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Using a whip

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  • Using a whip

    Ok, I need some tips on how each of you learned to use a whip effectively before a fence. I cannot do it. I have been riding for 15 years now and just cannot use a whip correctly. Of course, I haven't needed to until my current horse. She's the kind that gets behind your leg and slows to a stop (an un-dirty stopper) from time to time (only at shows, of course), and if I could just manange to reach back an give her a tap, there would be no problem. But I can't.

    Today we had a stop on XC, ruining an otherwise wonderful, fun round. It was actually the easiest, most straightforward ramp, but there was a long uphill gallop to it, and I just didn't manage to keep the power going. My trainer asked afterwards why I dind't use my whip, and that was honestly the first time I even considered the option. I am so uncoordinated with the whip that it never even occurs to me to use it!

    So if I ever want to have a clean XC, I need to learn to use the whip. But my mare never stops at home, and I hardly think it's fair to practice using the whip when I don't need it and she's done nothing wrong...

    Any tips, suggestions, exercises, etc for building hand-whip coordination over fences? I can use it fine on the flat, it's just when I'm a few strides from a fence that my coordination fails me.

  • #2
    First off, are you wearing spurs? Because if you aren't, I'd put some spurs on. Go to those first, and then if she doesn't respond, go to your whip. You need to feel comfortable with the reins in one hand. I would say if you don't feel comfortable with the reins in one hand, then practice--put them in one hand (alternate) and trot around, canter around, etc. If your horse tends to lean or run out on one side, that is the side to carry the whip on. If it doesn't matter, then whatever hand you are most comfortable with. I don't know why, but I carry my whip in my left hand, even though I am right handed. Maybe because I feel more comfortable with the reins in my right hand.


    • Original Poster

      Well, I hesitate to wear spurs on this mare because she can be quite quick a lot of the time. It's just the ocassionaly stop that I would need them, and I think they'd do more harm than good the rest of the time.

      I hadn't thought about practicing riding one handed. I guess I can always practice the motion of whipping without actually having a whip...


      • #4
        Your horse doesn't need to be slowing to a stop to need a tap, or even stopping to need a tap. Use it every time your horse starts to back off or fall off your leg even the slightest bit.

        If you ask your horse for forward and it's not there ASAP, use the whip. Think of it as a tool for forward NOW, not forward when the forward isn't there anymore. Even when you're just riding, practice with it. Doesn't mean you have to USE it every time, but practice being there with it. Canter poles on the ground and pretend you're dropping your hand back to whack, but don't make contact. Some fences I always drop my hand for, even if I don't actually end up making contact... like the water, or a drop.


        • #5
          I don't know if this theory applies to whips, but I learned that you should never cluck before a fence because a cluck means "forward" not "up and over" So I imagine if the theory holds true you should give a firm tap on the butt about 2-3 strides out and if you feel her slow give a good firm squeeze.

          Also, practice changing reins from two to one handed during takeoff. The hore I rode for mini-trials would act like he was going to jump and then stop, so I had to sit back and somtimes use a crop right before he changed him mind to refuse.

          To change hands I hang onto the rein with my thumb, pass it into my other thumb and forefinger, use the crop, and then regain my rein. It's not ideal, because if your horse shoots out you might loose the rein, but I've found it works in a pinch.

          Exercise wise I'd experiment with small verticals and cross-rails, figuring when she was going to stop etc.


          • #6
            The thing I think is essential to using your whip in front of a fence is staying up and almost vertical with your upper body. This is so you can be SURE you send energy from the whip forward and straight to the fence. I think if you reach back to use your stick behind the saddle and are too far ahead, you cannot reinforce that aid and carry the energy forward. Of course, then you have to be comfortable with riding/jumping with one hand. Just my 2 cents.
            It's psychosomatic. You need a lobotomy. I'll get a saw.


