The sport of Thoroughbred horse racing used to be a sport of great pride, but now it has fallen from grace. In an attempt to regain its glory and avoid any black eyes those who actually are in the know, and know what is what, have begun to needlessly appease those who are clueless to what really goes on. Some issues need to be fixed, the overuse of drugs, the breeding of brittle horses need to be addressed and fixed, but some issues are just plain ridiculous. One such issue is the issue on banning whips from racing.
Whips have been a part of the sport ever since the birth of Racing. They are a needed tool in not just racing but many other disciplines of riding. Dressage riders carry around a much longer whip, while hunter/jumpers carry crops that are of many sizes, but none nearly as long as dressage whips. The group, PETA, is made up of some people who are relatively reasonable, who know the difference between correction and beating, but those who advocate for the repeal of whips are radical who should garner no attention.
In racing a jockey has very minimal tools when riding these 1,000lbs+ animals that are traveling at speeds in excess of 30mph. They have their reins and their stick that is virtually it. They do have some use of legs, but that is extremely minimal because of how short the stirrups are. In other discipline, riders ride with much longer stirrups and have much more use of their seat, both tools that work far better than reins, because a rider’s leg can more accurately influence the direction the rider wants the horse to move. Reins can actually do more damage than help and that is simply because of a horse’s anatomy. Because of their great body length if you pull a horse’s head to the left, their body is more likely to move right. If you are going 35mph and try to pull your horse hard one way, it can knock them off balance. For a jockey the whip represents the leg they cannot use.
PETA likes to portray jockeys as evil people who beat a tired racehorse all the way down the stretch, and while there are some bad eggs, you will see that for the most part that is just not true. If a horse is truly done and beaten, a jockey will put away the whip and do the minimal amount of effort required. They like to point out races like last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic and the 2009 Woodward to support their argument that jockey’s needlessly “flog” horses. What they fail to mention is that both jockeys were carrying the new foam popper whips. These whips are longer than a traditional bat, but they have two six inch foam pads at the end, that make a loud popping noise when it hits the horse’s rump. However, because of the foam there is no sting.
If racing wants to improve its image and is dead set on coming up on a way to make whipping more “humane” looking, then I would suggest that tracks ban the traditional leather bats and promote the foam poppers. It is a perfect compromise, at least on this issue. Jockeys are still able to carry around a much needed tool, while if fed to the public, should promote that the connections involved in racing have the horse’s best interests at heart.
Photo by Horsephotos.com