a show that doesn’t load and unload in there sleep? Horse gets bratty – walk em out. Bring em back. Walk em into the trailer. Period. And seriously what trainer keeps a wiffle bat in their arsenal of training aides? I don’t care what kind of schedule everyone is on I would never whack my mare with a plastic bat.

  13. I don’t have a problem with failure to intervene here. It wasn’t a 2 x 4 with rusty nails, it was a wiffle bat. The horse community is a small one and you never know who is going to be a vindictive SOB and do something like open your gate and let your horses out in retribution for making them look bad in public. Putting the video out there probably did more to discourage the trainer from similar future scenes than yelling at her in front of a handful of people would.

  14. Something to consider also apart from the danger of the ‘trainer’ hitting the videographer with the bat instead of the horse or some other horrible act afterwards as Cathy mentioned is the possibility that if handled wrong or somehow it did result in a scuffle the ‘trainer’ could call it out as assault or another stupid charge. That’s LARGELY why people don’t intervene. There’s too many laws in place protecting the morons and not rewarding the good samaritans. Doesn’t matter if that ‘trainer’ would win… that would be a lot of horrible, time, and money.

    While the horse was being abused, the trainer’s life life was more in danger than the horse’s since it was just a wiffle bat and ole Betsy could fire off a good kick if she’d had the inclination. The videographer’s decision to stand back and tape it instead I believe was a wise choice and the most effective one… however I’ve also heard the trainer is now getting death threats because of the video which I don’t agree with.

  15. Sort of Anonymous

    Well, I knew a stallion who LOVED his wiffle bat. That and the breeding halter told him it was time for business. It helped him in his early, over-enthusiastic years to respect the handler. He was neither afraid of it not his handler, it was a very visible tool to remind him of his Ps and Qs.

    The problem with the video is lack of detail. The horse is resisting loading. But we can’t tell how much of his reactions to the “whomping” are just more “NOT GOING IN THE TRAILER” or genuine fear.

    I have seen a broom broken trying to convince a horse to get into the trailer. NOT AT ANY POINT WAS ‘broomhorse” AFRAID. She was stubborn. When the outside stimulus got to the point that inside the trailer was better, in she went. And was praised. And loaded FINE every time after that.

    I would rather see a whiffle bat used for sound/intimidation than a whip. And if you thing a human should never need to intimidate a 1000lb animal with a brain the size of a tangerine, I think you are living in an idealistic dream world.

  16. If this was the person handling my horse, I would of taken that bat and beaten her with it! Horses, dogs, any animal need to respect their human, but beating it to get in a trailer is not the answer. If this horse had issues with loading, work on those issues before taking it to a show. I have shown dogs for years, and not all dogs like it. Would I beat a dog to make it show better? No, because it woudn’t. It only makes it worse and then you would have the fear. Horses are no different. This poor horse will always have issues with loading in a trailer because of this woman.

  17. Nothing is ever accomplished in anger, I truly believe this, ESPECIALLY with kids and animals. All that happens is you scare them and the next time you want them to load/jump/canter whatever, you have already laid a base with a negative. Stupid!

    Far as stepping in, I guess I’m not normal but I’ll do it in a heartbeat….I hate abuse in any form, it’s one of the few times I get angry. I’ll likely do it even when I am a grey little lady who has shrunk to 4’8″ 😉

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