Use of the whip in horseracing

Shock absorbing whips, as developed by the Jockey Club, Robert Patton & RSPCA © RSPCA PhotoLibrary

Whips are used in many areas of horse use and equitation, including horseracing. Using whips can cause pain and suffering to the horses, both directly and if they cause horses to exercise beyond their capability. In addition, whip use on television provides a bad example to viewers and makes the sport look cruel.

The use of the whip in horseracing has been a high profile issue in 2011, since excessive use of the whip was seen in the Grand National. In fact, the number of breaches of use of the whip in racing had been increasing since 2002.

While using a whip is not specifically illegal, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 includes a duty to prevent unnecessary suffering, and this law applies to jockeys, racehorse owners and racecourse managers. The British Horseracing Authority has both a legal and moral duty to minimise whip use to avoid any unnecessary suffering, and to take reasonable steps to ensure the needs of racehorses to avoid pain and suffering.

We believe that reducing welfare problems with the use of the whip need to:

  • Ensure horse and jockey safety
  • Limit the frequency of use
  • Limit the method of use
  • Restrict the timing of use
  • Apply sufficient and appropriate penalties, including legal penalties
  • Provide training and information for jockeys

This and other improvements that we're calling for can be found in our Position statement on the use of the whip in horseracing (PDF 326KB).

British Horseracing Authority enquiry into the use of the whip

We welcomed and assisted the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) enquiry in 2012 into the use of the whip. We welcomed the BHA introducing new rules on the use of the whip in 2012. These were subsequently weakened but provided a guide that jockeys could not use the whip more than eight times in a flat race and nine times over jumps. The stewards would consider any penalties against jockeys that broke these rules including forfeiture of the race and specific bans from racing.

The BHA did a review in 2015 on the first three years of operation on this and found that there had been a 40 percent reduction in the use of the whip.

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