            • #7
              Originally posted by archieflies View Post
              Well, I hesitate to wear spurs on this mare because she can be quite quick a lot of the time. It's just the ocassionaly stop that I would need them, and I think they'd do more harm than good the rest of the time.

              I hadn't thought about practicing riding one handed. I guess I can always practice the motion of whipping without actually having a whip...

              You should practice because you should be independent enough to be able to use your whip when needed....but honestly....wear spurs too. Just because you are wearing spurs doesn't mean you need to USE them often. I have worn spurs on the hottest mares around....and it was never an issue. A "quick" horse doesn't mean it is a horse who is listening to your leg. A whip and spurs are meant to reinforce your leg aid. I also find that wearing spurs makes me use my leg more effectively and keep it quiet. Now if your leg isn't secure....then I wouldn't use spurs.
              Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Sep. 27, 2009, 08:20 PM.
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


              • #8
                Going to your stick is just a reinforcement of the leg, not a punishment. If my horse wavers or hesitates at all once he pointed at the fence, I get my stick out. If my horse has been jumping sticky the last few fences, I get my stick out for the next one. My young horse actually tends to be slow off the ground and jump sticky, so my coach always tells me to hit him behind my leg at the first fence on xc.

                Reins in one hand (my left, unless there is a fence Im worried about with a left runout option, then I might swap my whip before that fence) reach back, and voila. Most horses coast on that adrenaline for the rest of the course. And, added bonus, it helps keep you back, kind of like hailing a cab, so since I have to beat my horse off every bank into water, it also helps keep me from falling forward.


                • Original Poster

                  Thanks everyone! I like the idea of practicing with a course of ground poles. I guess the mental block for me is jumping one-handed when I'm not quick enough to grab the reins back... so if I start with ground poles, it's not such an issue.


                  • #10
                    I've had a trainer who had certain "whip-challenged" riders practice while sitting on a barrel or a large log. Tie "reins" to any upright object, straddle the barrel, and practice your beating skills, including switching hands and overhand hitting. (Overhand hitting is NOT allowed in competition, but there are some certain real-life situations where it is necessary, and you should be comfortable doing it just in case). If you have a friend, allow him/her to hold the other end of the reins, and serve as a "live" feel that your rein-hand has to follow.

                    Or, borrow a really rotten pony and learn by trial and error.
                    “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
                    ? Albert Einstein



                    • #11
                      I don't have any good advice on learning to use a whip, but I feel for you! I too, am a bit uncoordinated. Often, when I am trying to tap my horse behind my leg before the jump, I end up instead whacking my boot. This has the desired effect, as the noise makes him think he's been smacked, and he moves forward! I guess whatever works is good, right??


                      • #12
                        I was quite comfortable using my crop on my draft cross, but the TB I'm riding now is much hotter and has a bit of a buck in him so I am a little more restrained. Fortunately, he does not need the crop as much but I have learned to sit down five strides out and make sure my leg ( and spurs) are right there, along with a widened hand. I'm afraid if I smack him he'll go the moon. I like the idea of prcticing with ground poles as well.


                        • #13
                          It's an important skill set to have - George Morris teaches it at most of his clinics. Start standing still and practice the movement: single bridge in your non-whip hand, and quickly back, tap, and back to the reins with your whip hand. It's a very quick movement if done properly, and you don't need to (and shouldn't) beat on your horse to learn it. The big part of the cue is the "pop" noise that it should make. Once you have the movement down, practice over a small fence - GM used a rolltop - and canter up to it, and practice tap-tap off the ground behind your leg Even the hot ones understand this - you're not punishing them, but encouraging them. I have one that is very reactive to a stick, and he tolerates it the exercise (and if I need to go to a stick on course, I've got that tool in my toolbox - I wouldn't want to be finding out mid-round that I can't use my stick at all).

                          Practice until you are very comfortable with the movement and it becomes second nature when the reaction is needed. It also points to holes in your seat/legs - practice a few go-rounds of jumping grids without reins or without one rein to check to see if you're holding yourself onto the reins rather than balanced over your leg.


