Charity feels new whip sanctions could be tougher

Registered equine charity World Horse Welfare believes the new whip regulations announced by the British Horseracing Authority on Tuesday “do not go far enough”.

Following an extensive process, the Whip Consultation Steering Group submitted 20 recommendations, including key changes to both use of the whip and the penalty structure.

One of the key changes set to be implemented later this year is the introduction of disqualifications in all races for offences in which the whip has been used four times or above the permitted level, which remains eight over jumps and seven on the Flat.

While welcoming the updated rules, World Horse Welfare’s chief executive Roly Owers, who was part of the Whip Consultation Steering Group, believes further change is required, with the charity hoping to see the sport move away from the use of the whip entirely on both “ethical and welfare grounds”.

Owers said in a statement: “We welcomed the formation of the BHA Whip Consultation Steering Group and have been happy to participate actively in the consultation process as the only member representing the equine welfare sector. We thank David Jones, who chaired the Steering Group, for his very hard work, and the BHA for initiating this important process.

“Much good has come out of the work including the focus on education and tougher penalties for breaches of the rules, including disqualification. We are also encouraged by the establishment of the independent stewards committee which the BHA hopes will identify and address any breaches of the rules more consistently.

“An increased focus on training and education on how the whip should be used is also warmly welcomed. We would like to see this education include a focus on how horses learn so that, if the whip is used, it is used in accordance with evidence-based learning theory.

“However, we believe that the recommendation on whip use “to be used in a backhand position only,” while welcome, does not go far enough. We are clear that we want to see a move away from the use of the whip for ‘encouragement’ in horseracing on both welfare and ethical grounds. We simply do not believe its use is justified, especially in light of what we now know about what makes a good horse-human partnership.

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“We will continue to work constructively with the BHA and others in racing to support the implementation of the rules and the recommendations of the Horse Welfare Board. Racing of horses, like all horse sport, can only continue to take place if the sport maintains the support of the public, which will require everyone in racing to justify their use of the whip in the context of horse welfare, and show that they can be trusted to adhere to and enforce these rules.”

The Professional Jockeys Association has admitted it will take riders some time to get used to the new regulations, in particular the ruling which states the whip can only be used in the backhand position for encouragement.

A statement read: “Jockeys will need to recognise the change in whip use to the backhand position only. This major change of action will require time for an education process and a potential bedding in period prior to full implementation.

“The group appreciated that a change in action should, over time, reduce instances of rule breaches, in conjunction with making racing visibly more appealing.

“In conjunction with the change in action, discussions concluded that the number of uses under both codes remain the same. Jockeys believe that the whip continues to be an important aid and tool for horsemanship and safety.”

Dale Gibson, the PJA’s Racing Director, said: “The review process has been robust, and whilst there are significant changes which will take time for many jockeys to adapt to, the PJA will continue to work with BHA and other parties during the coming weeks and months to assist all professional jockeys in any aspect of future usage”

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