Why Are Horses Whipped When Racing: Shocking Truth Revealed!!!

Sep 11, 2023 | Super Equestrian


Why Are Horses Whipped When Racing: Shocking Truth Revealed!!!

When you hear the pounding of hooves and the roar of the crowd at a horse race, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement of the moment. But have you ever wondered why riders use whips as they race towards the finish line? 

From the majestic racehorse of Kentucky to the thundering herds of Dubai, horse racing has captivated audiences for centuries. Whips have also been used in horse races for a long time, with riders using various types of whips throughout history. 

However, whipping horses in races has become controversial in recent times. Some believe it causes physical pain to the animal, while others believe it helps riders to control horses.

In this blog post, we will explore why horses are whipped during races, what are the impacts of whipping on horses, the controversy surrounding the use of whips and what are the alternative ways. 

In the end, discovering all these facts will shed light on the ethical considerations and implications of this old-age tradition.     

Why are horses whipped when racing 

History of the use of whips

Before discussing the purpose of whipping on horses, let's take a look at the history of whipping in horse racing. Whips were first used in horse racing in the 18th century. At that time, they were often made of a single piece of leather or cane, and were occasionally used. But as racing became more popular, using lash became more common and forceful. 

In the mid 19th century, whipping horses became standard practice, and jockeys started to carry longer lashes with heavier handles.  

The purpose of using whips during racing

So, why are horses whipped during racing? This question has a deep and varied response. As the horse slows down the race course, jockeys whip their steed to urge them on. But is that so? Of course not! 

Here are several reasons for this old-age practice-  

  1. Encourage the horse to run faster: Most people believe that whipping horses motivates them to run faster and test their abilities. The physical feel of the whip can create an emergency in the horse, reminding them that they are in a race and need to perform their best. 
  2. Maintain a particular racing pace: Another reason to whip the horses during the race is used to keep them on track and make sure it doesn't slow down throughout the race. For example, if a horse starts to slow down, the jockey can use the whip to make it run at a regular pace.
  3. Control and guide the horse: The whip is used to control and guide the horse. A rider can tell the horse in which direction he must move by tapping on the shoulder or the back with the whip. Such as, if a rider wants the horse to move to the right, he or she may use the whip to tap the animal on the right shoulder.
  4. Communication tool while racing: The whip is often used as a communication tool while racing. It can be used by jockeys to show other riders or to warn their horse about obstacles ahead. Especially, if there is a jump pole or hurdle coming up, the rider may use the whip to signal the horse to jump over it.
  5. Achieve maximum speed and performance: Finally, the ultimate goal of whipping a horse during a race is to increase speed and performance, which is important for horses to compete in a race. As we mentioned earlier, whipping can encourage horses to run faster, and this helps horses perform at their best and increases their chances of winning.

The impacts of whipping on horses during racing

Just as a coin has two sides, whipping in horse racing can have positive and negative impacts. Though it can be considered a necessary tool to motivate horses to run faster or to communicate with them to guide their direction, it can also cause physical and psychological harm to these sensitive animals.

Physical effects

1. Pain and injury: Whipping can cause horses physical pain and injury, especially if it is used excessively or incorrectly. For example, repeated lashing of a horse can result in skin abrasions, bruises, or even cuts and sores.

2. Fatigue and exhaustion: It can also lead to tiredness and exhaustion in horses, as they are forced to run faster than their normal speed. This can put a lot of strain on their muscles, increasing the risk of injury or collapse, as well as decreasing performance.

Psychological effects

1. Fear and anxiety: If you continually whip your equine during riding or racing, particularly with harsh or violent words, it can easily create fear or anxiety in the animals. This can make them less willing to run or more vulnerable to unusual behavior. 

2. Aggression and stress: There is no doubt that the use of physical punishment to discipline animals can lead to aggression and stress. Same goes for our hoofed mammal. Aside from being aggressive or stressed, horses can also become defensive or resistant to the riders cues, which can cause other problems like attacking, rearing, or sudden bucking.

