Welfare-in-Action Whipping


Forward by Milly Shand

The whip or stick is undoubtedly one of the most controversial and misused pieces of equipment in the equestrians tool kit. Thoughtful equestrians may still have differing views on its use and wonder if there is any place for it in compassionate horse training. Traditionally horses have been whipped to punish them or make them perform and this is still generally accepted and seen as normal behaviour. Concordians have differing views on whip use, from there being no place for carrying a whip to it being an extension of the arm, to it being used lightly to back up the leg aid.  In Concordia competitions, riders or handlers (Liberty classes) may carry a stick, but it may only be used as a means of communication, with caution and respect, to encourage light aids. Of course, we all agree that there is no place for whipping or beating a horse.

In theory, the governing bodies of equine sports share the view that horses should not be beaten, however, it’s Concordia’s view that rules are not always sufficient to protect horses and that penalties are very far from deterrents.

Many equestrians and the general public alike, are still of the misinformed and ingrained misbelief that horses are thick-skinned and so the whip doesn’t hurt them.  Also believing that equines need to be whipped to submission or punished with a whip when they misbehave, and need to be whipped in order to go faster in races.

Horses along with other animals are now officially recognised as sentient.  Horses have skin that is of similar thickness and sensitivity to our human skin, and yet a race jockey (UK rules) has to carry a whip and may whip his horse seven times in a flat race and eight times in a jump race, with no penalty.  Furthermore, rules state that the jockey’s must ask their horse for timely, real and substantial efforts to achieve the best possible position meaning that if a jockey is not deemed to have ridden hard enough the jockey and trainer may actually be penalised!

When jumping under FEI rules, a rider is allowed to whip his horse twice for each incident. Furthermore, as rules are unclear, a rider can whip a horse twice each time a horse stops at a fence, to ‘encourage’ him before each fence, to ‘get his attention’ after a fence, and to go faster between fences.

There are many who work in equine industries who care deeply about horses and do not condone these practices.

The British Horse Society own guidelines state that a whip can be used two times to reprimand a horse when there is a ‘valid reason’, which includes stopping at a fence or to encourage a horse to go faster – as long as the whipping arm is not raised above shoulder level.

Perhaps a valid reason to hit a horse would be if his behaviour was dangerous to either himself or others, but Concordia does not believe that it is valid to whip a horse when it stops at a fence or won’t go faster, because it may well be that the horse isn’t doing these things because it’s in pain or lacks confidence or fitness.  In these cases, our opinion is that whipping is merely a shortcut to try to replace thoughtful, compassionate and educated horsemanship.

We are concerned that future trainers and competitors are being conditioned from an early age to think that whipping a horse is a normal and acceptable practice.

To see how the whip is trivialised, search ‘children’s riding whips’ on the Internet to find ‘child-friendly whips’, easy for their little hands to hold, nice and short, in bright glittery colours with starry ends so that a child can be a little fairy with a magic wand that they can hit a pony with.

It’s going to be a mammoth task changing the ingrained perceptions of not only the horse world but the general public. With your help, we will not only raise awareness but bring about changes in rules, regulations and education.

“(The use of whips in horse racing has) become an extremely important issue because it is arguably the most visible form of violence to animals” Dr Paul McGreevy. Professor of Animal Behaviour and Animal Behaviour Science.


Petition – by Animals Australia

Tell Racing Australia and your state racing body to spare all horses from whip cruelty secure.animalsaustralia.org/ban-whips

Petition – Ban the Whip in Horse Racing – USA.

Urge the horse racing industry to ban the whip www.thepetitionsite.com/ban-the-whip-in-horse-racing/

Support Pack – RSPCA Australia – includes petition

Love parties, hate whips www.rspca.org.au/whips-racing


Using science to answer the question: Does Whipping Hurt Horses?

Dr Lydia Tong, from the Elizabeth MacArthur Agricultural Institute in New South Wales, Australia.

As part of the Catalyst investigation into horse whipping we contacted a forensic veterinary pathologist, Dr Lydia Tong to help us get to the bottom of the question ‘Is there any anatomical reason to believe that horses don’t feel pain like we do?’ Here’s her report on her findings www.abc.net.au/Horse_Whipping_Report

An Investigation of Racing Performance and Whip Use by Jockeys in Thoroughbred Races

David Evans. Paul Mcgreevy. Published: January 27, 2011

“On average, they (horses) achieved highest speeds when there was no whip use, and the increased whip use was most frequent in fatigued horses. That increased whip use was not associated with significant maintenance of velocity as a predictor of superior race placing at the finish of the race. Further studies with on-board sensors of gait characteristics are required to study responses to whipping in individual horses.” In this study the authors conclude that, under an ethical framework that considers costs paid by horses against benefits accrued by humans, the data make whipping tired horses in the name of sport very difficult to justify. They also note that other ethical frameworks would not condone the practice even if it did, contrary to the findings in the study, cause horses to run faster. journals.plos.org

Whip Use by Jockeys in a Sample of Australian Thoroughbred Races—An Observational Study

Professor Paul D. McGreevy. The University of Sydney, Australia. Robert A. Corken.

Hannah Salvin. Celeste M. Black. Published: March 19, 2012.

This study builds on a previous one that was released in 2011 that fond that whipping a horse doesn’t increase it’s chance of winning a race. Findings also included that the whip caused a visual indentation on the horse in 83% of impacts; that the unpadded section of the wihip made contact on 64% of impacts; that more than 75% of the time the whip struck the horse in the abdomen (or flank). journals.plos.org


Animal Australia

The Science is in: Whips Hurt Horses.

The use of whips in Australian horse racing has been proven by scientists to be not only ineffectual — but cruel. www.animalsaustralia.org


Are we beating our horses to the finish line?

ABC Science. Published on 25th March 2015

Race horses are bred to race, but does the whip really make them run faster, or is it just an unnecessary tool that inflicts pain? Dr Jonica Newby reveals some surprising new science about horse tissue and their nervous systems, and even takes a strike herself. www.youtube.com

Does the Whip Hinder Horseracing?

At the Races. Published on 11th July 2017

An argument from the racing world for whipping horses. The science obviously disproves the argument in this video that whipping isn’t painful, that jockeys are giving horses ‘love taps’ and ‘encouragement’. www.youtube.com

Rules for racing (UK) rules.britishhorseracing.com

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