New research shows racehorses are still being whipped too hard and too often

New research has today revealed the extent to which whip rules in Thoroughbred racing are being repeatedly breached in both metropolitan and country races throughout NSW and the ACT.

The report, published today in the journal Animals , draws upon official Steward’s Reports from 5,604 races at 785 race meetings on 122 different tracks, and found more than half the riders found to be breaching whip rules were repeat offenders (with at least one prior breach recorded).

The majority of breaches related to horses being struck more than 5 times before the 100m mark, and jockeys raising their arm above their shoulder height to strike – both of which were not permitted under Australian Racing Rules at that time*.

The data also revealed the greatest number of breaches were by riders of horses finishing first, second or third as well as last. An article that accompanied the report states, “This suggests a desire to win may motivate whip rule breaches and potentially affect race and betting outcomes.”

Importantly, far fewer whip breaches were recorded at country racetracks than at metropolitan tracks – possibly reflecting poor surveillance or inconsistent enforcement of the rules in regional locations.

Any rule is only as effective as its application and enforcement, and the report provides further evidence of the difficulty the racing industry is encountering in policing complex whip rules.

Further changes to the whip rules introduced earlier this month, allowing stewards to exercise even more discretion over the 5 strike limit, will only confuse matters more.

From the RSPCA’s point of view, for as long as whip rules cannot be consistently or effectively enforced, horses will not be protected from unnecessary pain and distress.

The RSPCA is opposed to the use of whips in racing due to the unnecessary and unjustified pain and distress they inflict on horses.

The RSPCA supports the introduction of hands-and-heels racing where whips are no longer used for performance but may be carried for safety purposes where proven necessary.

The RSPCA is Australia’s leading animal welfare organisation and one of Australia’s most trusted charities. The RSPCA works to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.