The use of the whip in all horse sports is regularly being challenged by the public and welfare organisations, especially in horse racing. As this challenge grows, all sports need to adapt to this increased care for the welfare of the horse or risk bein “cancelled”. This week the BHA announced new whip rules to be implimented into British horse racing later this year.
Current Whip Rules
The current whip rules in Biritsh racing consist of a limit of how many times the jockey can use the whip during a race, 7 times for flat and 8 times for national hunt. There are also rules on how and where the whip can be used. A jockey may use the whip down the horse’s shoulder or on the hindquarters. The jockey cannot raise the whip above shoulder height. There are also rules about not using the whip when the horse is either clearly going to win or has clearly not got a chance of placing.
Breaking these rules will result in a stewards enquiry. The jockey will then recieve and fine and/or a ban based on the servevity of the breach of the rules. But the horse’s result won’t be altered.
Why they are changing
The big push to change largely comes from the growing welfare concern for the horses in racing. Watching horse racing it is easy to see why the general public think the use of the whip is excessive and wrong. I personally feel that the whip is needed in racing, even if purely for the safety aspect of correcting horses drifting. But I also completely agree with the need to reasses the rules.
Another point is that jockeys are essentially cheating but are still winning. This years Grand National winning jockey broke the whip rules. But the horse was still the winner. Not only is this unfair to other jockeys who didn’t break the rules, but it also sends out a message to the public that we don’t take the horse’s welfare seriously.
What they are changing to
The biggest change coming in is that horses can be disqualified from the race if the jockey used the whip 4 or more times over the permitted level. All other penalties will also be increased, with penalties for top races being almost double that as lower races. Another change is that jockeys will only be able to use the whip in the backhand position for encouragment. This means the top of the handle is at your thumb. Using the whip in this position uses less force and therefore is a step towards improving the welfare of horses.
The current aim is for these changes to come into place in Autumn this year. What is interesting is that the basic rules haven’t really changed that much, what has really changed is the penalties for breaking the rules. This should hopefully continue to reduce the number of jockeys breaking the whip rules, which in turn improves public preception of the sport as well as improving horse welfare.
Last Updated on 15/07/2022