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The Correct Use of a Riding Crop
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The Correct Use of a Riding Crop

Carrying a riding crop seems pretty straight forward, right? You hold it in your hand and use it when your horse isn't doing what it is supposed to do, right? Well, not exactly.

Primarily, the whip should just be an "extension" of our leg. If we ask our horse to go forward and he doesn't respond, we can tap him with the whip, as we use our leg.

If we ask our horse to move over and he doesn't respond, we use the whip, as we use our leg to encourage him over.

If he spooks at something and needs encouragement to get past it and our leg isn't enough, we can use the whip to encourage him.

If he bucks and our leg isn't enough to keep him moving forward, we then use the whip.

You can probably see a theme here, right? I hope you can! The theme that I hope you can see is that we use the whip as an "extension" of our cues, to help our cues be just a little stronger and assert ourselves.

In teaching beginner riding lessons, I see a lot of kids that are having trouble getting our old lazy school horses to move. When I give them a crop I explain how it is properly used. The whip is back up for your leg, not a replacement for it.

Once you use the crop on your horse to get him to do whatever it is you want, you should go back to just using your leg and holding the whip still. It should be treated as a tool that we carry with us on our rides to make us more effective.

I have been known to test my young riders by taking their crops away and seeing whether or not they can still get their horses to do what they are supposed to do.

You would be surprised how shocked they are when I take the whip away and the horse goes back to being sluggish and not listening. They realize that they were using the whip instead of their leg rather than reinforcing it.

The whip should always be used as an extension of our aids and never thought of as a way to punish a horse. Even in a situation where your horse refuses a jump, and you need to use your whip, you use your hands to steer the front end at the middle of the jump, and then you use your whip to make your legs extra assertive. You tap the horse with the whip so he knows that you aren't asking him to go over the jump, you are telling him.

If you think of it this way, you will be using the crop to the best of your ability and should be communicating very effectively with your horse!

I believe that using a whip should be a right of passage for a rider. It should be something you get to do once you have solid basics and understand how and why to use it properly. It is just another skill we learn to put in our toolbox as we continue on our horsemanship journey.

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  1. jst4horses
    There is a recent post on FB regarding Native Nations relay racing, in which the RIDERS jump off the horses, jump ON another horse, and a wrangler cares for the horse that has run ONE circle of the quarter mile track. They ride without saddles, and simple snaffle bridles. The NativeNaturalHorsemanship riders and trainers, as well as the Natural Horsemanship trainers world wide do NOT use whips. Some use "care sticks" when training. A crop is another piece of silly equipment, invented by some person who thought it looked "smart". Like the check rein, or cropped tails, or even side saddles, which cost many a woman her life, either being thrown when the huge dress she was wearing to cover the fake leg and dangling boot on one side, and her real leg in a stirrup on the other side blew up in the wind and caused a horrible accident, or when the woman who did not have the sense to use that fake leg-boot slipped and fell off the horse, often tangled in the dress and /or caught in the contraption to keep her second leg properly closed and "ladylike" caught her and dragged her head, of course scaring the horse who ran faster, and often kicked her in the head............HORSES can feel a fly walking on their body. They can see, hear, and smell a predator far away from them, they do NOT need to be whipped. A whip, like any of the hodgepodge of tack invented to abuse a horse into doing what a person is too incapable of doing, or too vicious and violent to do property is NOT a piece of positive equipment, it is just a trendy way to abuse a horse. EVEN jockeys, who DO use crops, hit ONLY their boot with the thing. I have had many a nasty discussion including the word FIRED with exercise riders and jockeys while training both horse handlers, including jockeys and exercise riders , hot walkers and grooms for State Board licensing to work on tracks......IF they actually hit the horse with the whip. SOME people use a crop that they have affixed a LARGE flappy hand to while TRAINING a horse, to pat him here and there as if flapping their short armed hand. Otherwise, take the time it takes to train a horse, or do not have it where it has to be beaten or poked ......it often creates accidents. I have worked for many an OWNER who has had to have EXPENSIVE remedial work done for a horse "trained" by a "trainer" who used whips and crops until the horse went sour and NO ONE could get into the stall with them, or on to the saddle. Since these were often horses valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to race horses valued in the millions of dollars, it was NOT feasible to let them just stand in the stall and die because no one could get in there, or on them if they managed to get them out again. IF a person feels it necessary to be "fashionable' to ride, tap your BOOT or the saddle with the crop, NOT the horse. I have seen horses "tapped" on the chest or neck rear up and flip over on the fashionable rider. It is NOT fashionable to be crushed by a horse wearing a saddle, it is not fun to be dead or maimed for the rest of your life. A crop CAN be used if just a fashion statement, but not to make up for the fact that no one has taken the time to properly train the horse. One of the several years in a row colt training champions has video out that shows not just him, but clinic members learning to manage a horse with balance and leg movement. NEVER forget a horse feels a fly and horses are aware of the alpha mare in the field at all times, it is what keeps them comfortable and alive. They do NOT need to be beaten or poked to get results. You should be able to ride your horse bareback, without a bridle or even a halter in all aspects of your expected work BEFORE you take it out into shows, or on the trail.

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