The whip

In British racing the use of a foam padded, air cushioned whip is permitted, with strict controls on its use.

2022 Whip Report

As part of the independent Horse Welfare Board (HWB)’s strategic plan, A life well lived – a new strategic plan for the welfare of horses bred for racing 2020-2024, a recommendation was made that a public consultation should be conducted by the BHA regarding the use of the whip in British racing.

A full consultation was held with the public and racing industry in 2021. In June 2022, the BHA published 20 recommendations as part of a FULL REPORT  relating to the use of the whip in British racing.

The recommendations were proposed by the Whip Consultation Steering Group, which consisted of experienced individuals from jockeys, trainers, to members of the racing industry, media, government and horse welfare sectors.

 

 

British horseracing’s whip report recommendations

The Whip Consultation Steering Group’s recommendations 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

Download the 20 whip report recommendations

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. 

Please see here for a Q&A document covering the whip report’s recommendations and their implementation

British horseracing’s whip report implementation

Before any changes are implemented, there will be a period of technical discussions with jockeys and other relevant industry participants, to consider any practical or logistical considerations relating to the new rules, and to determine the training and education required for both jockeys and stewards prior to the new rules coming into effect.   It will also be considered 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.

What sort of whip is used in British racing?

The current design of the whip was developed with input from the RSPCA. The whip is foam-padded and energy absorbing, comprising a composite spine with a polymer surround, encased in thick foam padding.

There is only one current accredited supplier of whips for use in British racing, to ensure that whips carried by jockeys in Britain conform to required standards. Jockeys’ whips are checked by the Clerk of the Scales to ensure they are in good condition before they are used in a race.

Why do we use the whip?

Whips are carried first and foremost as an essential aid to horsemanship and safety. This is consistent across all equine activities which involve exertion on the part of the horse.

The use of the whip in British racing is restricted to safety, correction and encouragement. By “encouragement” we mean using the whip as an aid to activate and focus the horse, so the horse realises its potential by giving its best.  Use of the whip to coerce is not permitted, and the rules are designed to reflect this.

 

Acceptable use of the whip as defined by the Review Group of the BHA’s 2011 whip review:

Acceptable use of the whip

The Review Group defines the conditions of ‘acceptable use’ as:

  • Any use of the whip by a jockey must be justified in the context of the race.
  • The whip may be used to encourage a horse to perform at its best only under the following circumstances:
    • When the horse is in contention during the race;
    • The horse is able to respond; and
    • The horse is given time by the jockey to respond
  • Use of the whip for encouragement is not about simply making a horse run faster. It is to focus and concentrate a horse so that it performs at its best during a race.
  • The whip may only be used on the horse’s body where, in the context of the race, it will not cause pain.
  • The stimulus provided by the whip must be limited, and the whip only used a certain number of times, so as not to compromise the welfare of the horse.
  • The whip used by all jockeys in Great Britain must be specifically designed energy absorbing whip that does not cause pain when properly used.

 

Current rules and limits on use

Following the 2022 report into the use of the whip, the rules regarding the use of the whip in British racing are being revised.  

The basic rules are as follows:  – The whip can be used a maximum of seven times in a Flat race or eight times in a Jump race. Any more than this will prompt the stewards to review the ride  – The whip may only be used in the backhand position, except when required for safety reasons  – As well as the number of times the whip is used, the stewards will look at the force with which it is used, whether the horse has been given time to respond, the purpose for which the whip was used, whether the horse was in contention or clearly winning at the time it was used, and whether the whip has been used in the correct place (i.e. on the horse’s hindquarter rather than flanks)  – The stewards will consider the ride as a whole, in particular the closing stages, when determining whether the rider is in breach of the rules  Any rider found to have contravened the rules will face a period of suspension, and any rider picking up five offences in a three-month period will be referred to the BHA for a more substantial penalty.

Download the penalties structure

To find out about more about the BHA’s role in horse welfare, click here