If you watch a horse race in person, on television, or on the big screen, it would be hard not to notice that the horses in the stretch run are getting hit with a whip, and not just once or twice but repeatedly. I don’t know of any other sport or so-called sport involving animals that would allow this barbaric practice, and yet it goes on day in and day out at racetracks across the country and all around the world.
I am going jump right into this debate and state that I think whips should be banned. I know the fear is that race times will suffer, but to me, that’s a lame argument, a moot point. A win is a win, at whatever the clocked running time. As for the argument that a whip helps steer a horse in a race, I couldn’t disagree more and I am not alone in this thinking.
Jim Gale, director of the Northern Racing College (UK) on the proposed races banning whip use, states: I understand the arguments about the need to keep horses straight, but it is often the actual action of using the whip that causes a horse to veer off a true line. The benefits of whipless races would probably outweigh the disadvantages. (1)
The subject of whether or not whips should be allowed in racing has been debated for years. Every time the issue of proposing the banning of whips is brought to a head, it gets voted down. In September 2009 jockeys in Australia threatened to boycott racing at racetracks in Victoria, NSW and Queensland unless the Australian Racing Board (ARB) rejected submissions for changes to the (whip) rules at its meeting in Sydney.
Representatives from all facets of the industry put forward the submission to have the rule altered to allow jockeys to use their discretion over how many times they hit horses in the last 100 metres of a race as long as they were in contention. (2)
Hmmm…as long as they are in contention. This clearly defines what the use of a whip is all about. It’s about hitting a horse to try to get them to run faster. Rarely will a jockey use a whip down the backside or even around the turn. For the most part, the whipping takes place in the stretch run. It’s when horses are going neck to neck and nose to nose that their jockeys start whipping and driving.
According to the Jockey Club in the United States, while use of a whip (riding crop) is not required, any jockey who uses a whip (riding crop) during the race shall do so only in a manner consistent with exherting his or her best efforts to win. (3)
What would racing be like without the whip? It would be more humane, that’s for sure. The winner, at whatever speed the race was clocked at, would still be the winner. There would still be a horse running second, third. The betting public would still cash tickets, purse monies would still be earned.
Horseracing is a spectator sport, but as spectators, we become part of the game. How does an adult explain to a child that it’s okay to hit or beat a horse to make it run faster. If they’re being honest, they can’t, because it’s wrong. It’s high time horseracing become a whipless event. It’s high time the Jockey Club of the United States stepped up when it comes to righting this longtime wrong. They have rules about where on the horse’s body he or she can be hit, where on the track you can hit the horse, and even when you can hit a horse. How about it they make it a rule that no racehorse ever gets whipped again period. They need to set an example for the rest of the world. They need to do it for the horses and ultimately for the safety of the jockeys they represent. It would be the right thing to do.