The choice of a longe whip depends as much on how you intend to use and care for it as it does on the usual considerations of design, materials, workmanship and price.
Some handlers longe on large circles and some on small circles, some in a round pen, or with long lines, or ”free longing.” Many people just don’t like the weight and feel of a long whip. Some people want a whip that makes a distinctive popping sound with just a wrist flick, and some never crack the whip but want a precision tool to cast from a distance. Some folks leave their longe whip leaning on the rail of the outside ring in all weather, while some store their whip safely indoors.
Length and Color. The ideal longe circle is at least 60 feet across in order to prevent damage to your horse’s legs from repeated stress, or 30 feet from handler to horse. Most longe whips, however, run only about 12 feet long.
Thus, for the whip to connect with the horse, the circle will be half the ideal size if the handler stands still, or the handler will have to walk in a fairly large circle herself. An alternative is to use the popper to motivate the horse rather than the touch of the whip.
We feel it’s better to work with a sideways cast toward the horse’s hock area, starting tip-down, rather than cracking the whip or casting overhead. The pop is too sudden an aid, and the horse can ignore the pop if it isn’t backed up with actual contact. The horse can see the whip coming from a low sideways cast and should respond to that softer aid without jerking the line, running or bucking.
Color tone helps here as well as length. A lighter-colored whip should be easier for the horse to see. And, since most of us drop a whip sooner or later, a brightly colored whip is easier to spot in dirt or grass. In addition, if you own a light-colored whip, it won’t be confused with someone else’s in a boarding barn. Some of these whips now come in a dazzling array of color choices, including neons. If you don’t want to be seen in public with a bright pink longe whip, keep it at home and stash a somber one in your trailer.
Length and Lightness.There are disadvantages to a really long whip. First, you can’t easily reverse it under your arm. It’s almost impossible to transport without rolling down the truck window unless it breaks down into two pieces or telescopes. It can be heavy and tiring. You have to pay premium shipping if you order one to be sent.
All of those problems are irrelevant, however, against the importance of preserving the health of your horse’s legs. Buy a shorter whip for other tasks but learn to appreciate a longer whip for standard longeing on a large circle.
There are three lighter alternatives to a long, heavy one-piece whip: The first is a whip that separates into sections for ease of transport and storage, screwing back together into one unit. The second is a telescope design where sections slide into each other. This design is by necessity lighter, since the pieces have to be hollow to retract. The third is where the lash is considerably longer than the shaft for extra length without extra weight.
While two-piece whips can be found in economy versions, we’ve yet to see a bargain-priced telescoping whip. The very light metal and trickier workmanship make them more delicate: They shatter easily if stepped on, lose their ability to telescope if they get too dirty, and need to be stored inside. On the other hand, a well-balanced light telescoping whip is a precision tool that can be a delight to use.
Longe whips wear out more quickly than their shorter cousins. The danger points are at the tip where the lash meets the shaft and at the very end. The lash of most whips is just an extension of the woven shaft cover, so the flicking motion wears it down. Whips without a woven cover use a swivel at the end of the shaft, making it easier to replace the lash itself. You can reinforce the end of the shaft with duct tape, but this can slow down the whip enough to affect its precision and its ability to pop.
That popping sound is like a mini sonic boom made when the tip of the whip exceeds the speed of sound. Thus the tip of the whip is moving so fast that the popper gets a lot of wear. You can replace a popper on whips that have a loop at the end of the lash.
Our Trial.We gave these whips a real workout, first in the usual way on a 20-meter circle. Next, we gave them back-to-back comparisons: Shortest to longest and longest to shortest, then finally least to most expensive and back again. Two of our models came in four lengths each, so we were also able to compare whips where the only variable was length.
We found that we naturally preferred lighter, shorter whips because they gave us greater control with less effort. We had to sort of talk ourselves into persisting with the longer whips because they were less comfortable to start, but we found that we could adjust to the weight if we gave it time. The longer whips also required a different technique: You have to aim toward the front of the horse in order to touch a hock since it takes the tip longer to arrive.
When we assessed the ”pop” factor, only two gave us a distinct crack when cast sideways so the horse could see the whip as well as hear it or feel it. Most of the whips gave us a pop if we put muscle into it, not just wrist, and snapped overhead, but there wasn’t any precision where the tip would end up.
The best pop from a sideways cast came from the County Special Extra Long, possibly a factor of the lash being much longer than the shaft, so the whip was both lighter overall and there was less air resistance. The other whip with a decent pop from a sideways cast was the Westfield Diamond Weave Advantage.
The most amazing pop came from Westfield’s Super 60, but it was from an overhead cast. That pop hurt our ears. We found that the ability of a whip to pop, and indeed its overall feel, may be very individual to each whip because the tightness of the weave on the shaft can vary. Thus, you should try them out for yourself before buying.
Buying. Unless you know exactly the model of whip you want, you’re better off at a tack shop where you can try the whip. However, many tack shops carry just one line of longe whips because they’re bulky to store. It may take some calling around to local shops to see what’s in stock. Ask if you can take the whip to the parking lot to assess the action you want to give it a good try.
Don’t just go by feel. A lighter, shorter whip is obviously going to be more comfortable. Also, when you’re trying out a whip, you’re going to cast and snap it a lot more than during actual use, so you’ll tire more quickly. Check out the handle relative to the size of your hand. A large handle in a small hand can tire the user more quickly than overall weight.
If you do need to have the whip shipped to you, check return policies and fees for shipping, which can be more than normal. The price for shipping can exce ed the price of the whip itself.
Bottom Line. These are all serviceable whips and should hold up fine to normal use, but some have features to fit specific needs.
For our top choice, we came to highly respect the County Special Extra Long, $35 from English Riding Supply, perhaps because the ultra long lash relative to the length of the shaft gave it extra precision in addition to its resounding pop. It was also easier to reverse under the arm than a whip with a longer shaft but, at 18’, it was still the longest whip in the survey. We just wish it would come in more than black.
Our Best Buy, at $15, goes to the Tuffrider Double Section from JPC Equestrian. It’s light and stiff, and it breaks down to a convenient 3’ for storage.
Article by Associate Editor Margaret Freman.