Annex: International Rules and Regulations on Using the Whip
Horse racing is a global business with top jockeys and horses travelling the world competing in international races. Despite the standardised nature of racing around the world, there is no consensus amongst the regulators of leading racing nations with regard to a definitive set of guidelines for the whip – though all are members of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.
A universal ban on its use would be a progressive step. Whip use is one of the many problems that face the Thoroughbred equine population. Individual national regulators could move independently to ban its use, but there is a reluctance to act alone. Only Norway – because of government welfare legislation in 1982 – has implemented a ban on the use of the whip in normal race riding conditions.
To achieve a whip ban, an international campaign is required to bring all racing nations into line.
- There is no international agreement on authoritative, all-encompassing rules and guidelines on use of the whip
- There is no internationally recognised penalty structure for whip rule breaches. Existing penalties are invariably too weak and do not act as a disincentive
- There is no international standardised whip design or manufacture
- There is a lack of public access to data on injuries and possible deaths from use of the whip
The whip as a safety tool for jockeys
In defence of the use of the whip, the racing industry describes it as a crucial tool for safety. However, the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) has a Guideline, ‘Standards of Riding Equipment’, designed to protect jockeys from avoidable injury. It requires the use of only helmets and safety vests. There is no mention of whips as a tool for safety or that any whips carried should come with an industry safety standard.
IFHA Guidelines on use of the whip
This Guideline gives examples of uses of the whip that are prohibited:
- Using the whip to the extent of causing injury
- Using the whip with excessive force
- Using the whip with excessive frequency
- Using the whip on a horse showing no response
- The continued use of the whip on horses after their chance of winning or being placed has clearly gone
- The unnecessary use of the whip on horses who have clearly won a race or have obtained their maximum placing
- Using the whip on a horse who has passed the winning post
- Using the whip on the flank of a horse
- Using the whip on any part of the horse’s head or in the vicinity of the head
- Use of the whip in front of the saddle while the whip is held in the forehand position, unless in exceptional circumstances
- Using the whip with the arm above shoulder height
Agreed by: Australia; Britain; France; Germany
Partial Agreement: Republic and Northern Ireland (except with the arm above shoulder height)
No Agreement: USA (though it should be noted that certain States adhere to some of the above)
The minimum standards listed above fall far short of any effective welfare provision. Not only do they lack comprehensive international agreement but they are applied to all designs of whips regardless of their specific nature: i.e. whips are variable in length; made to a flexible or stiff structure; come with or without a padded end; and have a variable and potentially frightening sound impact, as well as the possibility of causing physical damage.
Use of the Whip – Number of strikes
Rules relating to number of strikes permitted (whip hand off the reins):
- Australia: 5 strikes up to the 100 metre mark in the forehand position; there is no numerical limit for backhand strikes. In the final 100 metres the whip can be used at the jockey’s discretion.
- Britain: Guideline of 7 strikes throughout the race (8 for jump racing) though it is at the Stewards’ discretion whether or not a breach has been committed when strikes are above the guideline.
- France: 8 strikes in the final phase of the race (roughly the home straight).
- Germany: 7 strikes throughout the race, providing the horse finishes in one of the first three places – and fewer than 7 strikes if the horse is not responding and is not amongst the winners.
- Republic & Northern Ireland: Rough guideline of 12 strikes during a race (more may be allowed at Stewards’ discretion); 5 in the last 50 yards.
- USA: No maximum number of strikes with the whip – its use is discretionary.
As well as the great variation in national rules, there are considerable differences in whip types and designs, with some having the potential to inflict greater injury than others.
Countries with Mandatory use of a Padded/Cushioned Whip
- USA – Mandatory in some States for flat racing; Mandatory for jump racing
- France – However, there appears to be poor policing of this mandatory ruling
Though not enforced as mandatory by their regulator, Irish National Hunt (Jump) racing jockeys do tend to carry padded whips most of the time.
*Designs and manufacture vary
An international ban on the use of the whip in horse racing would be progressive for race horse welfare. The lack of comprehensive co-operation amongst national racing authorities/regulators and the variation in rules on the use of the whip, design and penalty structure, make the case for a ban even stronger.