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A HIDING TO NOTHING : The best, the worst, conclusions

In this fourth section of A Hiding to Nothing, we present the seven worst rides where the whip was used, as well as five noteworthy wins without a whip and a summary of the mental and physical impact of using a whip on horses.

The 7 worst rides where the whip was used

Photo credit: PA Photos

The following seven rides - run within the study period - illustrate how divorced riders can become from 'good practice' and the consequent impact of their behaviour upon their unfortunate mounts. The rides are arranged in no particular order. There is video evidence to support these cases.

  1. Ruby Walsh/Howdydoody:

    NH Hurdle 2m 6f Newton Abbot 2.30pm, 18th Nov 03

    Unacceptable: hitting the horse repeatedly - when out of contention - down the neck/shoulder with the jockey's arm high above the shoulder.

  2. Robert Thornton/Master Of Illusion:

    NH Chase 3m 2.5f Newton Abbot 3.00pm, 18th Nov 03

    Unacceptable: 37 strikes of the whip during the race; says it all. Thornton was a Master of Illusion to escape a ban.

  3. Seb Sanders/Watching:

    Flat Redcar 2.40pm, Monday 3rd Nov 03

    Unacceptable: repeated whipping, giving the horse no time to respond between whips.

  4. Mr Ashlee Price/Six Stars:

    NH Hurdle Huntingdon 2.10pm, Tuesday 11th Nov 03

    Unacceptable: 17 strikes, many wild, from the last hurdle, the horse was probably living up to his name and seeing stars as he approached the lollipop.

  5. P McCabe/Teyaar:

    AW 5f Southwell 3.35pm, Thursday 16th Oct 03

    Unacceptable: Teyaar received 21 strikes of the whip including down the shoulder in little more than the final 2 furlongs.

  6. V Halliday/Wentbridge Boy:

    Flat Redcar 2.10pm, Monday 3rd Nov 03

    Unacceptable: hit the horse down the neck, hand off the reins, and on the quarters. This was after the horse had made the running, tired badly and was totally out of contention. It appeared Halliday was frustrated with the horse and laid into the 2 year old on what was his second run.

  7. Timmy Murphy/Summer Bounty:

    NH Hurdle Ludlow 1.40pm, Thursday 18th Dec 03

    Unacceptable: the whip went out of the window when Summer Bounty made a mistake at the second last hurdle, resulting in a punch in the neck for the horse by Murphy. It is interesting to note that Murphy had been banned for 19 days an hour earlier for taking the wrong course in a race and not pulling up having done so. Was Summer Bounty a victim of Murphy's anger? What is more, Murphy's day at the Racing School for previous whip offences appears to have had little effect in changing his temperament.

A jockey not on the list (because he had too few rides to produce a reliable statistical rating) but who was considered to have the crudest whipping style, was Brian Reilly.

Ecaping media censure

During our 
        analysis we observed horses distracted from jumping a hurdle or fence 
        as a result of excessive whipping. Photo credit: PA Photos

There were numerous 'Big Hitters' in the survey and these can be seen in the Jockeys' Record Data. Among the novices, JE Moore fared badly, whilst Robert Thornton stands out for the wrong reasons amongst the established riders.

Unlike other sports, such as football, the vast majority of jockeys who stray from good practice escape criticism by racing journalists. When, for instance, stipendiary steward William Nunneley handed down a five-day ban to AP McCoy for improper riding (use of the whip) of Deano's Beeno before the race had even started, Mark Winstanley in the Racing Post Weekender was full of praise for AP. In fact, he criticised Nunneley merely for doing his job.

Jockeys, and especially those plying their trade over the jumps, do risk their lives. Many in the media feel, as a consequence, that this is sufficient justification for not holding them to account. Yet all sports carry risk. In football, rugby, cricket and other sporting arenas, such risks not infrequently translate into serious injury and even death. That does not render the practitioners above criticism.

