Jockeys face threat of a blanket ban on using the whip

Jockeys face threat of a blanket ban on using the whip under radical new proposals to be presented in February

  • Horse Welfare Board are set to recommend an urgent consultation on whip use
  • Racing chiefs have become more concerned about whip issue in recent years
  • British Horseracing Authority (BHA) accepts the need for a wide-ranging review

Jockeys will face the threat of a complete ban on using the whip under radical new proposals to be presented next year.

Sportsmail has learned that the Horse Welfare Board are set to recommend an urgent consultation on the use of the whip when it publishes its Horse Welfare Strategy in February, a document that will contain a range of options including a blanket ban.

Placing further restrictions on the number and manner of whip strikes permitted by jockeys will also be considered.

Jockeys will face the threat of a complete ban on using the whip under radical new proposals

Racing chiefs have been increasingly concerned about the whip issue in recent years, both in terms of horse welfare and its wider impact on the image of the sport.

There are particular worries that perceptions of animal cruelty are hindering attempts to broaden racing’s appeal to a younger audience, leading the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to accept the need for a wide-ranging review.

The most recent whip guidelines were introduced in 2011, which included a clampdown on the number of times the whip can be used during a race to seven on the Flat and eight over Jumps.

Since then, the number of annual rule breaches by jockeys has almost halved from more than 1,000 to little over 500, but there is a widespread acceptance of the need to look again at a controversial issue and consider a ban. 

The BHA are understood to have conducted their own review calling for changes, which is currently being considered by the Horse Welfare Board before they publish their strategy.

An alternative option that will also feature in the welfare planning is restricting whip use for when jockeys are concerned about the safety of their horse, rather than using it to encourage them, although this would increase pressure on the stewards.

Ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch MP was added to BHA's Horse Welfare Board Board in April

Ex-sports minister Tracey Crouch MP was added to BHA’s Horse Welfare Board Board in April

The BHA set up a new Horse Welfare Board this year in the aftermath of a calamitous Cheltenham Festival – where three horses died, including Invitation Only in the Gold Cup – with a mandate to examine whip use in particular. Former sports minister Tracey Crouch MP was added to the Board as an independent member in April.

Pressure has been mounting throughout the racing world for more stringent whip limits, with legendary Australian owner and six-times Melbourne Cup winner Lloyd Williams calling for a total ban in October.

In an indication of the direction of travel, Ireland’s Horse-racing Regulatory Board introduced restrictions on whip use for the first time last year, and the BHA warned that they may have to introduce ‘temporary measures’ ahead of the Grand National in April, although stopped short of doing so.

Any calls for a blanket ban would be strongly resisted by many in the sport, particularly the Professional Jockeys Association. The Conservative party’s victory in last week’s General Election may also help reduce the political pressure for a complete ban.

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