Manolo Mendez Dressage

Why Does Manolo Use a Bamboo Cane?

Manolo Mendez uses bamboo as an extension of his arm, to assist in his in-hand and ridden work. Bamboo is never used to hit the horse, but rather to guide it by gentle touch.  Manolo uses bamboo to observe and assist in adjusting good posture, tempo and rhythm. He also uses it for developing or enhancing  straightness and symmetry.  His use of the bamboo is integral to working on lateral movements, including straightness in transitions, suspension and halts.

When using bamboo, you have to be very careful how you touch the horse on its lower legs, as there are bones, tendons and ligaments in that area. The purpose of the bamboo is to guide and influence the horse, not punishment.

Manolo Mendez training a horse with a bamboo cane

"Remember, using force on the horse inhibits its desire to work, his confidence in himself and his trust in you."

Manolo Mendez

How I Select the My Bamboo

bamboo tree

Length of Bamboo:

I use different lengths depending on the type of work I am doing with the horse, ranging from 6,8 to 12 feet.  I always begin by using the long bamboo and asking the horse to travel on a 20 metre circle around me,  in order to access its weaknesses and strengths.  The longer bamboo allows me to keep the horse active from a distance. If I want to work closely with the horse, a shorter bamboo allows me to tap the hind or front legs while moving with the horse.  For the beginner it is better to start with the shorter length in order to become accustomed to using the bamboo as part of their arm. 

Circumference of Bamboo:

The width of the bamboo should be about the size of an index finger. It needs to be long, thin and taper in towards the top. A long bamboo will be slightly thicker than the shorter bamboo, but it doesn’t require as much dexterity as is needed when working closer to the horse. 

General Condition 

Ideally, Bamboos should be straight and dry, of equal length and with knuckles that have been smoothed. You do not want any rough or sharp sections to catch on the horse’s body. You can use garden shears to remove offshoots then sand the knuckles and tip to make your bamboo friendly. Warning – only use completely DRY bamboo. Green bamboo is heavy and hurt the horse as a whip would. For light and dry bamboo, bundle green bamboos together so they are straight, then hang them up to dry for several months in a dry place. Make sure you place a weight at the bottom to ensure they straighten as they dry out. Alternatively, you may purchase 6ft lengths of dry bamboo from most garden centres, make sure you pick the straightest available.   

Manolo Mendez holding bamboo sticks to aid in horse training

DRY bamboo makes an impressive noise and it would be easy to think it is harsh; but It isn’t. Once the horse realises it is not hurtful in any way, it will become accustomed to it, a process that should only take a few minutes.  The horse will show no fear or concern over the bamboo if the uses it correctly. Please use common sense, work calmly and do not forget to praise the horse for the smallest try.

Scroll to Top