Noteworthy wins without the whip

Five technically impressive winning rides conducted without resort to the whip are as follows (in no particular order):

  1. Laura-Jayne Crawford Claimer/Count Cougar:
    AW 5f Southwell 3.35pm 16th Oct 03

  2. R. Young Claimer/Classic China:
    NH Hurdle 2m 7f Lingfield 1.00pm 11th Nov 03

  3. R Lucy-Butler Claimer/Zaffre:
    2m NH Flat Warwick 4.20pm 3rd Nov 03

  4. C. Llewellyn/Petite Margot:
    3m 1f Hurdle Warwick 3.20pm 3rd Nov 03

  5. JF McDonald Claimer/Compton Eclaire:
    1m 4f Flat Lingfield 2.50pm 13th Nov 03

A rider who placed well in our Jockeys' Record list is Chris Catlin: AW & Flat. Catlin has a unique style - involving a constant rowing motion, using hands and heels - that gets the most from a horse. He is, from the research viewing, the best-practice jockey on the British racing scene. For most of his runs he refrains from using the whip, and he has no need for it on those other occasions. Fitness is a key element in an athlete. Catlin is an example of a top athlete, whose ability to 'row' a whole race sets an example for his contemporaries.

The whip as substitute for effort

Our analysis of 161 races showed clearly that some jockeys rely on the whip as a substitute for effort and, quite probably, personal fitness. They would rather hit a horse than put in the effort required to ride hands 'n' heels, developing a good rowing motion and pushing the horse out. Example of Bad Practice: Mr J Morgan riding Spirit Of The Green 4.00pm Lingfield. Tuesday 11th November 2003.

Such is their reliance on the whip, when it is dropped - and this frequently happens - many jockeys resort to use of their hands. Example: A McCarthy riding Star Of Normandie, 2.45 pm Lingfield AW, Wednesday 15th October 2003. Also of note in this race is that Labrett was smacked in the face with a whip, which put him out of contention for a place, let alone a win.

Summary of the mental and physical impact of using a whip on horses

In summary, we can conclude that using a whip on a horse every time he or she runs will lessen, not increase, the chances of obtaining the desired response. Being repeatedly hit is experienced as punishment and results in horses falling by the wayside in form, becoming soured, sweating up, and so on. Positive reinforcement, as all those involved in sport should understand, gains results. The whip is not a way to achieve this.

The physical problems resulting from excessive whip use are perhaps more easily recognised. During our analysis we observed the following:

  • Horses distracted from jumping a hurdle or fence, resulting in a fall;
  • Non-target horses inadvertently hit in the face;
  • Non-target horses prevented from making a run through a gap;
  • Loss of momentum by the whipped horse;
  • Unbalancing of the whipped horse;
  • Whipped horses shying, swerving, veering and jinking away from the whip;
  • Jockeys fumbling with whips, changing from hand to hand, leading to loss of concentration and momentum.


Animal Aid embarked upon this survey of whip use in British racing - probably the most comprehensive ever conducted - expecting to find evidence that the welfare of horses was being compromised.

The welfare problems turned out to be worse than we feared. What we did not anticipate was that our analysis would produce such clear, statistically-rooted evidence that use of the whip is counter-productive in terms of producing winners. In fact, our data show that the more jockeys resort to the whip, the less chance they have of prevailing in a race. Anyone who doubts this assertion can test it by examining the meticulously tabulated 'performance' tables that comprise the core of this report. (The summary tables are reproduced within section 5, the remainder are viewable here in PDF format.) It was through repeated viewings of 161 filmed races that the tables were able to be produced. The films themselves are also open to inspection.

The conclusion to be drawn from the evidence presented in this report is plain and simple: whipping race horses is pointless, as well as cruel. Whipping often causes physical and mental injury to the animals, and it produces no advantage to riders. We therefore call upon the Jockey Club to institute a complete and permanent ban on the whip.

In the final section of the report, we present a selection of the whip tables collated for this investigation. Click here for a full set of the tables (PDF). For further background on the horse racing industry see our Horse Racing Awareness Week pages.

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