THE whip has come under attack once again, this time from sports columnist Matthew Syed.
Syed criticised the sport for turning it’s back on the issue and said “horses were being thrashed up and down the country” in his article published in the Times newspaper.
But master trainer Philip Hobbs today told Sun Racing he believes the whip is vitally important for the safety of those involved in the sport.
Hobbs has been training since 1985 and has had winners at all the major festivals across Britain. Prior to his training career, Hobbs was a show jumper and point-to-point rider before becoming an amateur National Hunt jockey.
He said: “The whip is very important for safety. If you can’t control the horse it is going to be potentially dangerous.
“This isn’t even during a race, this is as simple as going to the start for example. They could potentially endanger people, and certainly other horses.
“Most people presume the whip is important just for the end of the race, the last dash to the line, but that doesn’t tell the story.
“It helps keep the horse balanced and there are plenty of occasions where the rider of the horse, whether racing or anywhere else, needs a whip just to correct a horse and to get them to go in the right direction. Sometimes just for gentle encouragement.”
The rules relating to the whip have changed dramatically over the years. As recently as 2011, the amount of times a jockey could strike a horse was halved in both Flat and National Hunt racing.
The whip itself has also decreased in size and the top is now covered in a cushioned pad.
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) released a statement in relation to the article and labelled Syed “very wrong” in what he had published.
The perception from a handful of critics outside the sport, surrounding the whip, is why some believe it will need to be removed from the sport at some point in the near future.
Hobbs disagrees and is quick to point out the positive changes that have been made over the years.
He continued: “Firstly, it’s unfortunate it’s called a whip as that brings up bad thoughts in people’s mind before they even know about anything.
“The whips we have are so soft and have changed so much. I haven’t had a horse marked for over fifteen years.
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“They can’t physically hurt the horse and it’s not having the effect people conjure up in their minds I can assure you.
“I’m very much in favour of the whip in the sport, it’s very important to keep a horse balanced and straight. I’m not even just talking about galloping, I’m saying even when a horse is just walking it’s important.”
It’s clear that the whip is an area of ongoing debate. But an area that those inside the sport feel passionate about.
Racing has a reputation for turning it’s back on change, but can the whip realistically be dropped from the sport without endangering those involved in the day-to-day running of it?
The education of the wider public is key and something the BHA should be pushing forwards with with more enthusiasm.
One thing is for sure, this won’t be the last we hear of it.