A 10-month study by the British Horseracing Authority says jockeys should be able to whip a horse a maximum of seven times during a horse race and eight times during a jumping event. These numbers are half of what they were in the past.
The new rules were met with a mixed response from animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA, the Scottish SPCA and World Horse Welfare. Each organization had input into the stricter set of guidelines which were released this week.
Animal rights group, Animal Aid thought the stricter rules missed the chance to protect racehorses.
“The British Horse Racing Authority has missed a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that horse welfare is amongst its concerns,” a statement from Animal Aid said. “Instead, it has shown once again that horse welfare counts for just about zero in an industry driven by greed and vanity.”
In addition to limiting how often a whip could be used during a race, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) also increased penalties to jockeys who break the rules.
A five-day minimum suspension will be imposed for not adhering to the new limits and jockeys will have to forfeit their riding fee and prize-money. Previously jockey’s received a warning for excessive use of a whip.
Penalties will increase for those who break the rules on more than one occasion, and the second offense will be double of the first. The new guidelines go into effect on October 10, 2011.
Changes to the rules came about after jockey, Jason Maguire, struck a horse named Ballabriggs 17 times during the John Smith’s Grand National race in April. Ballabriggs came in first place, but Maguire was suspended for five days because of excessive use of the whip.
Even Ballabriggs’ trainer Donald McCain agreed Maguire’s actions were abusive.
He said, “I’ve been involved in a couple of meetings and it was obvious something needed doing. I think it needed to be a sensible enough number (of whip strokes) so that people can’t make mistakes. I’d like to think now that everything has been done in the best interests of racing and the horse.”
The new guidelines will not disqualify a horse if the jockey is found to overuse a whip and the owner of the horse will keep their share of the prize money.
Photo from cecphotography via flickr.