The Electric Death Stick

A couple years ago when Henry was re-learning how to be ridden in a bit, I tried carrying a whip. That was well before we started eventing, so it was just a short little jumping bat, but after almost a month of carrying it every ride he still wouldn’t relax about it, so I gave up. Later on I started carrying one on XC but really he’s so pumped to be running XC that you could carry a grenade launcher and he wouldn’t notice.

WHEEEEE!!!! Whip? What whip?

Last year when we really started delving into dressage, I tried carrying a dressage whip a few times to help me a bit with those trailing haunches in the lateral work, but he was unfocused and way over-reactive (borderline belligerent, really) whenever I carried it, so I opted not to push the issue.

But over the last 6 months he’s really started to calm down and settle into the dressage work a lot more. As soon as it started getting hot and humid I found myself working WAY too hard to get him forward and engaged, so instead of surgically embedding my spurs into his ribs I thought I’d try the dressage whip again. Or as Henry calls it, the Electric Death Stick.

Dass scurry, I’mma hide behind dis lead rope

The first ride with it was borderline. He was rideable, but he was still tense and worried about what I might do with that thing. Because I beat him so much, apparently? Henny logic. I ended up dropping the whip after we cantered that day, since by that point he was plenty forward and I didn’t want it to turn into a meltdown. Then I carried it again the next dressage ride, which was on a very very humid and hot day. I ended up having to tap him with the whip FOUR times that ride, to really get him forward off my leg. The first time he was a little shocked, but I immediately let him go into stretchy circle (aka Henny Brain Recovery Zone) and he settled. He respected the whip after that, but didn’t get upset if I used it.

Why you hate me?

Then yesterday, another dressage ride, another few taps with the whip. Now instead of getting the very offended “OMG DEATH STICK” response, I get a “Yes ma’am” response. It took two years, but finally, finally I can carry a dressage whip, use it when I need to, and Henry won’t have a come-apart. Weird milestone, but a milestone none the less.

18 thoughts on “The Electric Death Stick

  1. It took me a year of everyday riding with a whip, starting with a tiny crop and working my way up to a dressage whip, to be able to use one effectively with Fiction. And even now he gets super offended if I actually -use- it. I definitely think it’s an ex-racehorse thing 😦


  2. I’ve ridden Pig with a whip almost every day I’ve owned him, and he still sometimes loses his brain when I switch sides with the thing. Maybe it’s race training. Maybe it’s insanity. Who knows! I do know that when I get him SUPER hot and on my aids, it’s better for us all if I drop it. 🙂


    1. I still bring him back to walk to switch sides, because I’m pretty sure if I tried to do it at trot or canter his brain would immediately shoot out the opposite ear. Baby steps…


  3. Maybe it is the magical 2 year mark. I recently started carrying a dressage whip with Boca. He used to be super offended by it, and would try to bolt — and he is no ex-racehorse :). Now he is pretty copacetic with it. I don’t even need to use it, just carry it and that gives us enough extra oomph.


  4. i’m pretty sure my mare knows exactly where the whip is at any given moment lol. she mostly respects it (and mostly actually is way easier to ride when i have it vs when i don’t, regardless of if i ever use it)… but there are still some days when it gets dropped. eh. horses, amiright?


  5. That’s a big milestone! I am sure it’ll take me awhile whenever I introduce a dressage whip too. Annie already acts like I’ve tortured her when I use a crop.


  6. The guy I’m riding doesn’t care about whips at all. I can smack and he’ll go for three strides and then fall back into a shuffling plod. Spurs on the other hand? Weapons of the devil.


  7. We’ve only just recently reached a stage where I can carry a short jumping bat and Val isn’t worried, so this struggle is so relateable. If I do actually use my crop–God forbid!–I have to follow it up with some pats to tell him he’s not going to the glue factory or we really do have a meltdown. Go Henny for finally realizing he’s not going any time soon.


  8. runkle is the first horse i ever rode with a dressage whip, and i cant imagine NOT carrying one now. im so glad you got him over his shit so you could carry one!!


  9. Ha! Nice. My old guy was NEVER ok with one and Courage doesn’t give two shits about it. I don’t usually ride with one because it’s one more thing to remember and more more excuse to do weird things with my hand.


  10. Sydney is pretty much unrideable WITHOUT one. She seems to know the difference, and if I forget my whip she is the laziest pony in the world. Can barely even get a trot out of her without having to pony club kick her. With the whip she is a much more responsive horse. Nowadays I find myself using it more to remind her where her shoulder or where her haunches need to be than for a go button.


  11. I’m still working toward this milestone actually, so tapping with the whip without an explosion would be huge for me too. Last summer we had gotten totally comfortable with me carrying it (so long as I didn’t actually use it). Then this winter we had a relapse and started envisioning death via a million lashes when I carried it. I’m hoping to be able to carry it again soon. I’m glad I’m not the only one with a horse who doesn’t actually get beaten yet acts like a rescue case when I carry it.


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