                          • #14
                            We call this move the "autowhack" phenomenon - because at first you really do have to learn it, which means concentrating on it and feeling uncoordinated, but like, say, posting (if you can remember learning that!), it will become second nature over time. So as others have said, find a way to practice - eventually, you will be able to feel the hesitation and reach back without even thinking about it.

                            My TB was forward forward forward and bold but careful xc and I didn't take enough time to learn the autowhack. I had the whack but not so much the auto.

                            The upside of this is that it can generate the kind of sequence photos professional photographers like to take

                            I remember coming over the stone wall down the hill into the water complex at GHF P a few years ago. We had a straight route but down a big drop. Landed well and securely off the wall with feet on the dash, then prop, prop before the big busy complex with tent and spectators. Whacked on time and got the launch drop in, but demonstrating classic cab-hailing posture and knee grip, resulting in chin on mane landing in the water. Very forgiving horse paused for rider reorganization. Very possibly snickering photographer immortalized the whole process in a series of photos...which I bought.

                            And then I went home and confirmed the auto piece
                            Talk to the Hoof


                            • #15
                              Ha! "Autowhack". Love it.

                              Great advice here. I would also add, that the Pony Club Kick (PCK) is a skill that can be used to great effect in your situation. One of the important things to remember in a PCK is that you have to take your leg really OFF for a moment to be able to swing your leg and kick ONCE and HARD (without spurs). However, it is a challenge to learn to do the PCK at first because it is counter-intuitive for riders to even momentarily take their leg off when they want their horse to go. The PCK is a wake up call for your horse to respond to your leg aids. It is not subtle, but that is the point. It stops the cycle of you nagging and the horse ignoring, just like the crop does. If it is done at the first sign of your horse getting behind your leg, the rest is easy. Recognizing that first sign is a major part of the equation.

                              Get the PCK and the autowhack in your toolbox, handy things.


                              • #16
                                I have struggled with this and missed many a moment when I should have...and the best I could muster was whacking the shoulder...which is JUST not good enough!!

                                Was moving up to prelim with a trakhener-phobic horse (ok, me too, I'll admit)...Wofford clinic...all of us puke over the trakhener. He makes me go jump the ditch, which we've already jumped and which I am NOT scared of, back and forth, whacking on takeoff. It was much easier to take my hands off the reins when there was essentially no jump there.
                                Back to the trak...
                                do or die, he's not going to let me off the hook..
                                It's mostly in convincing your mind that you CAN let go of the reins right before something intimidating. The timing is not so hard - most of the time you KNOW when you are taking off, right?

                                So do practice over something that you don't care about at all, and then graduate.

                                A nice bonus is that for those of us who tend to get ahead of our horses, this fixes that beautifully.
                                The big man -- my lost prince

                                The little brother, now my main man


                                • Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by Camstock View Post
                                  Get the PCK and the autowhack in your toolbox, handy things.
                                  Haha, I am actually quite the master of the PCK and thus far have relied soley on it. Unfortunately, I've been caught a few times when I don't quite feel the hesitation until half a stride out, when a PCK and the requisite leg-off-moment can lead directly to an awkward moment... those are the times I have refusals, and that's when I need the autowhack.

                                  A huge part of the problem is that I have not had enough XC runs to be truly comfortable with it yet. Filling the gap in the tool box should help!


                                  • #18
                                    The one handed thing - I guess I never had much issue with it. But I suppose practicing over ground poles, and then doing a couple fences every time you jump with the reins in one hand - you dont have to whack as well, maybe drop the crop and just put your hand back in a mock whack, like a salute, 2 strides before. And sometimes, you dont get your hand back on the reins in time to go over, in fact lots of the time you dont. So practice releasing with one hand and keep your crop hand behind your leg in the salute position.

                                    Hahah Id love to watch someone practicing, I bet it looks strange. But jumping one handed is a really really handy skill.