Improving standards and enhanced deterrents at the heart of 20 recommendations published as part of British horseracing’s whip report

12 Jul 2022 BHA Features Welfare
  • Whip Consultation Steering Group submitted 20 recommendations to recent BHA Board meeting following extensive consultation process  
  • Recommendations approved by the BHA Board 
  • Key principles include developing rules which foster more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement, greater focus on education and improving standards of use, consistency of stewarding and a penalty framework which acts as an effective deterrent against misuse 
  • Core recommendations include: – Use of the whip for encouragement to be limited to the backhand position only – Permitted level for use to remain at seven on the Flat, eight over Jumps, in the backhand only – Development of a review panel which is responsible for evaluation of all rides and any necessary sanction or action (including directing jockeys to further training) – Increased penalties for offences, including doubled suspensions in major races when the whip is used above the permitted level – Disqualification introduced for offences in which the whip has been used four times or more above the permitted level in all races 
  • Period of further technical discussions to now take place with jockeys and other relevant stakeholders  
  • Education/training programme to be delivered prior to new rules being introduced, with the objective being late Autumn for implementation 
  • Transition to new rules may include a “bedding in” period 

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has today published 20 recommendations relating to the use of the whip in British racing. The recommendations were proposed by the Whip Consultation Steering Group, which consists of experienced individuals from jockeys, trainers, to members of the racing industry, media, government and horse welfare sectors. They are designed to be considered as a package of measures based on the following core principles and objectives:

  • Developing rules which foster more considered and judicious use of the whip for encouragement
  • Improving the style and perception of whip use
  • Greater focus on education and improving standards
  • Greater consistency in application of the rules
  • Introducing a penalty framework which acts an effective deterrent against misuse

The recommendations form part of a detailed report which was compiled following an extensive consultation, review and deliberation process. The need for a review into the use of the whip was set out by the sport’s cross-industry Horse Welfare Board in their 2020 “A Life Well Lived” welfare strategy. The report was put before the BHA Board on 20 June and approved in full.

Amongst the key recommendations are: The Rules – Use of the ProCush whip should continue to be permitted for encouragement, with strong and appropriate regulation of its use – The whip rules will be amended to restrict use for encouragement to the backhand position only. Approach to regulation and enforcement – The regulatory approach to the whip should be reframed to drive continuous improvement, both in standards of whip use and in the consistency of stewarding. – A whip review panel of stewards will be established, which will assess all potential whip offences and apply sanctions or remedial actions where appropriate.  Penalties– Penalties will be increased for some specific offences where the current penalty is considered inadequate (view revised penalty structure here) – Penalty structure for use of the whip above the permitted level in major races to be revised as a doubling of the suspensions for the same offence in standard races – Disqualification of the horse will be introduced into the penalty framework for particularly serious use of the whip above the permitted level, where there has been a clear and flagrant disregard for the rules (used four or more times above the permitted level) Other recommendations – The BHA, on behalf of the racing industry, should commission and support further objective research into the effects of the whip, using any relevant scientific advances to inform policy – Reasonable efforts should be made by British racing to explain the design, use and regulation of the whip to key audiences. A final period of technical discussions will now take place with jockeys and other relevant industry participants, to consider any practical or logistical considerations relating to the new rules, finalise details such as the exact working of the review panel, and to determine the training and education required for both jockeys and stewards prior to the new rules coming into effect. It will also consider how a ‘bedding in’ period will work once the new rules have been implemented, in order to aid the transition. This will feed into the delivery of a full implementation plan. The current ambition is that the new rules will come into effect in late Autumn, though the exact date will be clarified through this period of technical discussion. CIick on the image below to view this short film which explains the process followed:

