Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Whipping racehorses WON'T make them run faster, say scientists

It's a vexed question in the racing world – whether or not it’s acceptable to whip a horse to get that last burst of energy out of the animal as it nears the finishing line.

Now science has come to aid of those worried about the welfare of racehorses.

Whipping them does not make them run any quicker, according to research

How a horse ran in the first part of a race, when it wasn’t being whipped, was the most critical factor in racing success.

The Australian research meant that ‘horses are being whipped in the final stages of a race, in the face of muscle fatigue, for no benefit’, Sydney University Professor Dr David Evans said.

The results should help end the debate over whether there was a place for whipping, added fellow researcher Dr Bidda Jones, chief scientist of RSPCA Australia. ‘This study has found jockeys use whips to try to make their slowing horse recover speed in the closing stages of a race in the hope they will get a place.

‘That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that whipping doesn’t make any difference.’

Whip happy: Riders face suspension if they are caught whipping a horse too hard

Study co-author and animal behavioural expert Professor Paul McGreevy said racehorses were bred and conditioned to give their best and, combined with a skilled rider, that was ‘all you need’.

‘We have evidence here that great horsemanship does not involve flogging tired horses,’ he said.

Sydney University’s Dean of Veterinary Science, Professor Rosanne Taylor, said the study was an example of science challenging traditional thinking.

‘In this instance, the wellbeing of Australian racehorses is looking brighter, because we better understand that horses give their

best when they are not whipped, before the 400-metre mark, positioning themselves for a win or place.’

In Britain, whip use has been debated for years. Many jockeys are in favour of the ‘persuader’ being banned.

The British Horseracing Authority enforces strict rules on whip use by jockeys.

Riders face being suspended for several days or even weeks for any infringement of the laws.

Rules state that the whip must not cause injury to the horse, must not be brought down from higher than the jockey’s shoulder and the horse must be given time to respond to one smack before being given another.

The animal should only be hit on the quarters or down the shoulder.

Horses may be subject to an inspection by a vet and they will report their findings to the stewards.

Andrew Harding, boss of the Australian Racing Board, which assisted the study, is reserving its opinion until its experts have to time consider the findings.

Source: Mail Online