Animal Aid

A HIDING TO NOTHING : Summary of report

Animal Aid embarked upon an investigation of the use of the whip in British horse racing assuming we would find evidence that the welfare of horses was being compromised. What we did not anticipate was that our analysis would produce such clear, statistically-rooted evidence that use of the whip is counter-productive in terms of producing winners. A Hiding to Nothing is launched to mark Horse Racing Awareness Week 2004.

A Hiding To Nothing is based on a thorough investigation of 161 races run during October and November 2003. They involved 285 jockeys and 1500 horses. Nearly 200 tables describe how often and when in a race a whip was used. The whip rate of individual jockeys is tabulated and we show which branch of racing (All Weather, the Flat, National Hunt) resorts most often to the whip. It is probably the most comprehensive survey of its kind ever conducted in Britain.

Advocates for the whip argue that it assists horses to perform better, run more safely and provides helpful chastisement for when they behave 'badly'.

Our survey results show that whipping horses is more likely to drive them off a true line and place them and other horses in danger. The same evidence shows that whipping horses is less likely to produce an 'improvement' in behaviour. Rather, they become fearful, hesitant and less likely to perform to their potential.

More devastating for the industry itself is the finding that the more often horses are whipped the less chance they stand of winning their races. Horses whipped at the start of a race almost never win, and that pattern holds until the finish line. In the final part of a race - where the whip is most often used - jockeys who use it least win more frequently.

40 of the 161 races featured in the survey (around 25%) were won by horses who were not subjected to any whipping.

More than 70% of winning horses in our survey would still have won had the whip been entirely absent. And many of the remaining winners may also have triumphed had they been spared the whip.

Our survey details the whip being used on young horses during their first ever race. Horses in a state of total exhaustion and out of contention were also beaten. The whip was used on the neck and shoulders, as well as the hind quarters. Horses being whipped 20, even 30, times during a race were observed.

The Jockey Club is responsible for regulating and enforcing the Rules of Racing. But these rules are not only lacking in clarity, they are also very poorly enforced by Race Stewards. None of the infringements observed during the survey period appeared to draw a sanction for the offending riders.

The current race-fix panic has led to jockeys who refrain from excessive whip use coming under suspicion of throwing races.

References

  • Sports Psychology by Ellis Cashmore
  • The Byerley Turk by KM Haralambos
  • Horse from the Noble Steed to Beasts of Burden by Lorraine Harrison
  • The Official Form Books by Raceform Ltd.
  • Racing & Football Outlook Jumps Guide 2003-2004 by Outlook Press
  • Raceform Update, a Racing and Sports Paper by Raceform Ltd.
  • Racing Post, a Daily Racing and Sports Paper
  • Racing Post Weekender, A Racing and Sports Paper
  • attheraces Racing Channel 418
  • The Jockey Club Website
  • British Horse racing Board website
  • Timeform
  • Riding For a Fall, an Animal Aid publication

Click here for part 1 of the report, which includes an introduction and the background to the racing industry.

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