The topic of whip use in harness racing seems to rear its head for discussion when it is least expected. A group of researchers focusing on whip use has crunched numbers on more than 133,000 Standardbred races, and it has recently released its findings.
As an article by horsetalk.co.nz explains, a collaborative study between the University of Sydney and RSPCA Australia has determined that stronger whipping rules in the Australian Standardbred racing industry did not negatively affect win-time trends over a nine-year period. To view the results of the study, click here.
The study – which analyzed races that were conducted between 2007 and 2016 – identified a long-term trend of increased frequency of ‘medium’ (between 1:55.1 and 2:00) and ‘fast’ (1:55 and faster) win-times over the mile distance, despite various whipping rules that were introduced, altered and reversed during the nine-year span.
The study found that, “Despite concerns that tightening of whip regulations might reduce performance, none of our analyses revealed any significant reduction in either fast or medium winning times in races following the tightening of regulations governing the use of the whip.”
Any horseperson that steers Standardbreds is well aware that the whip is an essential safety tool for both navigating a horse out of potentially dangerous situation and having an element of control. That being said, the study acknowledged that Harness Racing Australia recently rescinded a 2016 decision to ban the use of the whip (other than for emergency use for safety reasons) due to widespread concern – from both horsepeople and judges – in regard to safety.
(With files from horsetalk.co.nz)