20 Nov 2020

Plan to restrict whips in New Zealand

2:31 pm on 20 November 2020

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) wants to hear from owners, trainers, breeders, jockeys and racegoers - along with the general public about potential changes to the whip rules.

Jockey Craig Williams onboard Vow and Declare, followed by Frankie Dettori on Master of Reality and and at the far left, Michael Walker on Prince of Arran.

Jockey Craig Williams onboard Vow and Declare, followed by Frankie Dettori on Master of Reality and and at the far left, Michael Walker on Prince of Arran. Photo: William West / AFP

NZTR has opened consultation on whip usage as part of an ongoing reconsideration of rules and regulations.

New Zealand's whip rules were changed in October last year to the current directive which restricts the use of the whip to no more than five times prior to the final 100m, after which it may be used at the rider's discretion.

NZTR is proposing further restricting whip usage from mid 2021.

Other racing jurisdictions have already imposed more restrictive whip usage than New Zealand with France limiting whip use to just five times within a race; Ireland, eight times and the UK, seven.

From October 2020, jockeys riding in California were prohibited from using the whip more than six times in a race, and from using it more than twice in succession without letting the horse respond.

In Australia, different sectors of the racing industry are split on whip usage.

Melbourne Cup jockey Kerrin McEvoy was handed a $50,000 fine for excessive whip use in this year's race, but the fine was halved on appeal.

In 2019's Cup race New Zealand jockey Michael Walker was fined $10,000 and banned for seven races for excessive whipping on his horse Prince of Arran, using it 12 times before the 100m mark.

Racing Victoria and Racing NSW are at odds on a way forward.

In a statement released in September, Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said: "Australian racing has been left behind when it comes to reforms on whip use."

Racing NSW has a completely contrary view, with its chief executive Peter V'Landys recently saying, "we've got to educate the public the whip doesn't hurt".

But a new study reports "humans and horses have the equivalent basic anatomic structures to detect pain in the skin."

In the NZTR consultation document

on whipping it stated: "Both in NZ and overseas, the use of the whip in racing is conflated by some animal welfare advocates into a broader contention that the horseracing industry as a whole is cruel.

"Informal discussions with participants indicate that there is (with some exception) a general viewthat use of the whip in racing will be further restricted over time until it might no longer be permitted."

NZTR want feedback on the number of times a whip should be used throughout a race; whether this should be allowed to be in succession; the technique of whip use allowed; the design of the whip; penalty guidelines; and what amendments should be made regarding jumping races.

The consultation period will close on 12 February, following which all feedback will be considered and recommendations will be made to meetings of the NZTR Integrity and Welfare Committee and the NZTR Board.