Whip use in Thoroughbred racing: Is it necessary?
The racing public's perception of a jockey's use of a whip in Thoroughbred racing is a growing controversy, not only in the United States but around the world. Jockey whip use is hard to parse out in black and white. Some horses seem to respond positively to a few taps, while others may shy from the whip.
Horses may need correction running down the stretch, requiring jockeys to maneuver in and out of traffic. Some horses may need encouragement within a furlong of the finish to do their best or keep from lugging out in fatigue. A jockey might only need to show a horse the whip or only have to give the horse a slight tap of encouragement on the shoulder or hindquarters. Other horses on an uncontested lead win easily with the jockey never needing a whip.
Some people feel the whip should be banned as ineffective and a perceived detriment to the sport. Is the whip a necessary riding aid? Does it make the horse run faster? Are there concerns for abuse? Equine practitioners have a stake in voicing their feelings as to the whip's benefit as a useful riding tool and to their concerns as to the well-being and safety of the horse and rider.Recent changes to whip design and use
In response to public and industry sentiment as to whip use, the Jockey Club and the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) have released model rules regarding whip design, though it is up to the various U.S. racing jurisdictions to set basic whip guidelines.
The ARCI standards require whips to weigh no more than 8 oz, be less than 10 inches long and have a shaft at least 0.5 inches in diameter, with a flap or popper between 0.8 and 1.6 inches wide. New whips are made with a four- or five-foot tapered fiberglass rod, which is cut to whip length, and then wound with duct tape to achieve the desired width. The tape is covered with fabric, and a rubber handle is placed over the fabric. The popper is then added and glued in place at the end.
Various rules and regulations at racetracks within the U.S. and around the world include: