Crop Vs Dressage Whip - What To Use When

The riding crop is a short whip used on the shoulder of the horse. I use it with green horses, green riders, hacking out and jumping. I use it to sensitise forwardness from the leg and to teach the shoulders to follow the nose when steering with the reins.

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 The dressage whip is a long whip mostly used on the flank, sometimes behind the leg with more coordinated riders. I use it with horses and riders that have learnt or are learning to move the horse away from the leg in a yield and or can ride drive and engagement from behind into contact. I will use it in flatwork and dressage training.

I will only use spurs with educated horses and riders and will encourage them not to be used every training session. I believe they should be used to refine the aids in the higher levels and should never be used to create forwardness from the leg. If your horse is dead to the leg you need to learn how to sensitise the horse to the leg aid not just put spurs on. I will only put spurs on riders that have a lot of control of their lower leg, are super aware of what it is doing and sensitive to how the horse responds. I don’t believe that spurs make the horse more sensitive to the leg in the long run and if you are trying to use them to make the horse more sensitive you run the risk of making them kick out and buck out at the spur.

When using either whip it is only used to sensitise the horse to what the leg is doing. Using pressure release we teach the horse the pathway of consequence that if they chose not to respond to a light leg aid the aids with get stronger and stronger until they do react and then when they do the aid will go away. Because theres only so much strength we have in our legs the whip just means that the horse will be more inclined to respond. Once they understand that we are going to start with a light aid and get stronger until they respond they will start to react to the light leg aid. This method of training doesn’t work if

1.     We can’t make the aid any stronger (choosing to not ride with a whip)

2.     Are using the whip for punishment

3.     Not taking the whip away when the horse responds and continuing to hassle them even when they are trying and giving it their all

Any or all of these 3 factors is the best way to tune your horse out to you and desensitise it to your leg so they are no longer responsive.

With a green horse, I will start with the riding crop to develop forwardness from the leg and shoulder to follow the nose away from the leg. As the horse becomes more educated and starts to maintain forwardness from the leg without the whip and is following the rein because you are using the leg I will start working on engagement. Engagement starts asking the horse to transfer more weight onto the hindquarters and drive more from behind for forward than pull from the front end. When this transition starts to occur I will start using the dressage whip to create forwardness or drive from the haunches and yield or inside leg to outside rein.

If the dressage whip is used with a horse that doesn’t know yet how to drive from behind or a rider that doesn’t yet know how to ride into contact, I find that it can be prone to making the horse buck, kick out and jack up more. The dressage whip is most effective when both horse and rider know how to competently free up the shoulders and ride with swing and throughness. Once the horse is established in forwardness and then swing, engagement and throughness we may start thinking about using the spurs to refine the lateral aids as we introduce more complex aids and exercises like shoulder in, half pass, pirouette etc. In saying this I believe that these should be easily done without the spurs, the spurs just allow for a quieter leg and quieter communication.