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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By HRI Foreign Staff — The question on the mind of racing’s outlanders: Is the end of whip use in US horse racing near?

The use of the whip is one of the more controversial elements of horse racing. But a new study suggests that the days of the whip could soon be numbered.

A recent published report by the University of South Australia found that jockeys using a whip had no advantage in terms of racing times compared to those who used the ‘hands and heels’ approach.

This report has added to calls to place major restrictions on the number of times a jockey can use a whip in a US horse racing. There are already plans in motion in the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act to drastically cut back the use of the whip as soon as 2022.

This measure is currently being reviewed by the Senate, and if the bill is passed, it would have far-reaching effects across the whole of the US horse racing industry.

Many people have argued that the whip needs to stay in horse racing as a safety precaution. It is felt that a whip can be used to steer a racehorse in a safe direction. Plus there are those who insist that the correct use of a whip can be used to make a racehorse run faster.

But the study by the University of South Australia suggests differently. This study looked at 126 horse races in the UK. 67 of these horse races were ‘hands and heels’ races where the jockeys were allowed to carry a whip, but not use it to strike the horse.

The study found that there was no statistically significant difference between those races where the jockeys were allowed to use the whip and those that were held under ‘hands and heels’ restrictions. All of the featured horse races accounted for variables like track conditions, field size and race classes.

As a result, anybody going to one of the bookmakers featured at will know that a whip won’t help their preferred runner get a faster race time.

As it stands, different states in the US have their own rules and regulations regarding the use of the whip. New Jersey recently took the step of putting an outright ban on jockeys using a whip except in extreme circumstances where their safety was in jeopardy.

Other states have been less extreme in their limitations of how the whip may be used. For example, Kentucky recently passed legislation that limited the use of the whip to just two times per race. In contrast, jockeys in California are allowed to use the whip anywhere up to six times in each race.

If the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act is passed then it would regulate the use of the whip across all US states. The US isn’t the only nation that has been seeking to amend the ways in which the horse racing whip is used.

Countries like the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and Germany have already severely limited the number of times a rider is allowed to whip a horse in a race.

Interestingly, the report from the University of South Australia was released at a time where there is a hot-tempered debate underway about the use of the whip in Australian horse racing.

Next month will see Racing Australia holding a vote that could see the whip regulations falling in line with those of other nations.

If this vote is passed, then 2021 would see all jockeys in Australian horse races being limited to using the whip between five and eight times for each race.

In addition to this, the jockeys would be forbidden to use the whip on consecutive strides. At the moment, there is a limit in Australian racing that allows jockeys to use the whip five times non-consecutively. But this limit is lifted in the final 100 metres of the race.

The topic of the horse racing whip is big news at the moment with many people both inside and outside of the industry seeing the use of the whip as being inhumane.

The horse racing industry has already received plenty of criticism for the ways that racehorses are treated in regard sustained at races, and the continued use of a whip has been felt to deter many people from both attending and betting on horse races.

All of which has meant that the horse racing industry faces a couple of crucial decisions in the next couple of months.

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2 Responses

  1. Sounds like another satisfied customer. With some, complaining never gets old.

    Find another pastime, already…


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