For some people, these situations of "horse attack ", and "sudden bucking" can make them a little anxious. Don't worry, dear reader!! If you are not familiar with these two situations or you do not have a clear idea about this strange behavior of horses, then these two articles are just for you: Why do horses attack and Why is my horse bucking all of a sudden

The Controversy Surrounding Whipping on Horses

When the sound of the hooves growls in the air and the excitement of running increases, a controversial aspect shading horse racing: the use of whips on horses! 

While some argue that it is necessary for the safety and success of both the horse and jockey, others view it as inhumane and unnecessary. Let's take a closer look at both sides of the debate surrounding whipping on horses.

Arguments against Whipping

  1. Animal welfare concerns: The wellbeing of the horse is one of the most powerful arguments against whipping. According to many animal rights organizations and people,  it is a form of animal cruelty. They believe that it is unethical to use physical punishment to gain best performance from a horse.
  2. Public perception and criticism: Another argument against lashing is that it creates a negative public perception of the horse racing industry. Hitting horses with a whip is considered as harsh and unnecessary, leading to criticism and even boycotts of horse racing events.
  3. Evidence of this inhumanity: Critics also point to evidence of its inhumane effects, such as the visible welts and injuries that can be left on a horse's body. There have been documented cases of horses being badly injured as a result of whipping.

Counter Arguments in Favor of Whipping

  1. Tradition and cultural significance:  Some argue that whipping is a traditional and culturally significant aspect of horse racing, and should be preserved as part of the sport's heritage.
  2.  Safety for horses and jockeys: Whipping supporters believe that it can help prevent a horse from speeding up too much or halting suddenly during a race, which can put both the horse and the jockey in danger. For example, if it speeds up too much it can stumble, which can cause terrible accidents. 
  3. Fairness in competition: Lastly, some supporters argue that whipping is required to ensure competitive equality. They feel that if whips are not used, some horses would hold back or not give their best effort, giving other horses an unfair advantage in the race.

Overall, the controversy surrounding whipping horses is a complex matter with valid arguments on both sides. As horse racing evolves, it is critical to find a balance between history and modernity, while also maintaining the safety and fair treatment of the horses and jockeys.

The Possible and Effective Alternatives to Whipping

As the debate over the use of whips on horses continues, there are some possible and effective alternatives that can be explored. These approaches may provide an appealing path forward for horse racing, allowing for both safety and success while resolving animal welfare issues. Let's take a deeper look at a few of these possibilities.

Technology-based alternatives

  1. Use of electronic devices: Electronic devices such as buzzers or vibrating pads can be used to train horses to respond to cues from jockeys.
  2. Use of noise or light cues: Similarly, noise or light cues can be used to guide and control the horse during a race, eliminating the need for physical punishment.

Behavioral training alternatives

  1. Positive reinforcement training: Positive reinforcement training techniques, such as clicker training, can be used to reward horses for desired behaviors.
  2. Natural horsemanship techniques: Natural horsemanship techniques can also be used, like pressure and release, to communicate with the horse and guide them during a race.

Regulatory alternatives

  1. Stricter rules and regulations for whip use: Stricter rules and regulations can be established to limit the use of whips in horse racing. For example, the frequency and intensity of whip use can be restricted.
  2. Increased penalties for abuse or misuse of the whip: Additional penalties  can be applied for whip abuse or misuse, encouraging jockeys to be more responsible and ethical.

Conclusion

In the end, the use of whips in horse racing remains a controversial topic. While some believe whipping horses can encourage them to run fast, riders can control and guide the direction. 

On the other hand, others view it as cruelty and inhumanity, causing our dear horse pain, fear and aggression. It is important to consider the welfare of the horses and explore possible alternatives to whipping as we mentioned. 

Please share in the comments whether you support or oppose this old-age whipping horse tradition when racing!!

FAQs:

Q: Are there any horse racing events that have banned the use of whips?
A: Yes, some horse racing events and countries have banned or restricted the use of whips. For example, Norway, Switzerland, and parts of Australia have banned the use of whips in horse racing.

Q: What type of penalty a jockey can get while misusing a whip?

A: It can vary depending on the severity of the offense and the regulations in place. In some cases, jockeys may face fines, suspensions, or even disqualification from a race. Repeated offenses can result in more severe penalties and even the loss of a jockey's license.

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