Using A Crop Or Whip When Horseback Riding: The Pros And Cons

When it comes to horseback riding the use of a crop or whip is a controversial topic with everybody having their own opinion as well as their own argument to back up their beliefs. As you’d expect there are good arguments for and against but what are the benefits and drawbacks of using them?

In some cases they can be an effective tool for riders and trainers, providing additional control and encouragement for the horse. Likewise, they can be a harsh and unnecessary aid that can result in a horse that isn’t responsive to your aids.

Should you use a crop or whip when horseback riding?

There’s no doubt that using a crop or whip can have its advantages but it does have disadvantages and whether or not you use one should be based on a number of different factors such as why you want to use one, how you’ll use it and how balanced your riding position is. While your riding position might not seem important it will determine how effective your use of the crop or whip is, or whether you’ll be too harsh.

Whether or not you use a crop or whip will also be determined, to some extent by the horse itself. If the horse is well trained then it can be used as an extension of your arms and legs to encourage the horse. Horses that have a tendency to be lazy on the other hand, may be more willing to do what’s asked if you simply carry a crop or whip (even if you never use it). If your horse is prone to being a little bit naughty shall we say, then you shouldn’t use the crop or whip to get them to behave, instead you should work with a professional trainer.

The long and sort of whether or not you should use a crop of whip when horseback riding can be summarised into a few words and that is; if your horse is well trained or lazy you can use it to back up or enhance your arm and leg aids. A riding crop or whip should NEVER be used to punish a horse or force them to do something they’re scared of.

Need to discipline your horse? Why punishing horses never works.

Riding crops and whips are very different
A dressage whip (top) and hunting crop (bottom)

What are the benefits of using a crop when horseback riding?

The use of a crop has been a popular choice among horseback riders for many hundreds of years, as it offers a number of key benefits. First and foremost, a crop can give you additional control over your horse. The crop allows you to give quick and direct commands, which can be especially useful when navigating difficult terrain or when the horse is not responding well to your commands.

Additionally, crops can often be used to provide the horse with a little extra encouragement. Which can be helpful if your horse is shy or lacking in confidence. The reason for this is that the crop can help them overcome their fear and build their confidence. In addition to its role in providing encouragement, the crop can also be used to provide the horse with positive reinforcement when they have performed well.

Horse riding crops can back up your aids

What are the drawbacks of using a crop when horseback riding?

Despite its many benefits, the crop is, like so many things, not without its drawbacks. The biggest of all of these drawbacks is that the crop can be too harsh for some horses, especially those that are sensitive to touch or pressure. In these cases, using the crop can actually lead to increased anxiety or fear, which can negatively impact the horse’s overall performance and well-being.

Another disadvantage of using a crop is that it can often be difficult to use effectively. Without the right technique, you may, inadvertently end up using it in a way that is too harsh, which can result in injury to both your and/or your horse. Furthermore, inexperienced riders may struggle to use the crop in a way that is both effective and safe, as it requires a certain level of skill and knowledge to use correctly.

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What are the benefits of using a whip when horseback riding?

Like the crop, whips can and do, offer a number of key benefits for riders. One of the biggest of these is that a whip will often be more gentle than a crop, making it an ideal choice for horses that are sensitive to touch or pressure. A whip has a longer reach than that of the crop which will definitely be an advantage if you’re riding a larger horse, especially a draft horse.

Another benefit of using a whip is that it’s much easier to use effectively than a crop, as it requires less technique and skill to use correctly. This is one of the reasons why whips are especially popular with new or inexperienced riders who haven’t yet learned to maintain steady hands.

What are the drawbacks of using a whip when horseback riding?

As you’d expect, while there are many benefits to using a whip there are also a number of drawbacks too. Not least is the fact that a whip will, in most cases, be less effective than a crop when it comes to giving your horse quick and precise commands. Additionally, the whip may not be as effective in providing the horse with encouragement or positive reinforcement, as the impact is far gentler than that of the crop.

Another potential drawback of using a whip is that it can be more difficult to carry, as it is often longer and less compact than a crop. This can make it more challenging to transport the whip and may limit its use in certain situations.

Horse riding whips are more common in dressage

Making the right choice for you and your horse

The choice of whether to use a crop or whip when horseback riding will depend on a variety of different factors, including the individual rider, their level of skill and experience, and the horse’s needs and sensitivities. Riders should consider the benefits and drawbacks of using a crop or whip, as well as their own abilities and limitations before deciding whether or not to use one when riding.

If you do choose to use a crop or a whip it is important to use it effectively and responsibly. This includes being mindful of the horse’s reaction to it and avoiding using it in a way that may cause injury, harm, or even distress. On top of this, riders should seek guidance and training from an experienced trainer, if necessary, to ensure that they are using the crop or whip effectively and safely.

In conclusion, using a crop or whip when horseback riding can be a useful tool for many riders, giving them additional control and giving the horse gentle encouragement. That said though, it is important to consider the horse’s needs and sensitivities, as well as the rider’s abilities and limitations when deciding whether or not to use an artificial aid such as a crop or whip. 

Is it okay to ride with spurs? Should you really be using spurs?

I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.

Recommended products 

Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.

  • Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
  • Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
  • TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
  • Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
  • Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
  • Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.

Shopping lists

I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉

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