The Guardian reports:
Stronger penalties for misuse of the whip appear to be a certainty by the autumn, following the initial report of the new Horse Welfare Board (HWB, published on Thursday. While the board had much to say on other topics, including racing’s responsibilities to its horses and the need for a code of practice on euthanasia, it reserved its most urgent comments for the subject of the whip.
The overall number of offences (over 500 in 2018) remains unnecessarily high and the current penalties do not provide an adequate deterrent effect,” the board concluded.
The HWB does not have power to require action from the British Horseracing Authority on regulatory matters but the BHA immediately signalled it would begin a three-month consultation with racing insiders and the public on changes to the whip rules, with a view to deciding on and implementing changes by the end of October.
The number of whip offences fell to an all-time low of 410 last year, less than half the number from 2011. However, the board pointed to concern on the subject from the public and politicians before insisting racing show “a proactive, positive direction of travel in relation to the whip, taking steps to eliminate misuse and leading any discussions around the future removal of the whip for encouragement”.
The HWB urged that the consultation should include questions about whether a horse should be disqualified when its rider breaks the whip rules and also whether the whip should be banned as a means of encouraging horses in races. It adopted a neutral tone on those issues, insisting only on the need to increase penalties.Advertisement
Taking questions on their report, board members signalled there could be room for more creative ways forward, such as extending punishments for whip misuse to the trainer and owner who had employed the jockey found in breach. They noted with particular concern an increase since 2016 in the number of offences of the whip being used above shoulder height.
Barry Johnson, a former president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons who chairs the HWB, said: “This is a matter of public trust. We’d like people, especially those unfamiliar with horses, to understand and accept what’s necessary for our jockeys to race safely in a fair sporting competition.
It’s not about taking away the whip. Anyone who’s ridden a half-ton horse knows you need to be able to exercise control for the safety of horse and rider. This is about what should be allowable under our rules and how we penalise misuse to keep breaches to a minimum.
The current guideline for use of the whip as set out by the British Horseracing Authority, in short, states:
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.
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