Types and uses
A modern crop usually consists of a long shaft of fiberglass or cane or which is covered in leather, fabric, or similar material. The rod of a crop thickens at one end to form a handle, and terminates in a thin, flexible tress such as wound cord or a leather tongue, known as a keeper. The thin end is intended to make contact with the horse, whilst the keeper prevents the horse's skin from being marked. The handle may have a loop of leather to help secure the grip or a 'mushroom' on the end to prevent it from slipping through the rider's hand.
The length of a crop is designed to allow enough leverage for it to be accelerated rapidly with a controlled flick of the wrist without causing the rider balancing problems. Thus, a true crop is relatively short.
The term "whip" is a more common term that includes both riding crops as well as longer types of horse whips used for both riding and ground work. A whip is a little slower than a crop, mostly due to having slightly greater length and flexibility.
Crops are principally designed to back up the natural aids (leg, seat and voice) of a rider, but may also be used as a reprimand by more experienced riders, for example to discipline a horse for refusing a jump or other types of disobedience. However, care must be taken not to desensitize the animal to the stimulus.
- Dressage whip is a true whip, longer than a crop, (up to 43 inches, including lash or popper) for horse training, allowing a rider to touch the mount's side while keeping both hands on the reins.
- Hunting whips are not for use on the horse, but have a "hook" at the end to use in opening and shutting gates without dismounting, as well as a long leather thong to keep the hounds from coming near the horse's legs, and possibly getting kicked.
As a weapon
Crops could be carried as a weapon. In the Sherlock Holmes series of novels and short stories, Holmes is occasionally said to carry one as his favourite weapon (e.g., "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons"). Specifically, it is a loaded hunting crop. Such crops were sold at one time. Loading refers to the practice of filling the shaft and head with a heavy metal (e.g., steel, lead) to provide some heft.
Crops may sometimes be employed by sado-masochistic dominatrices as an implement to "tame" their sexual partner, of course without actually doing any real physical harm. Art deco sculptor Bruno Zach produced perhaps his best known sculpture—called "The Riding Crop" (c. 1925)—which features a scantily clad dominatrix wielding a crop.
- "Equine Training - Riding Aids Overview" Equestrian Outreach, 2003
- Lethbridge, Emma. Knowing Your Horse: A Guide to Equine Learning, Training and Behaviour p. 113
- Information on loaded crops, showing a 1914 French advertisement for same.
- "Bruno Zach's 'Riding Crop Girl' hits World Record $150,602 at Bonhams art auction". justcollecting.com. Retrieved 27 June 2015.