Jockey Says Whipping Racehorses Isn’t Necessary

Two months before American Pharoah became the twelfth racehorse to win the Triple Crown, jockey Victor Espinoza was fined for breaking the skin of another horse as he repeatedly beat it with his riding crop.

Although the construction of the riding crop, or “stick” as it’s known in the world of thoroughbred racing, has evolved to become somewhat kinder and gentler over the past few years, it can still, as Espinoza proved, injure horses.

In response to complaints from the public, the riding crops were redesigned in 2008. They became shorter, thicker and more deeply padded. Officials insist their purpose is to encourage, not abuse, the horses, as reported in the New York Times. The crops don’t really harm the horses, they claim; the popping noise they make helps keep horses focused on the race.

“The crop can be effective without being abusive,” former jockey Richard Migliore told the New York Times.

Jockeys whip their horses to increase their speed and help them maneuver around other horses. Some horses respond to being struck, while for others, it has no effect.

Back when he was starting out in the early 1980s, Migliore said jockeys were encouraged to continually whip the horses they rode.

“Sometimes I didn’t get the desired response, but I didn’t let up,” he said. “Instead of relying on my instincts that I was not getting the best from my horse, I was basically abusing my horse.”

Migliore let up on whipping horses, but now, some 35 years later, some jockeys are still relentless with their crops.

For example, Espinoza struck American Pharoah 32 times during the Kentucky Derby.

This certainly seems like overkill.

“You hit me once with a crop, I lunge forward,” Migliore said. “You continue, now I’m confused. Now I feel like I’m getting punished for it.”

Sue McDonnell, Ph.D., founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, told DVM360 Magazine, “When I look at jockeys going crazy with the whip, I can’t help but wonder if it is really more for the rider than it is for the horse, because at that point—down the stretch—the adrenaline is so high that it is likely not really that effective.”

To help prevent injuries, racing officials in two states have restricted the number of times a horse can be whipped during a race. In California, a horse cannot be struck more than three times in succession before the jockey waits for a response; in New York, it’s no more than five times. Jockeys face a fine if they disobey these rules. The $500 fine in New York is donated to track-related charities.

This is a start, but the use of riding crops should be regulated—or, preferably, banned—in every state. Racehorses already suffer plenty of abuse off the track, such as being drugged with pharmaceuticals that increase their metabolism, and getting injections of liquid nitrogen in their legs to increase blood flow.

Why should they be made to suffer unnecessarily on the track as well? Sign and share this petition urging the Jockey Club to ban the whip in horse racing.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

95 comments

K B
K Babout a year ago

The racing industry should be banned.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Whipping should be banned. The race should be won on sheer will and teamwork. Anything more should be banned.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago

noted

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Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

Stop horse races! These animals suffer, ignorant and idiots who bet on this! Petition signed and shared

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Rosemary H.
Rosemary H2 years ago

Suzie (H?) people like me are not deluded. We have ridden thoroughbreds. You haven't. Don't try telling us you have!

I won't be around to answer this. I'm away, to a horse show or two.... horses who are loved....

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Rosemary H.
Rosemary H2 years ago

Don't they have rules in America like we have in Britain to penalise abuse of the whip? Jockeys get suspended if they abuse their horses over here. Wildly swinging whips? Most times the jockey flourishes it without actually touching the horse. I haven't time to describe "ridding a finish"

Not that I follow racing much. However I did have a horse bred to race, and she gave me insight into many aspects of racing. For example, horses usually race with enthusiasm.

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Yola S.
.2 years ago

Whipping them is cruel and so are the races ! Just another example that proves that everything is about money !

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Anneke Swanepoel, South A

Horse racing should be stopped like in yesterday already. It is cruel and inhumane. Why abuse the horses? Dog racing, bullfighting etc. is cruel, so is horseracing. The jockeys don't care about the animals because they don't own or care for them. They are all just in it for the damn money.

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