The Lie of “Kinder, Gentler Whipping”

Catalyst, an Australian science show, recently ran this segment on the whip. The entire program is worth a look, but one quote in particular stands out. Australian Racing Board chief Peter McGauran: “That [not shifting from pain] would have been learned behaviour, agreed. Under the old days [prior to new whip/whipping rules] I concede that the horses learnt to absorb the punishment afforded them.”

images (7)

The “old days”? 2009. Yes, that’s right, here we have a prominent racing executive admitting that as recently as five years ago, his jockeys inflicted “punishment” on his horses – punishment, by the way, seemingly well-“absorbed” due to learned helplessness. Imagine that. Yet I wonder, Mr. McGauran, does this mean that back in the “old days” you were sharing that opinion far and wide, or were you, like the rest, singing that decades-old industry line of the whip as “painless guide”? Please.

Oh, and one final note, Mr. McGauran: There is no past tense about this (“it was broken, so we fixed it”) – as the piece (science, common sense) makes abundantly clear, a whip in the hands of a racehorse jockey will always be an instrument of intimidation, conveyor of pain. Put another way, your kinder, gentler whipping is a lie. To steal a line from Clinton ’92, it’s animal cruelty, stupid. And ever it will be.


Subscribe and Get Notified of New Posts


  1. There are SO MANY WRONGS in this man’s words. But the “punishment afforded them”? Can’t even go there right now because Patrick would have to censor my comment….

  2. I have seen horses break down at the finish line after being relentlessly whipped, and it made me sick. I have seen races where a horse was so far back, and had no chance of being competitive, yet he was furiously whipped with no chance of contending. What is that all about? Pure and simple, it is animal cruelty, and there is no such thing as kinder, and gentler whipping. What a joke. It should be illegal period….Marlene Thornley

    • Marlene, there are lots of lies in horseracing. In fact, it is an industry that covers up the lies. Remember, it is all about the money that is generated through gambling!

      In the early 90’s, before I totally turned against the industry, I attended the Kentucky Derby with some dear friends. We had box seats at the finish line. The father, of one of my friends, owned the D. W. Scott farm in Lexington…the home of Native Dancer. Of course, our seats were fabulous and I couldn’t take my eyes off the horses. Sea Hero, who now, I believe, is a stud in Turkey, won the Derby and Prairie Bayou finished second. Two weeks later, Prairie Bayou won the Preakness. Three weeks after that, Prairie Bayou snapped his leg off in the Belmont and had to be euthanized. I’ll never forget it…never. I was never crazy about racing but I did get caught up in the pageantry and the bright, brilliant smiles. However, when PB broke down, I was traumatized by what I had witnessed on television. I began to think about the destruction of this gelding and for what? So that someone could get a thrill from watching the horses race around a silly oval. PB’s death began an awakening within me and I realized that I could no longer support the industry unless I supported the atrocities that came along with it.

      Racing needs to go bye bye. The sooner…the better.

      • Mary,

        It is so hard to get those videos of horses dying on the track. I would love to flood the Internet with them and that would help wake up more people.

        It is a horrifying experience to watch a horse fall during a race. HRTV has become TV G and their Total emphasis is on betting even more so than before. they have fired most of the talent that was on HRTV and now they are even betting on horses that lose the race. I liked recording the Inside Information show on the horses but that producer was fired as well.

        I cannot even watch it any more as it is too painful to watch them hit those horses in race after race.

      • Kathleen, it is hard to get videos of horses dying in the dirt because the industry doesn’t want you to see those deaths. Again, racing wants to keep their “dirty secrets” behind closed doors. Horses snapping their legs off is simply bad publicity. Racing is a marketing machine. Pretty hats, fancy drinks, and bright, brilliant smiles project a much more pleasant image.

      • Mary,

        I was a racing fan who went once a week, and was very upset by the breakdowns, which started to become more frequent, and I wanted to know why they were breaking down; so I started to research the racing industry, and some reports, and was in for a rude awakening.

        I discovered the blatant abuse of drugs, racing horses with injuries, bute to mask the pain, greatly contributing to breakdowns, the over racing them to their breaking point, the negligence, the abuse, and the list goes on and on. I couldn’t take my heart breaking anymore seeing these beautiful babies falling and dying. I would go home and cry, and promised myself I would never go again. I didn’t want any horse to give his life for my entertainment, and I totally turned against racing. I wanted to become part of the solution, not the problem.

        Our pleasure horses (quarter horses) were so loved by my family, that they were as important as any family member, and they were treated better than most humans are. It was inconceivable to me how an owner or trainer could neglect, or abuse their horse, (since so many of them profess to love their horses, then they race them into the ground). I agree, racing needs to go bye bye, the sooner, the better! Marlene Thornley

  3. I read that one defence for using the whip is as a safety Measure. I guess the reason is because the stirrups are so short that with the loss of legs as an aid the whip takes its place. At the time the jocks use the whip in a race they are either angry or frantic in their use. This is define cruel and used as punishment. I wonder also if they are penalized for not using the whip in trying to win due to betting. It needs to stop!!!!! I’m surprised PETA hasn’t jumped on this. Also if a horse has to be forced to load in the gate they should be scratched. Racing should be outlawed. What is the justification for continuing blatant animal abuse…

  4. You are spot on Jo Anne. The industry and the jockeys declare the whip is necessary for safety? What a load of crap. The jockeys “ride” the horse with a whip! The whipping is not only abhorrent but it causes all sorts of unsafe scenarios e.g. horse suddenly ducking out when struck with the whip, feeling a stinging pain and then colliding with another horse; stumbling; sometimes falling; sometimes running right off the track to the outside fence to escape the whipping. The jockeys just don’t want to change their style of riding, couldn’t be bothered lengthening their irons and using their feet and legs as a tool and signal to the horse. They are seriously abusive horse riders. They put a lot of effort into whipping a horse, it takes priority and they are very good at improving their various techniques.

    To quote from the Catalyst program that Patrick recommended to watch

    this segment on the whip (see Patrick’s introduction)


    Yes, scratched at the gate when horse with no voice is desperately trying to communicate by displaying behaviour that it is not up to the stressful task of racing. PETA has done some good work for the plight of the racehorses.

Comments are closed.