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.
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.
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.
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.