Those cooking up a fuss regarding Tom Kerr’s article on banning the use of the whip in races are being short-sighted and insular. The point is not whether jockeys are abusing horses by use or overuse of the whip but what is being perceived by the public at large, which is particularly relevant at this time given all sides of racing are concentrating their minds on how best to attract newcomers to the sport.
Unlike true racing folk, I live amongst people with little or no interest in the sport and the two criticisms I hear the most are ‘horses get hurt’ and ‘I don’t like to see horses being whipped’.
As with Tom Kerr I do not think there is a case to answer regarding horse welfare when it comes to the whip but I am of the small percentage who know and love the sport, not the large majority who have no interest and expect to have no interest in the sport except to criticize it, doubtless unfairly, because of the two reasons I have listed above. Horse racing must survive, use of the whip does not.
Also, people conveniently overlook the possibility that some horses will improve radically if the whip were not to be used in anger. I dare say already some horses run more kindly when the whip is not picked up than when it is.
So I suggest trials should be staged to establish whether the non-use of whips in a finish is a viable option and whether jockeys could adapt to such a prohibition.
I have already suggested on this website that instead of jockeys receiving bans for improper use of the whip they should be prohibited from using the whip in earnest for a period of 4 days, with the prohibition doubled if jockeys pick up their whip during the period of prohibition. I also suggest that hand and heel races be staged for professionals, as are already is the situation for apprentices and amateurs.
Tom Kerr is right to suggest that in the future legislation may go through Parliament banning the use of whips in racing and as a sport we should be prepared for such a prohibition. As such it would do no harm to inch our way down that route voluntarily rather than be forced to do so by an act of Parliament.
Incidentally I have absolutely no problem with Jim Boyle’s rejoinder to Kerr’s article except that unlike Kerr he was giving no thought to the survival of our great sport; a sport that must never have cause to be embarrassed by our treatment of the horse.
Lee Mottershead should also be praised for his article on how apprentices are being financially ripped off (as always been the case, I suggest) by trainers and the lack of commitment by the powers-that-be to right the age-old wrong. As I have said many times, we are being so well served at present by the Racing Post columnists. Long may it continue. Even Bruce Millington writes good sense at times.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.