Former horse racing regulator Joe Gorajec writes that the California Horse Racing Board's adoption of North America's most restrictive rules concerning use of the whip (or riding crop) will only prolong the view that the general public, specifically in California, views the sport as inhumane.
Writing in his InsideRacingRegs blog, Gorajec – former longtime executive director of the Indiana Horse Racing Commission – cites comments made by CHRB Equine Medical Director Dr. Rick Arthur at this fall's meeting in France of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities: “There are those that argue that whipping does not hurt horses,” Arthur was quoted as saying, “but that is nonsense and we all know that. Whips are a noxious stimuli. They hurt. That's why they are used. Run fast or I'll hit you again.”
The rules, passed by the CHRB Dec. 12 but subject to a 45-day public comment period before they can go into effect, restrict jockeys to six underhanded strikes during a race and no more than two in succession before giving the horse a chance to respond.
“The board members seem to believe that they had to do 'something' and fell prey to belief that if they did 'anything' it would be enough,” Gorajec says of the CHRB. “They should know better. Even though some of the board members are recent appointees, they heard testimony that California already had one of the most restrictive whipping rules in the nation. What would make anyone believe by further restricting whipping without eliminating the practice would solve the problem?”
Use of the riding crop is among the issues the newly formed Thoroughbred Safety Coalition intends to address. Gorajec is concerned the Coalition won't go far enough in its reforms.
“Simply stated, any rule that does not eliminate the use of the whip, except for the safety of horse and rider, is not a solution,” he writes. “Solutions solve problems. They end the debate. Taking further restrictive steps on whipping still sanctions the act. It will only prolong the issue. The industry has tried that strategy before, and it has failed.”
InsideRacingRegs is published by Horse Racing Reform, an initiative of The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.
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