Under A Hand Ride

jockey holds his whip before a race at Pontefract. Riders are in ...

 

 

 

“As he goes to the stick; now he gets a couple of reminders; he is imploring his runner for one more furlong.” – Any of those sound familiar? I know I’ve heard about every announcer at one time or another use descriptive words when a rider uses his stick. But in the times of neutrality and acceptance, the court of public opinion is being heard once again. The Sport of Kings has been using a crop, stick, whip, and encourager for as long as the game has existed. Football uses helmets, shoulder pads, and brute force to tackle. Baseball used the “bean ball.” The NBA is being called for flopping, or B-movie acting. What’s next? Will NASCAR races be contested at 55 mph with stop signs? Did any of the folks who detest racing’s use of the crop watch any MMA this year? Take a closer look.

I’ve owned horses and have seen the whip used quite a bit. My horse was a nasty fella. He bit everyone he saw, and his stall routine was to go back against the wall, and shoot out like a coo-coo clock, and bite. Well, along comes a rider known for aggressively riding lazy horses. He was a talented jock who wanted the best from his runners. – We had our nasty boy in the paddock, and he was being saddled. As the jockey came out and shook my hand, he lunged out and bit the rider on the shoulder. The jock picked himself off the ground, and smacked the horse on the snout. After it happened, I wondered if the horse was injured, hurt, or pissed off? We won by five going away!

In any sport, there is always some type of abuse. Before you toss me in the mix of enjoying wrongful doing, know that I want the game to have more transparency and medication testing. There should be super-heavy penalties for trainers who dope, medicate with any PED’s, or try to gain an edge illegally. Ladies and gents, the health and safety of horses, riders, starting gate workers, outriders, and not to mention defrauding the public as money is at stake. Great Britain has had Thoroughbred racing since Roman times, and the Jockey Club was established in 1750. They codified the rules of racing, and laid the foundations of the handicapping system of weight-for-age. Today it is known as the (BHA) British Horseracing Authority. According to the Guardian, The BHA this week published a landmark review into the use of the whip in our sport. One of the review’s key findings is that under a very specific set of circumstances – including the use of an energy-absorbing whip and strict controls on how it can be used – the whip does not cause pain to racehorses and is not cruel. In fact, the whip plays a key role in good horsemanship, and is important to the safety of both the horse and its rider.

The BHA this week published a landmark review into the use of the whip in our sport. One of the review’s key findings is that under a very specific set of circumstances – including the use of an energy-absorbing whip and strict controls on how it can be used – the whip does not cause pain to racehorses and is not cruel. In fact, the whip plays a key role in good horsemanship, and is important to the safety of both the horse and its rider. There will always be those who feel uncomfortable with the idea of the whip being used in racing. It’s up to the sport to be confident in its approach and to explain clearly why, with the right regulation in place, the whip has an important role to play in upholding the highest animal welfare standards. Now before you start calling the authorities, did you do your homework on what is going on in American racing?

New York has opened the lines of communication with track management and riders.

“The rule is clear. It says you can’t hit a horse on the head or the flanks or any other part of his body other than the shoulders or hind quarters. And you can’t use the whip if the horse is clearly out of the race or has reached his best placing in the race. The rule also bars excessive force — without defining it.” Perhaps with that in mind, the jockey colony in New York held a series of briefings during the spring and summer as Aqueduct and Belmont on when and where to apply the riding crop.

Every Sunday morning at 11:30, the apprentice riders gathered in their lounge at Belmont and watched films of the week’s races, the way professional football players do.

But instead of a coach, the young riders were tutored by the 58-year-old custodian of the jockeys’ room, who happened to be one of the great jockeys of racing’s past: Braulio Baeza, winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1963 aboard Chateaugay and a man known for his dignified, serene manner of sitting on a horse’s back in a sport often marked by physical contact and even violence.

“The stewards began the film meeting,” Baeza said. “The riders watch and ask me questions about their technique. I advise them how to ride. Like when and how to use the whip. It changes with each rider.”

In 2009 the Australian Racing Board implemented rules regulating the use of whips in races. Jockeys were limited in the circumstances and manner in which they could strike a horse prior to the final 100 meters of a race, and were required to use a ‘padded’ whip: a short, wide, flat style with smooth edges and an internal shock-absorbing layer. So-called padded whips have a shock-absorbent layer between the inner spine and outer sleeve. This is intended to provide a cushioning layer between the horse’s body and the hard inner spine of the whip. The padding does not extend along the full shaft of the whip – only for about one-third of the whip’s length. The claim is that such a whip “will cause less pain and less damage to the body being struck” compared to a conventional whip.

California racing adopted the policy for riders to be allowed to strike a horse more than three consecutive times without giving the animal a chance to respond, according to the Blood Horse. Commissioner Bo Derek noted that, according to track veterinarians, horses are no longer getting marks as the result of being hit. In a 2008 article in the New York Times; “You don’t want to hurt the horse. So, the rules are clear: You can hit him only on the shoulder and the rump. They’re like people. They have less padding on the shoulder, more on the rump. You should wait until he extends to full stride, then flick him once to see how he reacts. But there are no magic spots. It depends entirely on the horse, and they’re all different.” According to The Jockey Club in 2010, The Thoroughbred Safety Committee calls for an adoption of the international model rules of “use of the whip” to require shock-absorbing characteristics. The following states have adopted the use of the safety crop: California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Churchill Downs has re-emphasized enhanced security measures in its “Safety from Start to Finish” program outlining measures to protect both equine and human athletes.

As with any sport, there has to be a governing body that oversees the safety of both horse and rider. Some of these references are dated, and I’m hopeful they’ll continue to pursue safety and transparency. This will be applauded by the hard working folks who make the track their home, and the betting public who keep the game alive.

 

 

 

 

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