Are they for you?
Text: Mandy Schroder
Whips and spurs fall into the category of artificial aids; they are simply there to refine the aids you give your horse and the responses that he gives to you. They should never inflict any pain on your horse. A dressage whip and spurs should only ever be used on the advice of your instructor. In the case of spurs, you need to know that your leg position is good and stable enough that you won’t be digging spurs into your horse at every stride.
Jumping crops are shorter and as heir name suggests, they are used in showjumping and can be found in different colours and styles. They have a clapper at the end, which makes a noise when clapped against the horse’s side to get his attention, not punish him. Their average length varies between approximately 45cm and 71cm.
Dressage whips are longer and vary from 100cm to 130cm. It is legal for children to compete with a whip that is 100cm long. Dressage whips may not be used in any discipline other than dressage. They have a ‘lash’ at the end, which can be used to sensitise (tickle) a horse as a gentle reminder to listen to the aid, as well as flicking the end of the whip against your horse’s hindquarter with a flick of your wrist, as a firmer aid.
A dressage whip is meant to reach the hindquarter or hind legs and to quicken the response of your horse in his hind legs reminding him to engage more. They are never meant to be used like a jumping crop since this would cause pain. Also, if a whip’s lash breaks off and there is broken fibreglass or plastic sticking out then the whip must be thrown away. The sharp pieces or blunt plastic end can possibly cut your horse when you use it.
Spurs are used to refine the leg aids when riding, so that a horse becomes more and more responsive to a lighter leg aid. They should never be dug into a horse’s sides at every stride; all this will do is make your horse dead to the leg, cause pain and possibly lead bald patches and create calluses.
There are many styles of spurs. Some disciplines have rules regarding what is legal and what isn’t. Get advice from your instructor as to what type of spur you should look at and make sure that it is correctly fitted and on the correct side.