Does The Whip Hurt The Horse In Racing?


Whether jockeys should or shouldn’t be allowed to whip horses is a topic that continues to be debated and, as with most arguments, there are two sides to every story. Animal rights campaigners continue to lobby for the whip to be banned from horse racing at all levels, while most of the horse racing community think a whip remains a necessary tool that every jockey should carry.

Why Do Jockeys Use A Whip In Horse Racing?

The safety of people and to aid horsemanship are the two primary reasons why jockeys carry whips in horse racing in Britain and other countries around the world.

While anti-whip campaigners maintain that, just like children shouldn’t be hit, neither should horses, there are some significant differences between the two. Firstly, it’s impossible to scoop up a horse in your arms if it’s not behaving as you want it to. Secondly, other jockeys, racecourse staff, and the paying public can all be put in danger if horses bolt, and a quick stroke with a whip may be enough to prevent this.

Of course, whips are also used to encourage horses to win races, but the British Horse Racing Authority has implemented a set of rules to encourage the highest standards of welfare for racehorses.

The British Horse Racing Authorities Whip Rules

Does the whip hurt in horse racing is a subject the BHA regularly discusses at great length. The BHA continues to listen to the advice of top vets, with continuous advancements in technology allowing for more accurate feedback on the subject.

At the time of writing, the BHA has a whip rule in place. Whips used in horse racing in Britain must be padded with foam which helps absorb the energy a jockey transfers to the whip. The current whip used by jockeys riding in Britain was even designed with input from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). All whips are made by the same supplier, and the Clerk of the Scales checks all whips before racing to ensure they are in excellent condition.

Thresholds on how many times a jockey may use a whip are also in place, which are seven times during a flat race and eight times during a jumps race. If jockeys use their whips more than this, they will be referred to the stewards for review.

Horse racing stewards also consider the force with which the whip is used and the time a jockey gives a horse to respond to being whipped before being whipped again. When a whip is used is also looked at, with the whipping of horses that are clearly out of contention discouraged. Jockeys should also only whip horses on their hindquarters and not on their flanks.

Jockeys in breach of these rules face a suspension and more than five offences in any six-month period may lead to the BHA handing out a more severe penalty.

Acceptable Uses Of The Whip In Horse Racing

The acceptable uses of the whip in horse racing was clarified by the Review Group. Jockeys must be able to justify all uses of the whip in the context of the race in question.

Jockeys may only use the whip to encourage a horse to perform to its best when in contention during a race, when it is able to respond to encouragement, and when it is given the necessary time to respond to that encouragement.

Why Would Anyone Want To Hurt A Horse By Whipping It?

While there’s always the potential for a sadistic person to want to hurt a horse by whipping it, the majority of people that work in horse racing love horses more than they love people. Racehorses also cost a lot of money, and people don’t tend to hurt their investments.

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Of course, there’s always a risk that in the heat of the moment of the biggest races, jockeys may get carried away and use the whip more than they should, but stricter suspensions have discouraged this as much as possible.

Have Any Horses Been Hurt By The Whip Under The New Rules?

Very few horses have been hurt by the whip under the new rules, with just one in 93,000 having shown any markings from the whip in the latest figures. In some eyes, that will still be one many. But, just like humans, you get the odd one that bruises in circumstances where others would not.

Should The Whip Be Banned In Horse Racing?

In an ideal world, there would be no need for horses to be encouraged by a whip. But just like many humans, horses sometimes need persuading to perform to their best.

The whip is also there as a potential lifesaver that could stop horses running into crowds or staff. That’s the real reason why jockeys should carry whips – though not everyone will agree.

We hope that’s answered your question – does the whip hurt the horse in horse racing?

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