Whips Galore

Whips galore.

Horses and whips go together cheese and orchids. Look at pictures of ploughmen, look at the guys down the pits with their pit ponies, guys working Fells, snigging logs out of woodland or the milkman delivering milk in England. Whips are about class, about doing it properly.

Here is a classic description from 1839,  which I have used before
“Half a dozen laden waggons” says Sir George Head “are dragged along the railroad to the particular drop then at work, by a stout cob, which is then ridden carelessly back again, barebacked by a small boy, at a shambling trot; notwithstanding that the interstices between the planks below admit, here and there, full two inches of daylight. However the pony proceeeds, clattering on unconcernedly, otherwise than by holding his snout close to the floor, the better and more cautiously to observe where to place his feet at every step.
………….The beast when I witnessed his performance, had only a halter on his head, without winkers, or any harness except collar and light rope traces. As soon as the boy had fastened the lock of the trace to the foremost waggon, the pony invariably turned round his head, as if to enquire whether all was ready,and then, exactly at the proper moment, commenced his march, the load, meanwhile, rumbling after him: arrived at the drop, the carriages being detached, he here stood jammed close to the wall; shewing perfect cognizance as the carriages passed him, of the degree of attention due to the various noises and manoevres going forward, and not only being aware when it was proper to step out of the way, but how long precisely it was safe to stand still.”

I still think this is one of the best descriptions of true horsemanship available. I would be proud if I had that degree of skill, and thatb level of working relationship with a pony. But to learn how to do it properly….

Here is the Pony Club advice on attending their top level test.


  • Dress tidily and cleanly, wear gloves and carry a stick or whip.

What a pity that common little boy with his common pony didn’t know a whip was compulsory to be a horseman, and I bet he didn’t have nice clean gloves either.
And just in case you think the whip is just for show here is the same Pony Club page on how to pass their top test. This is the only sample question and answer they give so you can’t accuse me of selecting one that shows the Pony Club in a bad light.

  • Look at the horse before you get on him; check the tack, look at the teeth; conformation and outlook may tell you something about the horse before you ride him.
  • Avoid the ‘pat’ or ‘book’ answer. Don’t try to display all your knowledge. Instead, think seriously about the horse and then in the simplest terms possible, explain what faults there are and how you would go about overcoming them. For example:
    • Q. What do you think about the way the horse is going?
      • A. He is on his forehand and lazy.
    • Q. How would you go about improving him?
      • A. The real problem is laziness; he doesn’t respond to my leg aids.
      • This is the first thing I would correct. I would re-inforce my leg aids with my stick until he became obedient. When he learns to go with more energy , I can expect more activity from his hindlegs and hind-quarters; he should then become a more balanced ride. It should then be possible to work to improve him.
    • The ‘pat’ reply might have been:
      • A. He needs more schooling. I would do a lot of turns, circles and transitions. Riding over undulating country might help.
      • This reply is not incorrect, but it does not show real knowledge.
  • In the indoor riding, don’t be afraid of riding the trained horse in a positive way. The trained horse is often a clever horse and knows better than most how to pull the rider’s leg.

. I would re-inforce my leg aids with my stick until he became obedient.
I’m just repeating it, don’t ask me what it means, ask the Pony Club, but I would point out that an answer that didn’t include using the stick “does not show real knowledge. ”

Maybe the Pony Club think the stick is only for the very top level students, once they have show serious levels of skill and discipline without being given a weapon, sorry, stick.

This is the D+ Test for those of 10years and up.


  • Mount and dismount.
  • Know how to alter stirrups correctly when mounted.
  • Know how to check girths.
  • Sit correctly at the walk and be able to describe the correct position.
  • Hold the reins correctly and carry a whip in either hand.

From the earliest age carrying a whip in either hand is seen as a necessity. Is it. Did that kid working his pony in Middlesborough need a whip, and if he didn’t, working in one of the most dangerous industries going, why on earth does a beginner in a nice safe riding school, need one.


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