The horse racing industry is being pressured to stop the use of hand whips in racing.

The Jockey Club is urging the racing industry to eliminate the use of hand whips with new penalty guidelines for breach of the rule. The Animal Wellness Action is applauding leaders of the breed registry organization as they look to end the barbaric practice.

“The world of horse racing must change and eliminating whipping is one important reform that the industry must take to put the welfare of horses at the center of the enterprise...The use of a whip to force horses to run faster is archaic and should be eliminated on a global scale.” [Marty Irby, executive director at Animal Wellness Action]

Veterinary News reports of various rules and regulations at racetracks within the U.S. and around the world include:

  • In the U.S., Whip use is monitored by various track racing stewards.
  • In August 2011, jockeys at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in California instituted a softer equine-friendly riding crop.
  • In Canada, whips must conform to the ARCI model rules. Jockeys cannot whip horses more than three successive times, with a break for at least one stride—preferably two or three. When striking the horses, jockeys cannot raise their arms above the shoulder. The whip is not to be used when a horse is not responding or is not in race contention.
  • In England, a whip's contact area must be covered by shock-absorbing material. Jockeys cannot whip horses by raising their arms above the shoulder or whip more than once per stride. The whip cannot be used except to strike the quarters backhanded or forehanded and the shoulder only in the backhand position.
  • In France, a rider may not whip the horse more than eight times within a race. If so, that rider will be suspended or fined, or both. Jockeys may be sanctioned for excessive force and are not to whip a 2-year-old.
  • In Australia, leather pads on the whip are not permitted. Foam in the padded segment must be at least 0.28 inches thick. Jockeys are limited to seven forehand strikes in the last 100 meters of a race. Before the 100 meter mark, a jockey cannot use the whip forehanded in consecutive strides and not more than five times.
  • In Hong Kong, stewards may punish a jockey if they feel the whip has been used in excess or improperly. After a race, the horses are examined for whip marks, with a possible suspension or fine, or both.

Is it time to stop whipping horses?