The British Horseracing Authority has concluded its wide-ranging and detailed Review into the use of the whip in Horseracing, which first commenced in November 2010. The report, Responsible Regulation: a Review of the use of the whip in Horseracing – has been published in full and is available from the Authority’s website. The Review will lead to a significant tightening of the rules and penalties relating to the use of the whip by jockeys, as well as a renewed focus on jockey training, to ensure that the best equine welfare standards are maintained throughout the sport.
The report, put together by a Review Group set up specifically for this task by the Authority, has considered the underlying principles behind the use of the whip, how it is used in Racing, and how the Authority should continue to act as a strong, effective regulator in this area. The Review Group consulted the sport’s participants (National Trainers Federation, Professional Jockeys Association, Racehorse Owners Association, Amateur Jockeys Association), the Racecourse Association, the British Racing School and Northern Racing College. It also consulted with recognised animal welfare bodies – the RSPCA, SSPCA and World Horse Welfare and undertook detailed statistical analysis.
The Review considered a range of scientific evidence relating to the effects of the whip on horses, as well as the energy-absorbing design of the whip itself. The Review Group engaged a leading sports research agency, SMG/YouGov, to undertake an in-depth, independent public opinion research project and took on board the views of individuals who submitted their thoughts to the Authority.
The Review Group made 19 recommendations, all of which were approved by the Board of the British Horseracing Authority. The main recommendations are:
- The use of the whip in Racing – providing strict controls are effectively enforced – remains appropriate and necessary for the safety of both jockeys and horses. Use of the whip to focus and concentrate a horse, and to encourage it to perform at its best, also remains appropriate providing the constraints on acceptable use set out in the Review are observed. The Review Group found that this approach is backed by current animal welfare science.
- The current whip guidelines and penalties for those jockeys who breach the Rules on whip use are not an effective enough control and deterrent in their current form. Too many breaches of the Rules on whip use are occurring, and the Review Group believes that the Authority can better incentivise long-term behavioural change in jockeys through a wide range of recommendations with this aim in mind, including:
- The removal of frequency guidelines and the implementation of strict and easily understood limits on whip use – 7x in Flat Racing and 8x in Jump Racing (and only five times in the last furlong/after the last obstacle). This is roughly half the amount of times a whip could be used previously before being in breach of the Rules;
- Increased entry point penalties – 5 day minimum suspension for not adhering to the frequency limits (the previous minimum penalty was a caution);
- Forfeiture of riding fee and prize money percentage – a jockey who incurs a whip suspension of three days or more will forfeit his riding fee and percentage;
- Increased penalties for those who breach the Rules on more than one occasion (second offence will be double that of a first offence);
- The new Guidelines and Penalties will come into effect on Monday 10 October 2011.
- The Authority should continue to support research into the design of the whip and incorporate any future technological innovations into British Horseracing as appropriate if it is felt that equine welfare could be enhanced.
Paul Roy, Chairman of the British Horseracing Authority, welcomed the Review and said:
“This has been an incredibly wide-ranging piece of work, resulting in a comprehensive Review that the Authority is very proud of. The Board approved every one of the recommendations and the message is loud and clear – we will continue to lead the way in responsible regulation and will make difficult decisions in the best interests of the sport and its participants.”
Jamie Stier, Director of Raceday Operations and Regulation, said:
“This has been a painstakingly thorough Review and we would like to thank all those who took part. We accepted from the outset that it would be unrealistic to think that everyone would be pleased with whatever the final outcome was, but what was clear from virtually all those consulted was that the status quo could not be retained.
“The result is a clear set of Rules and Guidelines that lay down what is acceptable use of the whip, alongside a penalty structure which will act as an appropriate deterrent. We believe this will bring about real behavioural change without any detriment to the sport, which can only be good for British Racing.”
Professor Tim Morris, Director of Equine Science and Welfare, said:
“Use of the whip is, understandably, a sensitive issue. Safeguarding the welfare of racehorses is a priority for the Authority and we are committed to ensuring and enhancing horse welfare, taking an approach backed strongly by current animal welfare science. The thoroughness of this Review, and the conclusions it reaches, are yet further demonstrations of this commitment.”
Sir Henry Cecil, ten-times Champion Flat Trainer, said:
“The BHA has done an excellent, thorough job with their Review and I welcome these changes, which will hopefully serve British Racing well.”
Paul Nicholls, Champion Jumps Trainer for the last six years, said:
“Whilst I’ve been a critic of the Rules in the past, nobody likes seeing misuse of the whip and I agree that the time had come when something had to be done. I am pleased that the BHA has made sensible and reasonable changes, and I am supportive of them.
AP McCoy, Champion Jumps Jockey for the last 16 years and reigning BBC Sports Personality of the Year, said:
“The PJA has worked closely with the Authority on the BHA’s Review and I hope my colleagues embrace the proposed changes as being in the best interest of the sport. I for one support the changes.”
Frankie Dettori, one of the most famous jockeys in the world, said:
“I am not proud of having fallen foul of the whip Rules in the past but I have never harmed a horse. These new Rules are easy to understand which will help all jockeys ride within them. I accept these new Rules are in the best interest of our great sport and it is right that they should be in place in time for Britain’s richest ever raceday, QIPCO British Champions Day.”