A hiding to nothing

Posted on the 31st March 2004

Major report shows that whipping horses reduces their chances of winning

The more horses are whipped during a race the less chance they stand of winning. This is the startling finding of what is probably the most comprehensive-ever investigation of whip use in British racing.

Published this week by Animal Aid to mark the national campaign group’s Horse Racing Awareness Week,¬†A Hiding To Nothing¬†is based on a meticulous analysis of 161 races that were run between October and November 2003. They involved 1500 horses and 285 jockeys. Nearly¬†200 tables¬†describe how often and when in a race a whip was used. The whip rate of individual jockeys is tabulated and the report shows which branch of racing (All Weather, the Flat, National Hunt) resorts most often to the whip.

Whip advocates argue that it assists horses to perform better and run more safely. It is also said to provide helpful chastisement for when they behave ‘badly’. However, the Animal Aid report shows that whipping is more likely to drive horses off a true line and place them and other horses in danger. The same evidence shows that whipping is less likely to produce an ‘improvement’ in behaviour. Rather, horses become fearful, hesitant and less likely to perform to their potential.

More devastating for the industry itself is the finding that, the more often horses are whipped the less chance they stand of winning. Horses whipped at the start of a race almost never win, and that pattern holds until the finish line. In the final part of a race – where the whip is most often used – jockeys who use it least win more frequently.

Forty of the 161 races featured in the survey (around 25%) were won by horses who were not subjected to any whipping. And more than 70% of winning horses would still have won had the whip been entirely absent. Many of the remaining winners may also have triumphed had they been spared the whip.

A Hiding To Nothing details the whip being used on young horses during their first ever race. Horses in a state of total exhaustion and out of contention were also beaten. The whip was used on the neck and shoulders, as well as the hind quarters. Horses being whipped 20, even 30 times during a race was observed.

The survey also found that the current race-fix panic has led to jockeys who refrain from excessive whip use coming under suspicion of throwing races.

Said Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

“Animal Aid embarked upon this survey assuming we would 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. We have demonstrated that whipping race horses is pointless, as well as cruel. We have written to the Jockey Club, which is responsible for regulating and enforcing the Rules of Racing, calling for it to implement a total and permanent ban on the use of the whip.”


  • March 27 to April 3 is Animal Aid’s¬†Horse Racing Awareness Week.¬†It is timed to coincide with the running of the Grand National – a deliberately punishing and hazardous race. The aim is to alert the public to this hidden suffering and dispel the myth of a ‘harmless flutter’. People are asked to boycott the Grand National. Free horse racing information packs are available by calling 01732 354032.
  • Every year, around 300 horses are raced to death around the country,having suffered broken legs, necks, backs and other serious injuries. They die on the courses themselves or during training. A much larger number of animals are disposed of at the end of their careers, or because they fail to make the grade. Some end up as pet food, are fed to hunting hounds, or sold from owner to owner in a downward spiral of neglect. Of equal concern are the endemic levels of stress-related illness, such as bleeding lungs and gastric ulcers.

Notes to Editors

  • A¬†video compilation¬†of whipping and its consequences can be ordered from our office.
  • Read the full¬†background¬†on the racing industry.
  • For¬†more information¬†contact Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for¬†broadcast-quality interviews.


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