Why Does a Jockey Use a Whip?

Basically, there are two reasons a jockey uses a whip: to steer and make the horse go faster.

In bygone days of horse racing, you may well have seen a jockey use the whip much more vigorously than today.

Animal welfare was in its infancy and the desire to win come at all costs. The whip was used as a ‘tool’ to encourage a horse to go faster. In essence, punished to run faster, the goal to win.

The whip has been associated with animal cruelty.

These days, the spectacle of a horse being hit countless times is a less common sight.

In 2011, the British Horse Racing Association changed the whip rules nearly halving the number of times a horse can be struck to 7 strokes for the Flat and 8 for the National Hunt. And a maximum of 5 strokes in the final furlong or after the last obstacle.

Whip rules include:

1) The manner in which the whip was used, including the degree of force

2) The purpose for which the whip was used

3) The distance over which the whip was used and whether the number of times it was used was reasonable and necessary

4) Whether the horse was continuing to respond

If a jockey is in breach of the rules the stewards will give a penalty for the offence resulting in suspension of days racing and/or monetary fine.

These rules are updated on a regular basis.

Thankfully, the days gross abuse of the whip are a thing of the past but animal welfare is an important subject for the protection of horses within racing and the how the use of the whip is viewed and perceived.

There are races which do not allow the use of the whip called ‘hands and heels’ and even if a whip is carried it may only be used in cases where a horse is out of control.

There is scientific evidence that whipping a horse doesn’t make it run faster although others considered the data biased. (It was funded by the RSPCA)

Perhaps the day will come when the use of the whip is abolished.