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Is the Whip as Bad as it Seems?
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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).

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  1. Chestnut Mare
    Chestnut Mare
    Voted. Well-expressed and thought-provoking blog Anita. I can't believe that there is anything "humane" about either the whip or horse-racing, I wish both were banned! Why would some jockeys try to lose races? I don't understand that.
    Log in to reply.
    1. HorseDiva
      Actually, jockeys sometimes take part in illegal bets or are paid by those who gamble illegally on horses - meaning on their own and not through casinos - and if they bet against those who think their horse will win, they get the jackpot by making the horse lose.
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  2. jst4horses
    Illegal horse racing is growing, and is deadly to horses. They are left, abandoned, often with broken legs, just "somewhere" the racers to cheap, or poor to even have them put down. The cost of racing has put people out there in all aspects of rodeo and racing, and horseshowing. It needs to be addressed by the horse owners and breeders of America before PETA comes in and addresses it. ALL legal horse racing is videotaped. If people suspect jockey corruption, the Board can and does play races over and over and they lose their license to ride. SO, complain if you think you see something illegal. Whipping. Most good jockeys whip their boot, if they are good jockeys. The horse is reacting to the sound, not to being abused. Actually hitting horses at that speed is very unsafe, guidance is not whipping. I personally have not used a whip. I bought quarts, and put a glove on the end, creating a "spanker" It flaps, makes noise, should be hit on the boot, or flapped on the sides of the rump, but are for guidance, not abuse. I use a "care" stick, and do not whip horses. The ONLY horse I have ever hit with anything, other than a smack with my hand is a stallion at the track who reared up and came after me with both front legs, I slapped him on both sides of his neck with his leather lead line until he came down. My son Dean who was there jumped in and dragged the horse off to his stall. I later went and said "are we friends" the horse said yes, I forgave him for attempting to crush me with his shod feet, and he forgave me for smacking him with that leather line. I think we need to return to a much better class of racing, with a lot more owners, a lot less syndicates (or none) and make sure horses get retirement out of the billions of dollars they make for the horse, gambling and track industries.
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    1. Chestnut Mare
      Chestnut Mare
      Some good points made here jst4horses. Yes, I can't see anything wrong with the whip if the jockeys are whipping their boots and the horses are responding to the sound, usually I think that would be enough of an incentive. Horse-racing itself...well, I don't know. As you say, it is terribly, cruelly exploitative in its current form, the horses are treated as just pieces of disposable property. No living creature should ever be treated like that.
      Log in to reply.
      1. HorseDiva
        Yes, all animals, human or not, need to be treated with respect.
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    2. HorseDiva
      I agree with Chestnut. You make quite a lot of good points, and the one about whipping the boots instead of hte horse is important to notice. I'm glad they do that, because the horses are already going through quite a beating from the pavement-pounding that wears their legs out like crazy. Thank you for the addional information.
      Log in to reply.
  3. jst4horses
    Illegal horse racing is growing, and is deadly to horses. They are left, abandoned, often with broken legs, just "somewhere" the racers to cheap, or poor to even have them put down. The cost of racing has put people out there in all aspects of rodeo and racing, and horseshowing. It needs to be addressed by the horse owners and breeders of America before PETA comes in and addresses it. ALL legal horse racing is videotaped. If people suspect jockey corruption, the Board can and does play races over and over and they lose their license to ride. SO, complain if you think you see something illegal. Whipping. Most good jockeys whip their boot, if they are good jockeys. The horse is reacting to the sound, not to being abused. Actually hitting horses at that speed is very unsafe, guidance is not whipping. I personally have not used a whip. I bought quarts, and put a glove on the end, creating a "spanker" It flaps, makes noise, should be hit on the boot, or flapped on the sides of the rump, but are for guidance, not abuse. I use a "care" stick, and do not whip horses. The ONLY horse I have ever hit with anything, other than a smack with my hand is a stallion at the track who reared up and came after me with both front legs, I slapped him on both sides of his neck with his leather lead line until he came down. My son Dean who was there jumped in and dragged the horse off to his stall. I later went and said "are we friends" the horse said yes, I forgave him for attempting to crush me with his shod feet, and he forgave me for smacking him with that leather line. I think we need to return to a much better class of racing, with a lot more owners, a lot less syndicates (or none) and make sure horses get retirement out of the billions of dollars they make for the horse, gambling and track industries.
    Log in to reply.
  4. Rene Wright
    Rene Wright
    A good horseman knows how to use a crop, whip without installing fear, rather using it as an aid or extension of their hands... a great horseman never has a need for one. A person who is insecure in themselves, uses them in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons. I use to show in hunter/jumper classes & rarely had to use my crop. When I did it was a touch. It angers me to see someone using a whip & their hand comes above their shoulder. Anytime you raise your hand/whip above your shoulder it's a sign of aggression & teaches the horse to fear you. I think the only exception is jockeys because they are leaning over the horses neck & when they are "whipping" it naturally will come above their shoulder. Voted!
    Log in to reply.
    1. jst4horses
      Pat Parelli has stated over and over that the number of horsemen in the world are very small. Most people are riders, not horsemen. I agree. At the track I knew a trainer who had whipped the horses enough that he could not go into most of the stalls without a whip. One day he actually took a chunk out of a horse he was trying to force into a water track. Then, one day that horse must have said "done" because he kicked the trainer and did serious damage to the man. Another heavy handed trainer has severe permanent brain injuries from a horse that went after him one day. I do not believe people put "fear" in to horses, they put "hate" in to horses. I have heard from people (mostly women) that their horse is so great, I have not even gotten both feet in the stirrups, and can feel the hatred coming from the horse. The thing they have hired me to train their horse about turns out not to be the problem. One woman asked me to help because her horse would not tie. I found out why. She used to tie it up and beat it silly. We worked together and overcame that, but not before she got a good long idea of what I thought of someone who would do that.
      Log in to reply.
      1. Chestnut Mare
        Chestnut Mare
        I agree; I think that the hatred comes from the fear and pain though. Animals are much more like humans than a lot of humans want to believe! They hate humans for treating them badly as much as other humans do. Btw, I have a new blog out, A Horse of A Different Colour, please check it out, all, and vote if you like it! :-)
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