SELECTED QUOTES David Jones, Chair of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “I would like to offer my thanks to everyone who took part in this process, from the members of the Steering Group who brought their considerable, wide-ranging expertise to the table in a manner of collaboration and positivity, through to everyone who took part in the consultation. “It is our view that, as a result of this process, we are continuing to evolve standards of whip use, through a regulatory approach that will be demonstrably and visibly fair in terms of what they ask of our horses and the spirit of fair sporting competition. “It is inevitable that there will be those who think we have gone too far, and those who think we have not gone far enough. I ask only that the considerable expertise that has provided its input to this process, and the scale of the task in finding consensus across such a broad range of complex factors, be considered as part of any discussion about these proposals.” Tom Scudamore, jockey and member of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “I was pleased that my fellow jockey PJ McDonald and I were able to input into this process.  “The change to using the whip only in the backhand will be a significant one for many riders, and the revised penalties are certainly strict. However, I believe the increase in penalties will have the correct deterrent on those riding. “When the whip is used in the backhand position the natural arc in which you use it will mean that it is more frequently landing in the right place with the appropriate amount of force. “The result will be visibly improved racing, which has not lost the important benefits of being able to properly focus a horse at the end of a race, or when jumping over obstacles, which is what the padded ProCush whip is intended to be used for.” PJ McDonald, jockey and member of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “While as jockeys we would prefer not to have seen penalties for whip offences significantly increased, we also have to accept that steps needed to be taken to prevent breaches of the whip rules.  “I am pleased that the introduction of the review panel will increase consistency of officiating, and focus not only on penalties but also improving standards of riding.  “The introduction of disqualification for certain offences is a major step, but I think we all share the same hope and expectation which is that it is a rule that will rarely, if ever, need to be used as it will serve as a significant deterrent to jockeys using the whip too frequently.”   Henry Daly, trainer and member of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “As would be expected, developing consensus on the new rules was quite a challenge, especially when there was such a broad range of perspectives to consider. I feel that a sensible outcome has been reached, and our sport will be better for the work that has gone into this important project. “I have no doubt that the step to introduce disqualification for the most egregious offences will be a significant talking point. However, my sincere hope is that it is a rule that we simply never need to see enforced. The deterrent is so great as it impacts not only the jockeys but also the trainers, owners and stable staff, and I am hopeful therefore that riders will fall well short of the level required to trigger disqualification.” Baroness Sue Hayman of Ullock, Member of the House of Lords and member of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “I joined the group as an advocate for animal welfare and I believe the recommendations, including the new penalties, are an important step in improving the way the whip is used horse racing. “I would like to praise David Jones and the BHA for running a demonstrably fair process which factored in views from all parties – not just those from within the racing industry, but also those of us who brought external views to the table. “From my experience of this process I can say with confidence that the welfare of horses and jockeys, alongside the perception of the sport of the general public and those looking in from the outside, were all given detailed consideration, and the recommendations have been formed with these principles very much in mind.” Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare and member of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, said: “It would have been easy for racing to carry out this review in its own bubble, but by including an equine welfare organisation within the Steering Group itself they showed they were willing to consider other views and be asked some fundamental questions.  “While the group did not agree unanimously on all the decisions which were made, the whole process was a thorough one and racing should be commended for this approach.   “Racing of horses, like all horse sport, can only continue to take place if the sport maintains the support of the public, which will require everyone in racing to justify their use of the whip in the context of horse welfare, and show that they can be trusted to adhere to and enforce these rules.” Julie Harrington, Chief Executive of the BHA, said: “On behalf of the BHA I would like to say thank you to David and the entire Steering Group for contributing their time and expertise to this project, alongside the BHA project team who ran the project. “It was essential that this review was carried out, and I am grateful to the Horse Welfare Board for having insisted on it as part of their welfare strategy.  “We must have in place rules which reflect best practices in horsemanship, while at the same time safeguarding the sport’s public perception, and – through this – the engagement of our fans and the future of our sport. These rules now provide us with a platform to better explain the whip design and how and why it is used to our existing and future audiences.” Notes to editors:

  1. The full review can be downloaded here 
  2. The 20 recommendations can be downloaded here 
  3. The revised penalty structure can be found here 
  4. A detailed Q&A can be found here
  5. A video summarising the process and findings can be viewed here