Is it OK to carry a whip in a dressage test?

Joanna Fisher
Joanna Fisher

International Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer Joanna Fisher shares her thoughts on……is it OK to carry a whip in a dressage test?

Most people think you shouldn’t – but in fact there is no right or wrong answer to this question. I have been asked this many times and it is a very individual answer required for each person – however, it is worth noting that there is no rule saying you can’t use a whip in a dressage test at any level other than international. (see the British Dressage Rules reference on whips at the bottom of this article).

I maintain that when you go into the arena, you are simply there to prove to yourself that your training at home is up to scratch and at the same time you are being judged on your efforts!

Going into the arena with this attitude at any level takes the pressure off and makes it more about your own riding rather than competing against others.

You are in the arena to prove your days, weeks, months of training and effort can be connected into a 4-6 min test of combined movements.
So back to the question, whip or no whip!

I see no harm at all, if you ride daily with a whip to go in to the arena with a whip. I am a great believer in not changing equipment before a show, or way of riding. Your horse or pony will be used to you carrying a whip, so don’t change.
Also, if your horse needs a touch or reminder during the test to be a little more forward or off your leg, a touch with the whip will be beneficial aid. There is no harm in correcting whilst in the arena, it will show your horse that he or she is not exempt from correction whilst in a test. Some horses indeed seem to perform for the better and are more forward so won’t need it. Others might get a little shy or withdrawn in a test and encouragement might be needed! It’s individual to each horse.

Once you get to championship level however some classes do not allow a whip. In this instance I advise practising at home without a whip. It is at this point that your basic training becomes so important, with the horse respecting the seat and leg. Always remember your voice is a free aid- but don’t talk in a test as you will be penalised !
Good luck and happy riding!

Extract from British Dressage Rules Handbook:

Riders may carry a whip in all National Classes except FEI level classes at Premier Leagues (including FEI U21 classes), Area Festivals, Regionals and Championship Classes or at the request of the Selectors. A whip may not be carried by a competitor riding any FEI Pony, Junior or Young Rider test. Whips are permitted in all 4 year old classes, including Championships. A whip may be carried by ladies riding side saddle, but at no time may more than one whip be carried during a test or when warming up. Whips are permitted in all Paradressage classes.

Excessive use of the whip is forbidden. A whip must not be used in a way or be of a length that disturbs other riders or horses, and may not be picked up if dropped during a test.

When saluting, competitors must take the reins and whip, if carried, in one hand, to salute with the free hand.

For more advice from Joanna, why not view her other blog posts here:

Do I need a dressage saddle to do dressage

How Can I make my Pony Stop Leaning on me?

Help My Dressage Circles are oval

What Age should I teach my horse flying changes?

How to turn a leg yield into a half pass

How can I teach my horse shoulder in?

How should I prepare for a dressage test?

Should I do Sitting Trot in My Dressage Test?


Joanna has written a collection of children’s books based on her horses over the years.

It has been published by award winning Candy Jar books and currently available in Waterstones and being read in schools. Click here to link to her website: She also has a dressage website which can be found at


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