I'd like to repeat that any course of action a rider takes during a race depends, first, on the knowledge of what his horse will do and, secondly, on what his opposition is doing. This statement naturally includes the whipping of a horse, and in this connection I have discovered a great misconception on the part of many racing fans about the proper use of the whip. Many think that when you're flailing away you're really working. Wrong. When you're whipping a horse you're actually resting yourself—compared to the effort you put into the hand ride. But, unless you know how to whip properly and when your horse needs whipping, you can do your chances much more harm than good. For example, when a horse tires and shortens stride, the tendency of the inexperienced rider is to draw his whip. This is wrong, because, hell, if there's one thing a tired horse doesn't need—just as he's beginning to flounder around—it's a whipping. He needs the help an expert hand ride can give him. I've always operated on the theory that I only hit a horse when I absolutely have to—and never to impress the public with how hard I'm working. As for the criticism that whipping is cruel, I feel that it's very hard to hurt a horse with a whip. Some jocks cut a horse up a bit, but I don't think that helps him run. The effect should be a sting. This isn't a painful hurt. It's a sting which should startle him into doing what you want him to do.
The shaft (C) of my whips (which I manufacture myself) has a core of�-inch solid frosted-glass tubing covered with thread in open weave, then thin rubber tubing covered with tightly woven cotton thread. To taper it we put on thin layers of packing paper—four layers at one end, up to 18 layers at the handle (D). String is tightly cross-woven and lacquered to form the outside covering. Heavy cord forms a knot at the handle, with rubber tape (E) as a grip and a heavy knot at top (F). The squared popper (A) must be at least two inches long, and, like the feathers (B) under it, is made of soft leather and secured with heavy thread. I always add tape to the handle to get the proper "feel" (much as you would the grip of a golf club) but, amazing as it may seem, when you get all through putting together this 27�-inch whip the whole thing weighs only four ounces. But it can do the job, though!
THE WHIP: SWITCH HITTING
Like most jocks, I whip right-handed most of the time, although I think we'd all get better results if we disciplined ourselves to whip left-handed about 50% of the time. Day to day, race to race, you find yourself really handicapped if you can't whip on both sides. If you're head-and-head and the horse on the right is leaning against you and you don't know how to switch the whip—it's just like giving up. You simply haven't got a chance.
Because you are not allowed to cock your whip in the starting gate, you look like this on the break—with the feathers and leather popper pointing vertically downward and the whip held by one finger and the reins by three. In some races I might never cock my whip. This seldom happens, though, and generally when you're ready to move or drive your horse, it's a natural reaction to cock it—where you can have it ready for immediate use.
TWIRLING THE WHIP
Bringing the whip from the uncocked to the cocked position is done by letting go of the rein with the right hand and, with all fingers working, the whip is twirled so that it is upended (drawing, left). This is one of those purely reflex actions which you just do without ever quite knowing when you do it. Some jocks—even some very experienced ones—use a rubber band around their forefinger and the lower part of their whip (see drawing, above right) so they won't lose it when twirling it. I find the two ways in which you're most apt to lose a whip (and my average isn't too bad: usually two lost whips in about 1,000 rides a year) are twirling it when you're apt to be clumsy after a long layoff—or accidentally hitting another horse.
By the time you finish twirling the whip you wind up with it in the cocked position and ready to use. And, whereas in the uncocked position I held it with only one finger, I'm now very likely to grasp it with two fingers a few inches below the knob. Use of the extra finger just gives me a little better control of the whip within my hand. Now, when you take the first stroke, you will also feel if the whip is striking properly or not. And if it doesn't feel right, you'll sort of automatically rotate the shaft in your hand so as to hit squarely, making sure you strike him with the popper flat.
You hit a horse differently, depending upon the circumstances in which you find yourself. Sometimes it is because of a possible surprising effect, but more often it is because it's the only logical way. For example, at left, where just out of the gate I want position, and while still holding the whip uncocked I'd pelt his rump with my thumb up, because there was no time to cock the whip.
UNDER GIRTH: (A) If I hit a horse on the rump and haven't gotten him to moving, I'll often try a vertical stroke back over my right foot—straight down—so the whip catches him in the belly right under the girth. Another time the belly shot might help is in a tight finish when a whack might make him flinch just enough to get the nod.