Use of the whip in racing

In 2011 the BHA invited World Horse Welfare to take part in its review of the use of the whip in racing along with the RSPCA and SSPCA.

In 2011 the BHA invited World Horse Welfare to take part in its review of the use of the whip in racing along with the RSPCA and SSPCA.

Here is our position on the whip:

The whip is important for safety

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 a debate on the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’

In addition to its use as a safety aid, the whip is used in racing to ‘encourage’ the horse, in most cases to make it run faster. We believe the principle of its use for encouragement should be reviewed, with an open debate among all parties (including jockeys, trainers, owners, regulators, veterinary science, welfare groups and importantly, the general public). 

The whip itself may have softer padding after its redesign several years ago, but the principle of whipping still causes concern among many. For racing to continue and flourish, which we hope it does, it must have the consent of the public and so reflect their values.

Whip use is a welfare issue when it is used inappropriately or excessively

Given its use for safety, we do not consider the whip per se to be a risk to horse welfare – it depends on how it is used. However, excessive or inappropriate use of a whip is always a welfare issue.  

Use of the whip can be inappropriate or excessive depending upon when it is used and how frequently. For instance, we would consider the use of the whip to be inappropriate or excessive if it were used on an exhausted horse, or on one that was not responding to it or not given time to respond to it, or on a horse that had fallen behind in a race and had no chance of winning or making a prize-money place. The whip serves no purpose in these circumstances – indeed it is counterproductive – unless it is used for safety.

We need stronger penalties to change attitudes and behaviour

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. The rider, trainer and owner receive their fees and prize money, respectively. This means that there is no financial incentive for jockeys, trainers or owners to abide by, or encourage their riders to stay within, the whip rules if they believe that flouting them could still win them a race. Clearly, for the whip rules to be respected, stronger penalties should apply. 

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

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