Authorities Take a Serious Look at Whips
Tension and heated debates have started up again in the horse racing industry, in regard to the use of whips. Some see whips as an essential racing tool if used correctly, while others view the use of whips as a form of cruelty. The controversy surrounding the use of whips has flared up dramatically following the suspension of no less than nine jockeys during the Cheltenham festival, the looming Eddie Ahern case and the spotlight that will now fall on the Aintree Grand National that starts this week.
In the case of Eddie Ahern, not only was he suspended by the horse racing authorities, but the Notthinghamshire Police are looking into the matter, as animal cruelty activists feel that his actions warrant a case to be opened against him. In light of this matter, all jockeys were briefed on the very first day of racing at the Cheltenham Festival, in regard to the rules of the use of whips. Yet still suspensions were handed out. This has led to a public outcry, as it seems to them that jockeys receive such light punishment for their actions that they take no notice of the rules, while jockeys defend their actions by stating that the rules and the decisions made by racing stewards are unclear. No matter what the opinions are, the sport of horse racing is being marred by this issue, to the extent that racing authorities fear that horse racing might become labeled as a cruel sport and its future put in the balance.
The rules for the use of a whip state clearly where and how a whip may be used on a horse, and whips have been redesigned from a nylon rod with leather at the end, to a softer and cushioned whip, to reduce the risk of causing unnecessary pain to the horse. But it does not make the experience less traumatic for some horses, and it is not only the physical welfare, but the mental and emotional welfare of the horses that the public and animal rights societies are worried about.
Emergency meetings and discussions have been held between the Professional Jockeys’ Association, representatives of the horse racing industry and jockeys to try and resolve these issues. The meetings have been organized to allow jockeys and authorities to work together to reach a solution that will work. Jockeys and racing authorities have realized that if they cannot come to a workable solution amongst themselves in regard to the rules and the disciplining of jockeys that don’t abide by them, the matter might be taken over by outside authorities, and see the banning of the whip.
Although it is agreed that most of the public are not educated enough on the racing industry to make fair and correct assumptions the fact remains that rules are being broken. For now, the rules will be explained thoroughly to stewards, as well as jockeys and revisited every day during the Aintree Grand National as reminders to the jockeys and to hopefully ensure that no rules are broken during this event. The debate and search for answers and solutions will continue until the use of the whip is not abused and until all sides can agree on its future in the world of horse racing.