Australian study reveals unacceptable use of whips in racing

March 21, 2012
Use of whips in Australian horse racing does not align with international best practice, says Professor Paul McGreevy.

Evidence of the unacceptable use of whips in thoroughbred racing and the inability of stewards to adequately police Australian whip rules has been documented in University of Sydney research.

The study led by Professor Paul McGreevy, from the Faculty of , was published on 19 March by PLoS, the .

It also shows evidence that the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering, to which Australia is a signatory, has been contravened.

"By analyzing 350 rider-horse interactions over 15 race finishes frame-by-frame, the study found at least 28 examples of apparent breaches of whip rules and highlighted the inability of stewards to effectively police the rules regarding whip use because of inferior technology," Professor McGreevy said.

Behavioral scientists assessed the area struck and the visual impact of so-called padded whips when used on horses.

In 2009 the Australian Racing Board implemented rules regarding the use of these whips with the intention that the padding absorbs the impact of the whip as it makes contact.

"Our analysis found that the unpadded section of the whip made contact on 64 percent of impacts, demonstrating that padding the whip does not necessarily safeguard a horse from possible pain."

"The study found that more than 75 percent of the time the whip struck the horse in the abdomen (also known as the flank), which according to the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering as well as the British Horseracing Authority is unacceptable.

"This further highlights the need for Australia's use of whips in racing to align with international best practice."

Professor McGreevy said the study also showed that stewards were not being provided with adequate tools to police Australian whip rules.

"While we had access to and were analysing high-quality, high-speed footage, we had to discard the data relating to nearly one third of the jockeys' arm actions because any resulting whip impact was obscured.

"Until stewards have access to cameras filming at 2000 frames per second from the inside, outside and head on, it is impossible for them to effectively police the rules surrounding whip use in thoroughbred ."

Professor Rosanne Taylor, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, said "This latest study by Professor Paul McGreevy shows just how easily whips can be misused by riders, with horses regularly hit with unpadded parts of the whip, and also how hard it is for horse whipping to be properly regulated in such a fast paced environment."

"Along with Professor McGreevy's previous study on horse whipping the scientific evidence of indentations, particularly when the whip hits sensitive regions of the abdomen, raises concern about current whipping practices, which are not in the best interests of the horses' welfare," said Professor Taylor.

"These studies are a great example of how new scientific approaches to tackling unresolved questions can inform our interactions with animals and by improving our interactions, we can improve the animals' performance and welfare."

Explore further: Futility of whipping racehorses revealed in study

Related Stories

How good are your horse's brakes?

January 4, 2012

Horseriding is a popular summer holiday activity, but few people know that horses kill more Australians annually than any other animal. Professor Paul McGreevy, from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Veterinary Science, ...

How the 'Quarter' Horse won the rodeo

February 17, 2012

American Quarter Horses are renowned for their speed, agility, and calm disposition. Consequently over four million Quarter horses are used as working horses on ranches, as show horses or at rodeos. New research published ...

Solution proposed to suffering caused by horse nosebands

February 22, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Nosebands on horse bridles are being tightened so much in some equestrian competitions that horses are suffering stress, reduced blood flow in the area and ultimately even deformed nasal bones, according ...

Recommended for you

A novel toxin for M. tuberculosis

August 4, 2015

Despite 132 years of study, no toxin had ever been found for the deadly pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which infects 9 million people a year and kills more than 1 million.

New biosensors for managing microbial 'workers'

August 4, 2015

Super productive factories of the future could employ fleets of genetically engineered bacterial cells, such as common E. coli, to produce valuable chemical commodities in an environmentally friendly way. By leveraging their ...

Fish that have their own fish finders

August 4, 2015

The more than 200 species in the family Mormyridae communicate with one another in a way completely alien to our species: by means of electric discharges generated by an organ in their tails.

Volcanic bacteria take minimalist approach to survival

August 4, 2015

New research by scientists at the University of Otago and GNS Science is helping to solve the puzzle of how bacteria are able to live in nutrient-starved environments. It is well-established that the majority of bacteria ...

Sundew discovery on Facebook makes plant science news

August 3, 2015

A new species of sundew has been discovered on Facebook. The find is a carnivorous sundew, Drosera magnifica. The new discovery comes from a single mountaintop in southeastern Brazil—the largest New World sundew.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.