Here’s a fun look at the whips and spurs rules! We’ll start first with dressage – and then go to eventing and show jumping. Try to answer all the questions before looking at the answers at the bottom of the post. No cheating! Here we go…

DRESSAGE Whip and Spur Rules Quiz

Question 1 – You are performing as part of a quadrille. Everyone in your group is performing with spurs on, but you, because your mare is sensitive to your leg in the ring. Instead, you’re carrying a whip. Is this allowed?

Question 2 – You’ve dropped your whip and the tractor drag ran it over and ruined it! You are on your horse in warmup, schooling him for your class, and your scheduled time is coming up. Quickly, your trainer runs to the tack trailer at the horse show, and buys a newfangled whip for you to carry. It’s adjustable in length, telescoping from 160cm to 120cm. Is this a legal whip to carry while schooling or competing?

Question 3 – You are grooming for a friend who is riding sidesaddle in the championship class. She warms up with a whip, and just before she is ready to enter the ring to be judged, her trainer, standing next to you, exclaims, “Oh dear, she is carrying her whip! She will be eliminated!” Is she correct?

Question 4 – The warmup steward asks to check your spurs, and actually looks at both the right and the left spur. Is this allowed?

Question 5 – You have worked extra hard and finally have qualified for your first FEI competition. All the paperwork has been done, you have thought of every detail, you have been riding and schooling intensely and your horse is qualified and ready. You know that you cannot compete with the whip, so you plan to drop the whip when you…. A) enter the arena, or B) the space around the competition arena?

Question 6 –We are still  riding in an FEI competition. You have a lovely pair of plastic resin spurs that your BFF gave you for good luck. They don’t have rowels, they aren’t sharp, they are not capable of wounding a horse, and they have straight, blunt shanks shorter than 4 cm long, so they are legal. Or are they?

Question 7 –Your daughter is warming up her dressage pony who is being naughty. She asks for a whip and you hand her your schooling whip which is legal for the open class you just completed on your horse. Is she now carrying a legal whip?

Question 8 –Your daughter now is riding a horse in Child Rider classes. She is wearing spurs that are legal for the pony competition – can she change her spurs to ones with rowels, or with a shank longer than 1.5cm because she has switched to the horse?

Question 9 – As an American, you are competing in a dressage competition in Canada. Is there anything different in Canada that you should be aware of in terms of your whips and spurs?


#1 Answer: YES “Whips and spurs are optional and need not be carried or worn by all members of the quadrille team.” (USDF – Quadrille rules)

#2 Answer: NO “(USEF DR120.5) An adjustable-length whip may not be carried by a mounted rider.”

#3 Answer: NO. “7. Whips may not be carried in championship tests (Exception: Competitors riding sidesaddle may carry a whip no longer than 47.2 inches (120 cm), including lash, in USEF/USDF Championships.)”

#4 Answer: YES “14. In USEF/USDF Championship classes, a steward must be appointed to check the saddlery, bits and spurs, on both sides of each horse immediately after it has completed its test and has left the arena. Any discrepancy to the saddlery rules will entail immediate elimination. (USEF DR126.10 – effective 3/1/04)”

#5 Answer:   B) Space around the competition arena. FEI Dressage Rulebook: “3. Whips. At all international Events, it is forbidden to carry a whip of any kind while competing in the arena. However, the use of one (1) whip, with a total maximum length of one meter and twenty (1.20 m, in the practice area is allowed. The whip must be dropped before entering the space around the Competition arena or the Athlete will be penalized. See Article 430 of the Dressage Rules.”

#6 Answer: NO Plastic spurs are not allowed at FEI dressage competitions, only metal. “3. Spurs are compulsory … and must be made of metal. The shank must be either curved or straight pointing directly back from the centre of the spur when on the Athlete’s boot. The arms of the spur must be smooth and blunt. If rowels are used, they must be blunt/smooth and free to rotate. Metal spurs with round hard plastic knobs are allowed (“Impuls” spur). “Dummy” spurs with no shank are also allowed.”

#7 Answer: NO FEI rules require pony dressage riders carry a whip (pony Competitions maximum one meter 1 m, 100 cm.) A legal whip for open dressage classes, or for FEI Child rider competition, is 120 cm, but when riding a pony, the whip carried by the competitor must be only 100 cm.

#8 Answer: NO FEI rules state for Child AND Pony division riders: “Spurs optional but if used, only blunt metal spurs no longer than one point five centimetres (1.5 cm) are allowed. Spurs with rowels are not allowed.”

#9 Answer:  Almost no…for the most part, the rules are the same.

Whips are now 120 cm for Canadian competition, the same as the US.

With regard to spurs, there are a few small differences in the rules. In Canada, they must be worn in matching pairs, and they are OPTIONAL at all national competition levels. In the US, spurs are optional at the levels from Intro to 3rd Level, but are compulsory starting at 4th Level. Spurs are compulsory at the FEI levels worldwide.

The USDF and USEF rules do not specify that spurs must match.

Equine Canada has also approved the use of the “Spursuaders”, developed by Linda Hauck.

How many did you get right?

Next: Eventing and Jumping!