Thursday, August 15, 2013

Does whip use improve show jumping performance?

Researchers in the UK have turned their attention to the use of the whip in show jumping, to see whether it is associated with improved performance.

Catherine Watkins of Hartsbury College in Gloucester presented the results of the study at the 2013 International Society for Equitation Science (ISES) conference.

Whips are carried and used in competition by show jumpers at both the non-elite and elite levels. The study  showed that non-elite show jumping riders were more likely than elite riders to carry a whip. It also showed that increased use of the whip did not increase the chance of finishing with a clear show jumping round. In fact, when the whip was used, the horse was less likely to complete a clear round.

The researchers observed 229 non-elite and 229 elite show jumpers at affiliated UK show jumping competitions.

Non-elite riders were found more likely (69%) to carry a whip than elite riders (62%). Faults were 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. 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, which 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.

In spite of these rules, Ms 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 show jumping riders observed, none was reprimanded for misuse of the whip or rule infraction.

Of the 458 rounds observed, “Overall 65.5% of riders carried a whip…and 20.7% of those who carried a whip used a whip. Non-elite riders were more than twice as likely to use the whip.”
The researchers speculated that knowledge and experience level reduced the likelihood of the whip being used.  An alternative explanation is that elite riders are on higher quality, more athletic horses that simply don’t have as much “need” for the whip.

This information may be of value to both show jumping 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.” states Watkins.

With an increase in public awareness of welfare in equestrian sport, discussion of the rules governing whip use is gaining momentum. As evidence is emerging from other equestrian disciplines there is clearly a need for continuing review of whip use. The researchers hope that their study will help stimulate the debate.

For more details see:
Evaluation of whip use and prevalence in elite and non-elite show jumpers.
Catherine Watkins and Darcy Murphy.
Proceedings International Society for Equitation Science (2013) p54

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