Monday, August 13, 2012
(Don’t) Whip it, (don’t) whip it good!
By BRENDAN O’MEARA/@BrendanOMeara
It’s time for the whip to go. Horses don’t need them if they’re trained without them from Day 1. They are outdated and serve no purpose save for giving the animal a reminder that he’d better get his butt in gear.
I’ve heard horsemen say the horses don’t feel much, probably nothing more than us slapping a mosquito off our arms, so why use them at all? Habit. That’s all. Laziness.
American’s favorite jockey, Chantal Sutherland, faces a four-day suspension while riding at Ascot Saturday for excessive whipping. She raced over in the Mother Country as part of an international competition. In fairness to Sutherland, American racing loves its whips as much as Devo and gives horses perhaps too much spanking. For a conservative and Puritanical country like the US, you’d think the whip would’ve been cast out during Manifest Destiny. So jockey Kieran Fallon, Lord of the Manor for the Great Britain and Ireland team, came to Sutherland’s defense in the National newspaper in England.
“It’s sad, really,” Fallon was quoted as saying. “All Chantal was doing was giving a couple of little taps. Riders tap the horses to encourage them. It is not as if they are hurting the horses. It should have been overlooked for today. They are foreign riders who are not used to our (rules). From their own country, where they can hit a horse as many times as they want, they have suffered for it.”
Horse racing has an image problem. This proclamation is right up there with “football has a head injury problem” or “Ted Williams’s son had daddy issues” or “Hollywood has a Jennifer Aniston problem”. Whether the whip does little more than give the horse a moment of encouragement, then get rid of them. People railed, and I mean railed, Gabriel Saez when Eight Belles broke down in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. He whipped her too many times down the lane!
Trust me, that ain’t why this gigantic filly broke both front ankles. Dr. Larry Bramlage said that was a freak accident (YouTube the video if you want to see Kenny Rice's interview). If anything, a casual fan sees whipping through their head: if someone did that to me it would hurt like hell. I think nuns think twice about lashing kids these days.
So the game could start on the yearlings now. Right now. I hear Todd Pletcher bought a big one. When they break and train these babies, keep the whip out of it. Take all whips away from jockeys. They can keep both hands on the wheel. When it’s go-time, horses run. A smoochy sound, vigorous shaking, extra rein. Horses are smart and when trained with a new trigger, they will explode as always.
Watch this clip with Dr. Paul McGreevy as he examines the great Black Caviar run and ask yourself if the stick has a place in horse racing or not. This sport can do without a concussive implement as it has run out of eyes to blacken.
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