WhipWatch Needs To Be More Reliable

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Human history is full of clever people trying to build a better mousetrap, of inquisitive minds who think they can make a new or better product and creating a new invention. One of their first steps is to build prototypes; sometimes those prototypes succeed and sometimes they fail.

We can’t predict — yet — whether the WhipWatch will succeed or fail, but we believe that it’s certainly in the prototype stage. It’s a clever idea to try to combine a whip and a stopwatch into one, but, like the Space Station that’s orbiting Earth today, it’s still an experiment.

The WhipWatch, produced in New York State and marketed by Equine Textiles, is a stopwatch mounted on the top of the handle of a nicely balanced, Irish-made jumping crop. A new product that’s been 25 years in the making, the WhipWatch sells for $79. Contact www.whipwatch.net or www.equinetextiles.com (800-378-9727).

The WhipWatch offers a real-time mode, a stopwatch mode, a countdown mode, and an alarm mode, and the buttons are relatively easy to figure out and to use. Actually, they’re way too easy to use.

Our primary criticism of this product is that the mode button (on the lower left-hand side) and the start/stop button (on the lower face) can be too easily punched while riding.

On several occasions (including while on course during a horse trial) we accidentally punched the lower-left button, and while on course we stopped the stopwatch, which caused the mode to change from stopwatch to real time. Consequently, if not for the wrist-held watch we’d also worn, we would have had no idea of our time while on course.

Inventor Robin Parrow told us that she’s been working with an engineer to develop a guard for the start/stop button, which she said ”frames and recesses the button so that it’s virtually impossible to inadvertently de-activate the stopwatch and countdown modes.” She said that they experimented with models using this guard at two horses trials this summer and had good results.

Parrow added that, in this model of the WhipWatch, the default is to reset to the real-time mode after the stopwatch has been inactive for 30 seconds.

”The next production will include a software change so that the timer does not default to real time once it’s set in a mode, until it is changed,” she said.

We also found the minute chime, available only in countdown mode, to be barely audible. It only chimes twice — and not loudly enough to hear over the wind and the footfalls of a galloping horse.

Our wrist-held watch chimes repeatedly for five seconds before reaching the minute marker, loudly enough so that people standing nearby can hear as we gallop past.

Finally, we found the watch’s face to be hard to read. When you hold the WhipWatch in your right hand, the face is oriented the same way as a watch on your left wrist. But that means the face is almost upside down. And if you hold it in your left hand, it’s facing backwards from a watch attached to your left wrist. Consequently, you have to turn your head at an angle to read the face, instead of just glancing down for half a second. They are considering adding a ”swivel feature” to address this problem.

Parrow told us that her primary motivation for developing this watch was not for competition, but as an aid in training and conditioning event horses, endurance horses and others. She said that while she was conditioning her horses for eventing, ”I found myself constantly compromising my hand position to see my watch, thereby affecting the horse’s mouth. Since I carried a whip, I considered the possibility of combining the two to make it easier for riders who need to know their time while conditioning.”

BOTTOM LINE. We found this version of the WhipWatch to be an unreliable method of keeping track of your time on a competition cross-country course. And, even if it was more reliable, the face is hard to read.

At a manufacturer’s suggested price of $79, it’s about the same cost as buying a watch ($50 to $100) and a whip ($20 to $40). If you find the idea of combining your whip and your stopwatch intriguing, we advise waiting for the next generation.

Article by John Strassburger, our Performance Editor.