In British racing the use of a foam padded, air cushioned whip is permitted, with strict controls on its use.
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.
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.
This consultation aims to gather and assess the viewpoints of industry participants, non-industry stakeholders and wider public audiences, regarding rules, usage and penalties.
The consultation will be run in 2021. Further updates regarding the consultation will be posted on these pages.
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.
The rules and limits on use
Following a detailed Review of the use of the whip in Horseracing, the rules regarding the use of the whip in British racing were revised. This was a far-reaching review, which saw British racing’s whip rules amongst the strictest in world racing. The thresholds for use were set so low that even a serious breach of the whip rules would be unlikely to impact negatively on a horse’s welfare.
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
– 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 six month period will be referred to the BHA for a more substantial penalty.
Since implementing the revised whip rules, the frequency of whip offences has reduced significantly, despite the threshold for permitted use being halved.
From 73,872 runners in 2020, no horse was found to have been marked, or ‘wealed’, by use of the whip.
To find out about more about the BHA’s role in horse welfare, click here