The Crop
Suppose you're sure that you aren't pulling on the reins, that you're giving
with your hands, and that your position is about as good as it can get for
now, and Toby still keeps stopping.  You give him the aids to move on and
no avail.  You kick him again, harder, and get no response.  You give him
several hard kicks in succession and Toby still hasn't budged.  Now what do
you do?  I warned you that Toby didn't have much of a work ethic.  He's
decided that class is over and he's ready to go back to his stall.  If you want
to finish this lesson, you're going to have to give him more encouragement,
which comes in the form of a crop.
Crop is just a fancy word for a stick.  In riding, it's considered an extension
of the leg.  In other words, when your leg doesn't work, you might use a
crop.  But you never use a crop without first trying your leg.  A crop is a
crutch, and hopefully in a few lessons you won't need one because you'll
have learned to use your legs more effectively.  In the meantime, just
carrying a stick will encourage many horses to respond.
You hold the crop in the palm of your hand on the side that needs additional
support.  For most school horses, this is the inside hand because they often
drift in.  It can be a bit awkward carrying a crop while holding the reins, but
you'll soon get used to it.
Never assume you should carry a crop.  Only carry one if the instructor
gives it to you.  Never pass a crop to another mounted rider; you could
cause either horse to shy.  And certainly never; ever, loop the handle of the
crop around your wrist; you may need to drop the crop quickly.
If your horse unexpectedly speeds up or does anything you don't like or find
odd, drop the crop immediately.  If the horse began going faster when you
were trying to halt, you probably pulled back on the reins, which raised your
hands.  That brought the crop us and into the horse's sight, which he
interpreted as a threatening gesture, causing him to go faster.  Drop the
crop.  But don't throw it!  Let is slide out of your hand quietly onto the
ground.  Crops are inexpensive, so don't worry about losing them.

Now try trotting again.  Toby seems to have gotten the message and he's
moving along nicely.  Make one full lap around the ring.  Get used to the
rhythm.  Stopping and starting a lot won't help.  Try to keep him trotting at
the same pace.  Don't forget to steer.  Try to post to the rhythm of the horse.
If you're still having trouble figuring when to post forward and when to sit,
narrow your focus.  Concentrate exclusively on your forward hip motion.  Try
to keep Toby's speed constant so his rhythm also stays constant.  Avoid
sharp turns, which makes it harder for the horse to maintain his pace.
Toby is a Draft Cross -- a cross between a Draft (a large horse bred to pull
heavy loads) and another, smaller breed.  Although of average height, he's
big boned and bulky, and his feet are twice the usual size.  He has a long,
full black mane and tail, giving him a playful appearance, and playful he is.  
In the field, he's silly.  He likes to take the halters off other horses with his
teeth.  You'll also find him rubbing his neck on trees a lot.

Especially sweet and docile with people, Toby provides a calm and steady
mount.  He proves that you can't judge a horse's temperament by his size.  
He's patient with beginners and won't do anything crazy, even if you make
mistakes.  But like many Draft Crosses, he has a well-deserved reputation
for laziness, which can present a challenge for riders.  Toby can be
stubborn and refuse to go.

Progression of the Aids with a Crop

Remember; you only use a crop when other aids fail.  
Here's how it fits into the picture:

1.  Squeeze with your legs.

2.  If no response: Kick lightly with your heels.

3.  If no response: Kick hard with your heels.

4.  If no response: Tap shoulder with the crop.

5.  If still no response: Tap behind your leg with the crop while holding the
reins in one hand.  (You should only attempt this move with the very
specific permission of your instructor).


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Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156          fax: 301-421-9049