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, with minimal discomfort and an absence of suffering.”

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing recognises that understanding animal welfare perceptions and the actual welfare implications about using whips is a significant matter for thoroughbred racing.

The racing community considers that using whips 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.

Currently, the whip rule and guidelines state that a rider shall not strike a horse with a whip in a manner or to an extent that is unnecessary, excessive or improper; nor strike a horse forward of its shoulder.

Rule 638(3) A Rider shall not:
(b) strike a horse with a whip in a manner or to an extent which is:
(i) unnecessary
(ii) or excessive
(iii) or improper. 

Without affecting the generality of Rule 638(3)(b) a rider may be penalised if their whip use is outside of the following guidelines:

Inside the final 600 metres of a Race, official trial or jump-out a horse may be struck with the drawn whip up to five times after which the rider must cease their use of the whip for a minimum of five strides before striking the horse again with the drawn whip, with this restriction to apply prior to the final 100 metres. The whip may then be used at the rider’s discretion until the winning post is reached. Prior to the final 600 metres of a race, official trial or jumpout the use of the drawn whip is acceptable if used in moderation and not continually.

Notwithstanding the above it will also be deemed to be unacceptable where a rider uses the drawn whip:
• when a horse is out of contention
• when a horse is showing no response
• when a horse has no reasonable prospect of improving or losing its position
• after its chance of winning or being placed is clearly gone
• when a horse is clearly winning
• after passing the winning post
• using the whip with the arm above shoulder height.

A rider may at their discretion use the whip with a slapping motion down the shoulder, with the whip hand remaining on the reins, at any time.

The current whip has been in use since 2009, and is much wider and more padded than the previous standard, but it makes a much louder noise than its predecessor.
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.