Australian Whip War
The use of whips has been a subject of concern and contention for the horse racing industry, all over the world. New whips with padding have been designed and rules have been changed to avoid cruelty towards the horses and regulate the use of whips. The Australian Racing Board have recently released a new set of rules in regard to whip usage that has created concern and anger in horse racing industry in Australia. Stewards have backed the new regulations that have been created by the Australian Racing Board while jockeys, owners and trainers fight to find clarity and demand changes.
While the Australian Racing Board has amended the whip regulations, there is still opposition wanting the board to ban the use of whips completely. But for now, the new rules have already caused great upset. The board has ruled that there will be restrictions on the number of times jockeys may whip their horses, the speed of whipping strokes and jockeys will not be able to raise their whips, or more specifically their whipping hand, higher than their shoulders. Many owners and members of the horse racing community are concerned that the new rules will lead to confusion and unfair punishment of jockeys. Unfortunately, the competitive nature of some owners have led to many telling their jockeys to win by any means possible, and offered great rewards in the event of suspension or fines.
Animal cruelty organizations and stewards are behind the new Australian Racing Board rules, while the Australian Jockey Association fears that the rules might take the jockey’s attention away from the race. It is vital for jockeys, especially in the last stretch of the race to remain vigilant of their safety, that of their horse and other competitors, and it is felt that counting whip strokes might break their concentration. Many have also mentioned that they believe whipping keeps the horse’s attention focused on the race and ensures the safety of jockeys. A minor adjustment has been recommended to the Australian Horse Racing Board that might be considered. It has been proposed to allow jockeys to use their own discretion within the final hundred meters of the race, if a horse is in winning contention. If the horse is not likely to win, jockeys will not be allowed to whip their horses. It is hoped that this suggestion will be considered at the board meeting on 10 September 2009. But no matter how the whip issue is addressed, there will always be those opposed and those for the rules and regulations regarding this sensitive matter.