Great Britain

Matt Chapman calls for the British Horseracing Authority to stand strong over the use of the whip


THIS week I make a public plea to the BHA to stand strong over its current whip rules and not waiver under unnecessary pressure from within the sport.

I am so tired of people on the 'inside' stating - as if they have the facts in front of them - that the general public is forming some sort of movement to ban the whip in horse racing.

That the people are on the verge of a revolt. It's just not true.​

And let's make it absolutely clear, the whip is approved by the highly-regarded and respected RSPCA as an encouraging tool that causes no harm to horses.

That should be something to celebrate rather than defend.​ Since the start of 2017 only one horse has had any marking from the whip. One too many. But just one.
Of course whip use needs to be monitored, and there are some who don't understand its cushion nature. There are some who would have horse racing banned.

And there are also some who dislike football when they see someone's leg broken in a tackle.

But in horse racing there are so many positives for the horses involved and people. Not least that none of the horses would exist without the sport.

Britain's champion jumps trainer, Paul Nicholls, said this to me this week:  "In twenty seven years training of over three thousand winners, I can honestly say I have never had one person - not one - complain to me about the whip.

"That is by text, email, social media or personally. I think that says a lot."​

It's a telling statement from a man who is so passionate about the sport he rules.​

The public flock to big race meetings, and yet they are the place whip bans are most noticed. Why do they still come if they are so enraged?​

Charlie Fellowes, Donald McCain and Sir Mark Prescott have suggested stronger whip rules in recent times, including disqualification.​

Once again, though, I repeat that it is quite ridiculous that a jockey who uses their whip seven times and wins, and a jockey who uses their whip eight times and wins are the difference between God and the devil.​
It is also non-sensical not to judge each case on its own merit. After all, every jockey rides differently, and one rider's single strike might have as much effect as another's five strikes. The rules are crass.​
Luckily, there are some people out there who understand how important this issue is.​

Britain's winning most trainer, Mark Johnston, said: "You need a whip to ride horses. I get extremely upset by jockeys, usually apprentices, who think the whip is for steering.

"The reins are for steering, so nearly all safety and correction is with the reins, not with the whip. The whip is not there for safety and correction. ​

"On the removal of the whip, you're talking about a flight animal that needs something to induce the flight response.

"Some of it is induced up to a point and some of it induced because we've bred them for it for 300 years. If you turned a horse out in a field it will gallop but it won't gallop fast and it won't induce the flight response.​
"I think there are physiological and chemical reasons why we need the whip. I've likened it to lots of things, including the blackbird in the hedge.

"You clap your hands and it flies squawking away, it slows down, clap your hands it goes again. When it goes again it gets that endorphin and adrenaline injection, and this is nature's way of protecting a horse in a finish.​

"I think our horses are more at risk of injury – maybe not visible to the public – without the whip. They need the whip to induce the flight response and horse racing is all about the flight response."​

The sad thing is the only debate should be over whether a horse suffers any pain from the whip. Not public perception. That is merely an education issue.

If the horse - looked after in beautiful ways - is not suffering then why does racing keep kicking itself in the hoof?​

Speaking on behalf of the BHA, Robin Mounsey, said: "The BHA is currently carrying out a significant project to assess data compiled since the last whip review in 2011/12, which will be discussed by the Horse Welfare Board and help inform the future direction of travel on this issue."

Please note, thank goodness, that this is not a 'Whip Review', this is simply a data/research project to help build an informed picture as to where we currently stand.

The public do not debate the use of the whip in racing. Only racing does. And by doing so unprofessionally it is causing itself incredible harm.

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