Animal Aid Respond To Whip Debate

Animal Aid Respond To Whip Debate

The use of the whip has been a common source of debate in recent weeks, with discussions over it's usage and the punishment for rules breaks currently a hot topic and in deeper investigation with punters, the media and the sporting's governing body - the British Horseracing Authority.

The whip is a tool specifically designed to strike horses in the aid to guide them towards an intended target or to exert control over the situation.

Typically a bendy stick, it is deemed by some to only generate a sound to remind horse's of their respective tasks and to not hurt them, whilst others disagree.

It allows riders to get the best out of their mount when calling for maximum effort, particularly in the closing stages of a racing contest.

Any use of the whip by a jockey must not only be appropriate, proportionate or professional, but by also taking account of the 'Rules of Racing' and in depth guidelines laid out by the BHA.

The permitted number of uses of the whip - with hands off the reins, is seven times for Flat races and eight times for Jumps race.

Stewards will consider whether to hold an enquiry if a rider has used his whip eight times or more in a Flat race or nine times or more in a Jump race - or misused in some other way.

The use of the whip letalone punishments for its' overuse is certainly on the agenda for animal rights campaign groups such as Animal Aid to tackle.

Animal Aid - one of the world’s longest established groups, was founded back in 1977.

They campaign against all forms of animal abuse, and in particular are against the sport of horse racing due to many varying factors.

Dene Stansall is the organisation's horse racing representative, and we sat down and discussed how the company stands on the whip and what needs to change going forward.

Q: What is your opinion on the recent rise in Whip bans?

A: The recent rise in whip bans just highlights the disrespect by jockeys to the horses they ride.

Horses become objects to hit at will, and the riders disregard the Rules of Racing and fair play in sport against their pier competitors.

Q: Given what happened at Royal Ascot, is there enough being done to deter riders from exceeding the limit?

A: Royal Ascot is the premier meeting of British racing, if not Europe and possibly the rest of the world to some degree - certainly with regard to flat racing on turf.

Winning at the meeting is therefore, paramount in terms of prestige for the jockey and connections, as well as, the huge financial rewards that are on offer either directly in prize-money and indirectly in stud fees.

The penalty system within the Rules of Racing clearly, in practice, do not deter jockeys from committing whip offences.

Therefore, if the use of the whip is to be taken seriously as a potential penalty offence, the penalty has to relate to the result of the race, as is the case for example, with interference, where say the winner having committed inference is disqualified from their finishing position.

One example of this is Tom Queally's ride on Jacqueline Quest in the 1,000 Guineas back in 2010.

Q: What actions would you put in place to stop overuse of the whip? Does that include disqualification from the race?

A: The BHA is the regulator of horse racing in Britain.

It has a responsibility for the welfare of the horses and to the aspect of fair play in sport.

I would suggest it needs to be decisive in its current review through the Horse Welfare Board in stopping what has been a continuing problem with the use of the whip for many, many years.

That is, to either ban the use of the whip, full stop, (as I would choose to do) or disqualify the horse from its finishing position and demote the horse to last place (if that last place is a prize-money place then remove all prize-money too).

Only with severe measures will excessive hitting of horses stop.

In my view a long ban for a jockey is not the best option which is a suggestion that has recently been discussed, because the appeal process would, I’m sure, frequently get reversed. 

Q: What would you say to those people who say the whip doesn’t hurt and it’s just a sound for the horses to respond to?

A: I have a couple of race whips and when used with force are certainly painful. There has been research shown that individual horse's have skin of various thicknesses so, common sense, is that pain would be felt. 

The reality of a race ride with the use of the whip is that horses are not always hit exactly on the quarters, but down the shoulder/neck, ribs, flank, point of hip, stifle and often in the face by an opponent jockey when coming through for a run/challenge.

Just slow-mo races down and sooner or later you will see this happen - it happens quickly and the most obvious sign is that the challenger (horse) lifts up their head and changes legs.

That offence should be a disqualification if seen, aside from whether or not it changes finishing positions.

Also the padded area may not be the only part of the whip to contact the horse: the middle rod part and the long handle often hit the horse as well as a sewn edge of the padded area.

The whip hurts; the idea of it’s only a sound for the horse to respond to is either ignorance or a blatant lie use by those who are pro-whip.

Q: Is it just flat racing getting the negative press or has it been as bad in jumps racing?

A: Jumps racing is just as bad.

Whip offences are commitment in terms of frequency and numbers pretty much the same all year round.

Of course, when big NH meeting are on, such as the Cheltenham Festival or the GN meeting, offences are more high profile in their media coverage.

It was after all, the whip beating given to 2011 GN winner Ballabriggs that started a review of the whip and led to a change of the rules in the frequency of its ‘acceptable’ use which is currently: 8 strikes for jumpers and 7 for flat horses - about half of what it was. 

Any other comments?

The whip will remain an ongoing problem until it is eventually banned - it’s not if, but when.