Switching Sticks

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 3, 2008 in General Discussion, News | No Comments >>

Churchill Downs’ jockeys are required to use a version of the so-called safety whips during the second and third races each day. Judging by comments yesterday, riders are unenthusiastic about that.

The trial period is an extension of one started at Keeneland, as the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission considers a new whip rule. The new ProCush whips are shorter and lighter than conventional whips and have a padded “popper” on the end, which also makes them louder, instead of the old leather feathers.

Some comments:

Kent Desormeaux: “I’ve ridden many horses that would never have been a race horse without a riding crop. Some of them need encouragement, and the ProCush ain’t much encouragement. … I can use it on my hand, as hard as I want, and it doesn’t get my attention, even.”

Bill Troilo: “Hate ’em; it’s like hitting a horse with a fly swatter. You hit a horse with it, and you don’t get any reaction.”

Jesus Castanon: “In the beginning we were having a hard time getting used to it. It was a different kind of popper. Now it feels a lot better than the ones they had at first.”

This is one of the first of many changes to our game. It will be a whole new world focusing on safety and ethical treatment of animals. After all, what is wrong with that? We want runners to be fit and healthy. The game does not need the scrutiny of every agency acting as “Big Brother.” But we do need to take steps to show the public what racing is all about. Just as all professional sports, we turn the light of truth on ourselves and make strides to create a safer game.