Is the Whip as Bad as it Seems?
Since horse racing is being bashed and accused of animal mistreatment, let’s look at the steps taken to reduce animal cruelty. This way, we can direct our attention towards what needs to be improved.
My first question is: whip or no whip? This is a question asked by many who wish to train their horses in the most humane manner possible when getting them ready for a race. As we know, many jockeys use the whip during the race, but what are the rules? Is this regulated? Does the whip injure the horse or not?
In most races, the organizers set rules so that jockeys don’t overuse the whip. This is a definite sign that they realize racers can become so obsessed with winning that they would tear the horse’s skin to push it further and further beyond its physical limits. Therefore, they set a maximum number of hits and the types of whip that can be used.
We have to remember, first and foremost, that during the race, the jockey’s feet are often not in a position to properly cue the horse to speed up. That being said, causing the animal injury does not seem justified, for most people, to propel the rider and horse towards the finish line. Therefore, most riders actually just show the whip to the horse; the animal is trained to go faster when it is waved near its neck and shoulders. Or, if the rider seems to be lashing away heavily, he may just be waving the whip close enough for the horse to feel the wind coming from the movement.
Also, a jockey is prohibited from even using the whip if the horse is not placed, meaning that he is not in line for a part of the cash prizes or one of the places on the podium, except if there is an urgent need to signal to the horse to change direction to avoid a crash with another horse.
The riders justify using the whip because the horse won’t willingly go faster and push themselves to their limit unless prodded to do so. This means that they are used for something that is not natural for them, just like dogs being starved and trained to fight for an illegal and inhumane activity. Horse and/or racetrack owners fine the jockeys if they don’t make the horses work when they need to, since some jockeys are suspected of purposely making a horse lose.
The whips are designed to make more of a slap than a cut, and create the same noise as a normal whip. And, if it did sting, the horse would jump, of course. So, the whips are not as bad as most think; really, if it did, the horses would develop a fear of the riders and racing. But, some would argue here that they are probably broke into submission and feel they have no choice, therefore by now display no sign of fear out of shear habit.
If it is true that the whip causes no pain, horse racing is still inhumane in its relentless pursuit for money, blatant disregard for the animal (which are called ‘investments’ and not pets), and unnatural way of treating the horse, not to mention the wear this causes to them physically because they pound the pavement hard (creating unnecessary joint problems) and push themselves to unnatural extremes (wearing them out earlier than they should).