By Jennifer Klitzke
If you show gaited dressage, you know that you’re only permitted to ride your test with one dressage whip. But, did you know that there are benefits to riding with two dressage whips while schooling your naturally gaited horse between shows?
If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “You can’t show that way, so why would you want to do that?”
Well, that was my reaction when Dominique Barbier presented the idea to me in a 1995 French dressage clinic. So I gave it a try.
Ultimately you’re training your horse to be light and responsive to your hand, seat and leg aids and each use of the whip is purely reinforcement for when the leg aid is ignored.
Recently at the last French dressage clinic I rode at with Fred Kappler, he encouraged schooling my horse with two whips as well as recent lessons with my gaited dressage mentor Jennie Jackson.
Six reasons why riding with a dressage whip in each hand can improve your gaited dressage training:
- Switching the whip from side-to-side each time you change rein can get cumbersome. If you ride with a whip in each hand, there is no switching back and forth.
- When switching the whip from side-to-side with each change of rein, you can miss timely cueing moments.
- By carrying a whip in both hands, you can cue the right side and the left side of the horse at the same time.
- Riding with a whip in each hand helps the horse and rider learn straightness. One whip can be used on the inside of the bend to activate the inside hind leg in order to step deeper under the body, while the other can be used on the outside of the bend to keep the outside shoulder from popping out like a jack-knifed semi and help the horse stay straighter. This was one of my take-a-ways from Jennie Jackson at my last lesson. Teaching the horse straightness helps the rider establish a “feeling” of straightness more quickly. If you get accustomed to riding a crooked horse, crooked becomes the feeling of normal and it becomes more difficult to discern the feeling of straight.
- Another reason for carrying a dressage whip in each hand, is that the horse can’t evade or learn to anticipate the whip when there is a whip that may be applied at any moment from either side. By training your horse with two whips, you’re teaching him muscle memory of a correct way of moving its body that when you’re in the show ring, that training can lead to greater chances for success.
- Riding with a dressage whip in each hand is not meant to replace your leg aids. They are meant to reinforce them if needed. Ultimately you’re training your horse to be light and responsive to your hand, seat and leg aids and each whip is purely reinforcement for when a leg aid is ignored. If you’re schooling your horse well at home using two whips, your horse is learning to listen to your aids more and more so that your whip aids are needed less and less. This means that when you get to the show, the second whip won’t be missed.
I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to contact me with your gaited dressage questions by completing the contact form.