24 Mar 7. How to use a whip correctly
Every rider who carries a whip, whether a short stick or schooling whip, should be aware that this additional aid is to be used only to reinforce the message sent to your horse by your legs and not as an alternative or as a punishment.
You may think there can be little skill in the use of a whip, but you would be very wrong – timing and the force with which it is applied are critical, as is the ability to tap the horse in the right place without affecting your rein contact, so it is important to recognise and learn when and how a stick should be used.
Obviously, we would all prefer our horses to respond quickly and correctly to the natural aids that we give, but if your horse does not, even if you think you have given a clear signal of what you are asking for, it may be appropriate to use your whip as a reminder.
Timing is important – if your horse is unresponsive to the pressure your leg is applying, you need to use the whip immediately so it associates it with your original leg aid and does not view it as some random act with no meaning. If you find a single tap does not work and that it requires two to achieve the desired reaction, next time you need to use a stick you should give a firmer tap, but still making sure you avoid scaring or upsetting your horse.
And while the stick can be a reinforcement to leg aids that are being ignored by your horse, you need to ensure that while applying the whip, you are able to keep your hands still and are not pulling your horse’s head to one side. The trick is to ride with your stick held across your thigh, so it is easy to use when required, at which point you should move it about one inch away from the horse and give a flick of the wrist so that it connects with your horse’s side.
You also need to be able to swap your stick from one hand to the other without compromising your position or rein contact. Imagine you wish to swap the whip from your right to your left hand: holding the reins with both hands, you swing the stick with your right hand (thumb on top) in an arc up and over to the other side and then, keeping hold of both reins with your right hand, grasp the stick with your left hand and return it to the normal position, lying across your thigh, with both hands once more holding the reins. This process, once perfected, will allow you to retain your rein contact and minimise, if not eliminate, any unhelpful fumbling.
Learning the correct and effective application of a whip and achieving an effortless swap from one hand to the other takes time and practice. If you have access to an equine simulator, this is the perfect way to experiment with using a stick to best effect and switching it from side to side, but it is also something you can practise at home.
Practise this on the equicise simulator
Use ‘Dressage Test’ setting. Press reset. Ride the horse on the fields around the arenas in walk to start with. Practise using both legs on sensor 2, a light squeeze first and then a stronger leg aid and then practise using the schooling whip, timing it to reinforce your leg aid. Look in the mirrors to check that you are using your whip in the correct place. Check that the rein sensor lights don't light up when you are using the whip or this will mean that you are pulling back on the mouth. Repeat the exercise in walk, trot and canter and practise changing the whip over in walk, trot and canter. You can also practise with a jumping whip, putting your reins in one hand and using the stick behind your leg as quickly and effectively as possible