Learning how to ride with a dressage whip? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Learning how to ride with a dressage whip?

I am a returning rider (trained as a kid/teen in hunter/jumpers) and getting re-started riding dressage. I am having all kinds of trouble getting my coordination together enough to manage a dressage whip. The horse I free lease is also going through something of a re-training herself, and is not great about leg aides and has a tendency to drift off the rail, so my instructor really wants me with a whip in hand to "reinforce" my leg aides.

My specific problems (the biggest two, there are probably others):
1. I absolutely can not handle my reins, ask for a leg yield, and simultaneously use the whip in the correct "right behind the girth" location when we start drifting off the rail. I either lose all contact with my inside rein, end up hitting myself with the whip, swing wildly at the air and get nowhere near the horse, or all of the above. What suggestions do you have to practice this and get the coordination down, particularly while maintaining rein contact?

2. Switching the whip while switching direction- I'm sure I'm not the first person who can't do this, but it's really ugly so far, and as soon as I start thinking about doing it, I lose all concentration on everything else and in the blink of an eye, my horse is ducking off the rail and in the middle of the arena. I've watched my instructor do it both on the ground and on the horse, but I feel hopeless that I'll ever get it. Practice tips?

I'm working on so many other things right now, the whip feels like an unnecessary accessory that's getting in the way, but my instructor feels that the lack of responsiveness to my leg aides really needs to be addressed. I do trust her and want to be able to put all these pieces together, so I hope there are ways I can practice on my own so I can be a little more focused during my lessons.
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post #2 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 06:59 PM
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It takes practice.

First I don't switch whips as I carry two, one in each hand...lol

But switching should be done over the horse's neck by simply twisting your wrist and catching it with the other hand. To explain this without a video would be incredibly difficult but if you practiced at home were there is no horse to accidentally hit, that might help.

As far as holding it again try at home. Try holding onto two strings or whatever and have someone lay it in your hand. Don't make a grab for it but lay it with the hand holding on to your strings. The butt should poke out the front about a few inches, then rest across your palm and the remainder should lay on your thigh with the end about 2-3 inches away from the horse. To use it requires just a flick of your wrist...not the whole hand.

A correct whip should be long enough to flick so it can bounce off your thigh with the end being able to touch the horse.
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post #3 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 07:05 PM
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Imo if you are so uncoordinated I would have you still on the lunge. This is not meant in a derogatory fashion but any rider needs to learn thing one step at a time and here in north America that is often not what happens. Lunge lessons are seen as a bad or beginner thing. That is not the case! I find myself needing to go back to basics a lot to refine the upper level work.
Anyways, I would ask your instructor for lunge lessons with no reins to start to get your seat in order. Many exercises like windmill or airplane arms, twisting sideways in the saddle, reaching for the opposite knee, etc are great for developing balance and strength while someone else deals with horse speed and direction. I would also put a longish bucking strap on the saddle for grabbing when you start to feel out of control. By grabbing it and using your elbows on your hips to lever yourself into the saddle you can secure your position. Also when you take the reins back you can more easily steady them instead of pulling to maintain balance or getting disoriented.
Once you have an effective, solid seat and quiet hands I would re evaluate the need for a whip. I find that usually drifting problems are a direct really of the rider not sitting square in the saddle. And except in some cases, most often lack of responsiveness to the leg is fixed when the rider sita in balance and learns to influence the horse, not instruct him.

Good luck!
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post #4 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 07:37 PM
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I think anebel and Spyder have covered it - as for the whip switch, it takes practice! I can take a short video of how to do it tonight if that's of any help =)

" If the entire world was one big machine, I couldn't be an extra part. I had to be here for some reason." ~ Hugo Cabret
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post #5 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Anabel, no offense taken, I am doing a lot of longe lessons for this very reason! I have no problem admitting where I need to improve.

However, the question is motivated by the fact that I'm riding a lot on my own too, and when my instructor is diagnosing things I can work on myself, introducing the dressage whip to my independent rides is one suggestion. But I certainly agree with you that seat is my #1 priority right now. I guess that's why I'm feeling a little overwhelmed with putting it all together, because I know my seat just isn't there yet. Which might cause some people to question how much, if at all, I should be riding on my own at this point- but I think that's a different thread :)

To the folks who offered a video on the switch, that would be great- couldn't hurt to see someone else's technique. And, I do like the advice of practicing at home sans horse, so I don't need to worry about poking her in the head or neck while I get better. Thanks for the quick replies!!
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post #6 of 7 Old 06-01-2011, 09:18 PM
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I agree with the lounge, which you say you are doing. Something I envy and wish to do myself when I find a good instructor .

ONe thing is why are you on the rail? Are you always on the rail?

But more importantly, I would want to get the horse snappily responsive to the leg aids first, so you would have that as you sole goal; go forward when I say so and NOW. or Move over when I put my leg on and NOW. Using the whip as needed . The horse might jump at first and he would not be staying in the correct frame but the thing you are looking for is an honest response to the leg, which is backed up by the whip. Once he has this, the whip need only be present to keep him toeing the line.
That's one thought.

To be honest, I am not good at changing over either, and my instructor said, keep it in one side if it interferes with other work. But I need work on that too. I am , however, much better at carrying it now. I carry one a lot, so am quite used to it by now. time. time.
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post #7 of 7 Old 06-02-2011, 07:38 AM
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Are you able to ride a schoolmaster for a while rather than a green horse?
I think trying to learn to co-ordinate yourself as well as trying to train a horse is going to be a recipe for disaster, if you can master the art of keeping an independent seat, which will lead to being able to carry a dressage whip steadily, then you'll be a much more efficient rider on this greenie of yours.

As has been said above, your seat is the priority here. There is no point in trying to train a horse to become better off the aids when the rider is interfering with the horse's way of going. Until you can become quiet and effective in your own position on a horse, I would hold off on the whip and training the horse.

A good exercise to help you keep your hands quiet, is to lay a long crop or dressage whip under both of your thumbs, so that it is laying parallel to the ground on top of your hands. As you ride, keep this whip parallel to the ground and in line with the angle of the horse's shoulders through bends. This exercise really accentuates any movement you have in your hands, and I guarantee it will improve your ability to be aware of what your hands are doing. After a quiet, strong and effective seat, quiet, still hands are your next best friend in riding.
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