Riders in showjumping who carried a whip were 1.3 times more likely to incur faults than those who did not, a study has shown.
The findings of the research were presented to delegates at the 9th annual International Society for Equitation Science conference, held this month in Delaware, in the United States.
The study showed that non-elite showjumping riders were more likely to carry a whip than elite competitors.
The British study showed a negative correlation between how much a whip was used during a showjumping round and the likelihood of achieving a clear round – that is, when the whip was used, the horse was less likely to achieve a round with no faults.
Catherine Watkins, of Hartsbury College in Gloucester, and fellow researchers observed 229 non-elite and 229 elite showjumping riders at affiliated British showjumping competitions.
They recorded whip carriage, whip use, and rein release – that is, did the rider put the reins into one hand during whip use?
The researchers found that 69 percent of non-elite riders carried a whip compared to 62 percent of elite riders, with faults becoming 1.3 times more likely to occur for those riders who carried a whip.
The likelihood of achieving a clear round decreased for riders who used the whip, with riders who carried but did not use a whip faring better; and elite riders who carried the whip but did not use it fared the best.
In addition to calculating the likelihood of achieving faults or clear rounds, the researchers compared active use of the whip with current British Show Jumping rules.
The rules state that: misuse or excessive use will not be tolerated; the whip should not be used more than three times after entering the arena; the whip cannot be used prior to commencement of the course; and the whip is only used if the rider removes a hand from the reins.
Despite these rules, Watkins and her research partner observed seeing “a fair amount of misuse or excessive use of the whip in the arena”.
“The study found a total of 38 cases where the whip was used either as a punishment tool, or was not presented at the fence.”
Of all the showjumping riders observed, none were reprimanded for misuse of the whip or rule infraction.
Of the 458 rounds observed, an overall 65.5 percent of riders carried a whip and 20.7 percent of those who carried a whip used a whip.
Non-elite riders were more than twice as likely to use the whip, the study found.
It was speculated that knowledge and experience level reduced the likelihood of the whip being used. although an alternative possibility is that elite riders are on better mounts that simply do not have as much “need” for the whip.
Watkins said the information may be of value to both showjumping organizations reviewing position statements on whip use and equestrians competing in shows.
“Those who used the whip were statistically less likely to achieve a clear round … elite riders were
statistically more likely to achieve faults if the whip was used,” she said.
Discussion of the rules governing whip use in equestrian sportis gaining momentum.
Recent research into whip use in flat racing has shown no positive association between the use of the whip and race placing, and studies have not seen faster times or better results when the whip was used more often.
An outcome of these studies has resulted in updated rules of whip use for some countries.