Use of the whip in racing

The whip has a role to play in keeping a horse and rider safe, but we question its use in racing to make a horse run faster.

The whip has a role to play in keeping a horse and rider safe, but we question its use in racing to make a horse run faster.

Here is our position on the whip:

We are often asked why horse riders and jockeys carry a whip. The answer is that a whip can have an important role in keeping the horse and rider safe when it is used to get a horse’s attention to steer it away from danger. 

The whip can be used for safety reasons

A rider should be able to use a whip to keep horse and rider safe. This is as true for racing as it is for any equine sport.

We need an open debate on the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ in horseracing

In horseracing, the whip is also used in many countries to ‘encourage’ the horse to run faster. This use of the whip is increasingly controversial.  In Britain, we have long called for an open debate on the use of the whip for encouragement (including jockeys, trainers, owners, regulators, veterinary science, welfare groups and importantly, the general public).

Progress made in British horseracing– but questions remain

There has been progress in British racing on the whip – it was redesigned several years ago with more padding to make it softer, and new rules were put in place to limit where, when and the number of times a jockey could use the whip. As a result, the number of horses wealed (bruised) by whips in racing each year has significantly declined. 

However, the principle of whipping still causes concern. While use of the whip is not normally a welfare problem – it is only as dangerous as the person whose hands it is in – it can be a welfare problem.

There is also an ethical question of using a whip to make a horse run faster. As well as a question of whether horses being whipped is the right public image for a sport, and whether the public accept it.

We want to see a move away from the use of the whip for encouragement in horseracing

If racing or any horse sport is to maintain its social license – or acceptance of the public – then it must reflect society’s values.

We therefore want to see a move away from the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ in horseracing and welcome all reasonable steps towards this goal.

If the whip continues to be used for encouragement in horseracing, we need stronger penalties to change attitudes and behaviour

In British horseracing, when a jockey overuses the whip, s/he is likely to receive only a few days’ suspension. The results of races are unaffected, regardless of whether a winning or placed jockey has breached the whip rules. This means that there is no financial incentive for those involved, including jockeys and trainers, to comply with the whip rules. This is simply unacceptable and needs to be changed.

If you have any comments regarding our views on horses in sport or on the use of the whip, we would like to hear from you. Please email us at info@worldhorsewelfare.org

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