Jockeys breach whipping rules more than 450 times in just six months

Posted on the 3rd August 2011

Animal Aid’s analysis of whipping offences committed during the first six months of racing in 2011, reveals little improvement in the way that jockeys treat their horses, despite mounting criticism from the public, media, MPs and animal welfare organisations.

From 1 January to 30 June 2011, 453 breaches of the British Horseracing Authority’s (BHA) rules on the whip by 237 jockeys were recorded. This amounts to more than 17 incidents per week – the same number as occurred in the previous year for the same period of time. Animal Aid’s latest analysis is the third six-monthly report since January 2010, going under the name Beaten to the Line.

The new report shows that 10 horses were wealed by the BHA’s so-called cushioned whip, with Richard Johnson responsible for two of these incidents. Animal Aid’s latest study additionally finds that jockeys are using the hard handle and central rod area of the whip instead of the ‘cushioned’ end to beat their horses – a fact that has not yet been spotted by racecourse officials. A clear example of this can be seen in BBC footage of Frankie Dettori’s treatment of Rewilding at Ascot in June ( Rewilding was tragically killed at the same course in July when he broke his leg just before the finish line. He was once more being ridden by Dettori.

Eighteen horses were abused on more than one occasion during the six months – two more than in the same period last year. Two of this number were each abused three times. Thirteen of the eighteen were abused more than once by the same jockey.

Of the 237 offending jockeys, Adam Kirby breached the regulations the most times – eight. Cathy Gannon and Jamie Spencer each broke the rules seven times in the study period. All three of these jockeys broke the rules more this year than last year, demonstrating that the punishments for breaching the regulations are ineffectual. The number of jockeys who breached the rules on more than one occasion rose slightly to 104 from 101 in 2010.

Once again we saw examples of jockeys who broke the rules twice on the same day; on consecutive days; and even in prestigious races such as the Grand National and the Derby, while under close scrutiny from large on-course and television audiences.

Jockeys who were punished (usually by a day or two’s racing ban or a caution) still collected their winnings for coming first or being placed.

Beaten to the Line shows that between 1 January and 30 June 2011:

  • There were 453 breaches by 237 jockeys
  • 104 of the 237 jockeys offended on more than one occasion
  • 18 horses appeared on the list twice in that six-month period, 13 having been brutalised by the same jockey on each occasion
  • Adam Kirby abused the whip regulations eight times in the six-month period
  • Ten horses were hit so hard that they were left with weals

The BHA is conducting a review of the whip, the results of which are due in October 2011. But the regulatory body has already indicated that the review will not result in a ban, despite such a ban having been successfully and enthusiastically employed in Norway since 1982. Animal Aid’s own research, supported by that from a recent study by the University of Sydney, shows that whipping horses does not improve a jockey’s chances of winning or being placed.

Says Fiona Pereira, Animal Aid Campaigner and author of the report:

‘The British Horseracing Authority claims that the welfare of horses is a core concern. Yet, its tokenistic whip regulations are routinely treated with contempt by jockeys, and it continues to ignore credible research that shows that whipping doesn’t work. All the while, horses are being thrashed, by men with sticks, for the gambling trade and for the glory of race horse owners. It will come as no surprise that the BHA’s current investigation of whip use is set to ignore the wishes of the public, MPs and of animal welfare organisations, as the regulator has indicated that there will be no ban. The BHA is nothing more than an industry puppet and it’s high time that it was stripped of its role as the regulator.’

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