How to Properly Use a Riding Crop
Carrying 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. 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 in the same way that we use our leg.
Why and When We Use It
If we ask our horse to move over and he doesn't respond, we use the whip in the same way that 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.
Do You See the Theme Here?
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.
Using the Crop Does Not Replace Proper Leg Aids
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 for reinforcement.
The whip should always be used as an extension of our legs 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!
A Right of Passage
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.