If you’re not familiar with horse racing, you should know that the sport is more than just jockeys whipping their horses to the finish line. As a matter of fact, there’s a complex set of rules they must follow. Governing bodies make sure these rules are not misused and also introduce new rulings that should eventually make the races more exciting. It’s fair to say that some new rules have the opposite impact.
In July 2020, the British Horseracing Authority announced 20 new rules. Some of those have been a subject of heated debate. The most controversial of them all was barring riders from using the whip in a forehand position. That’s the whip facing up, which allows it to strike the horse with higher force. The decision was brought after research and consultation with a leading whip consultation group and sparked a lot of debate in the horse racing community.
When we put it like this, whipping a horse doesn’t seem like an important factor in the races. But, it’s more important than we think, and that’s why jockeys and trainers have been fighting the BHA’s controversial decision.
What’s the Whip in British Horseracing?
Horse racing is a noble sport and it treats the main characters nobly. The use of a whip is strongly controlled to preserve the welfare of the animals. The BHA is doing its best to improve the style and perception of whip use and has a great focus on education for it and improving the standards of whipping.
Who would have thought that there would be rules on that for a sport that so heavily features on high stakes sports betting sites? Betting on horse racing is one aspect, but as you can see, there’s an underlying set of rules to which jockeys must stick to. While they’re all for not harming horses, many have raised their voice against the new whipping rules.
The new set of rules should have been implemented this year, but thanks to concerns from jockeys, it has now been amended. After a group hearing, it was decided by British Horseracing Authority to give jockeys allowance to use their whips in the forehand position. However, there were still some changes made. Jockeys can now whip a reduced number of times, which is the middle ground that worked best for all the parties involved.
All other whip changes remain the same. When it comes to the new whip rules, they’re said to improve perception of its use in races.
A New Threshold
Following the bar announced in November that only allowed jockeys to whip horses in a backhand position, the planned rule was changed. Swift backlash from major names made the BGA change their mind when it comes to using the whip as an encouragement. Make no mistake – a change is still coming. Not, the forehand position remains for now, and we’ve yet to see what follows in the future.
For now, jockeys can use a forehand whip on their horses as encouragement up to 6 times in Flat races and 7 in Jump races. These numbers are down precisely one whip from before. Using whips above the permitted level and nuisance offenses will incur penalties. What’s more, the penalties have been increased from the set of rules announced in November.
Following complaints, efforts were made to listen to the voice of jockeys. The consultation was undertaken by the BHA with the utmost importance. In order to ensure that the process isn’t unevenly rigorous, the planned implementation of new rules has been pushed back.
It was a victory for UK jockeys, although the BHA expects these rules to be respected. Any wrongdoing or too many penalties and it might revert back to its original decision.
This ruling was supposed to be implemented in the UK only, but considering the country’s influence on sports, it may have gone live everywhere around the world. That would have been a big blow for Asian horse racing fans and jockeys, but for now, the thing’s been put on ice. Nevertheless, we expect further whip reductions in the years to come, which would treat the runners more humanely.