Mark Johnston Says Removing The Whip Could Endanger The Sport

Britain's leading trainer Mark Johnston has had his say on the recent whip bans and the ever growing argument that there should be no whip in the sport anymore.

Many Animal Welfare charities and external people to the racing world have called for the whip to be banned in both flat and jumps racing but Johnston thinks that if this was to happen it would threaten the sport as a whole.

Other trainers and jockeys have had their say on the matter with some of them taking a very different stance on the topic with trainer Charlie Fellowes coming out after his first Royal Ascot Winner and saying his horse Thanks Be should not have been awarded the race after jockey Hayley Turner overused the whip and was banned for 13 days.

Other trainers like Sir Mark Prescott and Donald McCainn have also come out and supported Fellowes and have said that the if the use of the whip is exceeded the horse and jockey should be disqualified.

Racing welfare has progressed massively in the UK over the last 10 years and we now stand as arguably the best racing country in terms of how we treat our horses and the rules and laws put in place to protect the horses.

However, people are still calling for me to be done and especially when it comes to the issue of the whip and if action is not changed or taken it may see catastrophic problems for the sport.

(Credit Racing Post) However Johnston has said: "There are people who object to us using the whip but when we stop using the whip the next thing will be jump racing and the next thing after that will be racing altogether.

"I think it is wrong because I think you need a whip to ride horses. I get extremely upset by jockeys, usually apprentices, who think the whip is for steering. The reins are for steering, so nearly all safety and correction is with the reins, not with the whip. The whip is not there for safety and correction. 

"On the removal of the whip, you're talking about a flight animal that needs something to induce the flight response. Some of it is induced up to a point and some of it induced because we've bred them for it for 300 years. If you turned a horse out in a field it will gallop but it won't gallop fast and it won't induce the flight response.

"I think there are physiological and chemical reasons why we need the whip. I've likened it to lots of things, including the blackbird in the hedge. You clap your hands and it flies squawking away, it slows down, clap your hands it goes again. When it goes again it gets that endorphin and adrenaline injection, and this is nature's way of protecting a horse in a finish.

"I think our horses are more at risk of injury – maybe not visible to the public – without the whip. They need the whip to induce the flight response and horse-racing is all about the flight response."

Johnston has also spoke out about the whip limit and that the overuse of the whip is common occurrence due to the role being wrong in the first place

(Credit Racing Post) He added: "My problem is the rule is wrong and the number of strokes is ludicrous. It was a big mistake pandering to the anti-whip people and thinking if we put on a number on it and start banning jockeys, we'll satisfy what people want. It was inevitable it was the beginning of the slippery slope to where we are now.

"It might be arrogant to say people now don't understand but you go back 70 years and most people in government rode a horse. They are totally detached from animals altogether and more interested in votes than anything else. And clearly votes from people who are also totally detached from animals are far more numerous than those who actually understand it. 

"We bring in all these rules to be visually more attractive to people who know zero about it and are not interested in thinking about it."