The USEF changed its rule regarding maximum length of a dressage whip to 110 cms (43.3 inches), including lash, both in the competition ring and warm-up ring, effective June 1, 2004.
This length is down from a previous maximum of 4 feet (48 inches) in the competition ring. The old rule also allowed a rider to carry two whips up to 6 feet long in warm-up, but now just one whip at the shorter length will be OK there.
This change means a lot of people will be going out to buy a new competition whip, even if they continue to use their longer whip at home. Most whips, however, are listed by shaft length alone, not the overall length that includes the lash. Also, the manufacturing of dressage whips still has a hand-made component, so the length can vary depending on the tightness of the cover weave for any individual whip. A 43-inch length is pretty standard, but that standard can vary from 42 inches including lash to 44 inches without a lash — which would be too long.
If you’re looking at a whip in a tack shop, don’t go by the length stated on the tag. Instead, ask for a tape measure and verify it yourself. Catalogs are also usually unclear about whether the length includes the lash, so this should be checked by talking to a real person when ordering. Even so, Horse Journal recommends buying whips in a shop where you can know for certain the precise length of the whip you’ve chosen. (See July 2003 for whip recommendations.)
We don’t recommend that you take matters into your own hands and lop off the end of the whip you have now. This could expose the fiberglass core, which can cut your horse.