Using whips in racing

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s vision for thoroughbred welfare

“A thoroughbred should be provided a good life, with the care and conditions that will allow the horse to thrive and perform to its natural abilities.”

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing recognises that animal welfare perception concerning whip use is creating on-going debate internationally.  The call for a ban on whip use in racing is gaining momentum with many within the industry agreeing it is not a matter of whether this will occur, rather when. Until that time NZTR will continue to ensure that the provisions and guidelines around whip use are enforced.

The racing community considers that whip use is necessary for:
  • Safety - as a measure to steer the horse and minimise potential collisions and falls
  • Integrity - encouraging due effort from the horse if used when in winning contention or achieving a stakes bearing position.
Current rules and guidelines limit whip use and are regularly reviewed in collaboration with the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU), veterinarians and the New Zealand Trainers’ and Jockeys’ Associations.

Rules 638(3) of the Rules of Racing (see link) regulates the use of the whip.  These were reviewed by NZTR in an open consultation in the period between December 2020 and May 2021 and resulted in a revision to the Rule with effect from 1 September 2021.  The Rule is wide ranging, but the most noteable provisions are

638(3)(e)     In a Flat Race or Jumping Race, a trial (including jump-outs and/or tests for certification purposes), a Rider must not use his or her whip in an excessive, unnecessary or improper manner.

 638(3)(f)     Without limiting the generality of subrule 638(3)(e), in a Flat Race or Jumping Race, a trial (including jump-outs and/or tests for certification purposes) a Rider must not use his or her whip:

  • forward of the Rider’s horse’s shoulder or in the vicinity of its head; or
  • using an action that raises the Rider’s arm above shoulder height; or
  • when the Rider’s horse is out of contention; or
  • when the Rider’s horse is showing no response; or
  • after passing the winning post; or
  • in a manner that causes injury to the Rider’s horse; or
  • when the Rider’s horse is clearly winning; or
  • when the Rider’s horse has no reasonable prospect of improving or losing its position; or
  • in a manner where the seam of the flap is the point of contact with the horse, unless the Rider satisfies the Stewards that that was neither deliberate nor reckless.

638(3)(g)   Subject to the other requirements this Rule 638(3), in a Flat Race or trial (including jump-outs and/or tests for certification purposes), a Rider must not:

  • strike a horse with a whip more than 5 times prior to the 100-metre mark (other than in a slapping motion down the shoulder with the whip hand remaining on the reins); or
  • strike a horse with a whip in consecutive strides at any stage of the race.

 The penalties imposed  (see link) on a Jockey escalate where offences are repeated or in major races.

Current Whip
Current Whip

Old Whip
Old Whip

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing will:
  • Ensure that the general provisions and specific guidelines of the whip rule are appropriately updated and can be consistently interpreted and enforced
  • Ensure continued guidance and training, particularly for apprentices, on ‘hands and heels’ riding skills to minimise an over-reliance on whip use
  • Investigate the availability and practical use of new technology such as whips with data loggers and accelerometers, to provide objective data on whip use during racing.