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Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

10 August 2007

Crops, Whips, and Quirts


Crops, whips and quirts. I see references to these equestrian accessories in romance novels all the time. Sometimes, the terms are used correctly. Sometimes they are not. I thought I might post here what the differences are:

A Crop: A crop usually consists of a long shaft of cane or which is covered in leather or fabric. The rod of a crop thickens at one end to form a handle, and terminates in a thin, flexible tress, or a flap-like leather tongue (sometimes called a popper). The handle may have a loop of leather to help secure the grip. The length of a crop is designed to allow for tip to be applied to the horse with a controlled flick of the wrist. Thus, a true crop is relatively short. Crops are designed to back up the natural aids (leg, seat, and voice) of a rider. The famous Victorian equestrian and courtesan, Catherine “Skittles” Walters, is said to have popularized the crop as an elegant accessory to riding habits in the 1860’s.

A Whip: The term "whip" is a more common term that includes both riding crops as well as longer types of horse whips used for both riding, ground work, and carriage driving. A whip is a slower than a crop, mostly due to its greater length and flexibility. The dressage whip is a true riding whip, longer than a crop, (up to 43 inches, including lash or popper), allowing a rider to touch the mount's side while keeping both hands on the reins. Hunting whips are not for use on the horse during the hunt, but have a "hook" at the end to use in opening and shutting gates without dismounting, as well as a long leather strip to keep the hounds from coming near the horse's legs, and possibly getting kicked.

A Quirt: A quirt, sometimes called a riding quirt, horse quirt, or a dog quirt, is a forked type of stock whip which usually has two falls at the end (like the tails on some tawses). The falls on a quirt are made of leather. The shaft of the quirt is usually a leather tube filled with lead shot. The handle is often made from braided leather and is usually somewhat stiff. The old style horse quirt is still carried by some Western horsemen, and this is the style of quirt seen in the early Western cowboy films. The quirt, due to its slow action, is not particularly effective as a riding aid for horses and is not intended for that purpose. It is an effective tool to slap or goad cattle from horseback.

I must point out that it is considered very bad form for a rider or horse trainer to actually use a crop, a whip, or a quirt on a horse with force (the application of a crop to the race horse being the exception), especially as an instrument of punishment. When a crop or a whip are applied to a riding horse, it’s usually more of a “tap” and intended to be a cue to do something. Women riding sidesaddle often rely on the tap of crop on the offside (right side) to give the horse certain signals. For sidesaddle riders, the crop was (is) a utilitarian component of the riding habit.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kalen Hughes said...

Great post. I had no idea what a quirt was (being an English rider through and through). I often found that my horse behaved better when he knew I was carrying a crop. I never had to use it, except maybe a light touch on the shoulder when he's pick up the wrong lead.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Caffey said...

Loved this post! Now I'll be able to understand and picture them when I'm reading the books! I some day want to learn about the seating on the horses for the woman too.

By the way, I love this group. Learned so much!

3:57 PM  
Blogger Victoria Dahl said...

Thanks, Kathrynn!

I was reading the description of the quirt and thinking, "Well, what the hell would any sane person use this for?" Around animals, I mean. *snort* I was relieved to know it had to do with driving cattle, and not "instructing" horses! Thx!

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am using this information for a science fair project I am doing. Before this article, I couldn't
seem to find anything I could use as research. You will never know how grateful I am for this information. I am using citations, so don't fret about the plagiarism issue.
Thanks,
Vada Hammons

2:52 PM  

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