California Racing’s Chief Vet: “Whips hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.”

At the International Conference of Horseracing Authorities in Paris October 7, these statements from Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director for the California Horse Racing Board (my comments in bold):

“Social ethics toward animal use have changed dramatically during the lives of everyone in this room. Horseracing must adapt to meet society’s changing ethical standards or it will not survive.”

Yes, “dramatic” it has been – Ringling, SeaWorld, dogracing, fur, veganism ascending, etc. As to the second, there’s no re-framing the exploitation, abuse, and killing of horses for $2 bets; it is what it is, and America is on to you.

“There is a real risk that in California, the fifth-largest economy in the world, and in many ways, an international trend-setter, racing could end.”

“Could” – no, will.

“The status quo is not good enough…horse safety…must be our number one priority, even before winning.”

So, horse safety wasn’t your number one priority prior to your current crisis?

“Worldwide, that [fatalities] is a very large number of horses. Many of you in this room, and this isn’t a criticism, are a step away from the flesh and blood of these fatalities. I’ve been there. Many of these fatalities are ugly, very ugly.”

“That is a very large number of horses” – at last, someone from within not hiding behind a sterile, misleading ratio; “ugly, very ugly” – indeed.

“The result [of claiming races] is a culture where horses tend to be treated as commodities…the U.S. racing business model amplifies that.”

Commodities, chattel, things, assets to be expended and trashed. Exactly.

“[During Santa Anita] the racing press understood that there is a normal fatality rate in horseracing; the non-racing press and public did not.”

Can there be a more powerful (self) indictment of this horrid industry? Yes, we know a certain number of horses will die – and we do it anyway.

“For anti-racing animal-rights advocates, the Santa Anita racing tragedy is the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. They are not letting up. Animal-rights activists are making sure that the internet, print and electronic media, and elected officials are aware of each and every racing fatality.”

ABSOLUTELY. We’ve only just begun.

But Dr. Arthur saved his best for last:

“There are those who argue that whipping doesn’t hurt horses, but that’s nonsense, and we all know that. Whips are noxious stimuli; they hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.”

After a century of lies – that whips are but harmless guides; that a horse’s thick hide precludes any unpleasantness; that they’re really just responding to the sound; that whips are not even whips, they’re “crops” – the chief vet of California Racing, and perhaps the most high-profile in the nation, comes clean: “Whips are noxious stimuli; they hurt, that’s why they’re used. Run fast or I’ll hit you again.”

The prosecution rests.


  1. Brilliant, Patrick. Gave me chills, especially the part(s) about making every horse death known to the press and the public, and how racing WILL end (first) in California.

  2. Well stated, Patrick.

    If I may add re the whip –
    When Lloyd Williams (Australia’s most well known racehorse owner for winning Melbourne Cups) was interviewed by Leigh Sales of the ABC 7.30 Report yesterday in relation to the expose of the sickening slaughtering of racehorses, he added that the whip must go and that Australia could lead the world in doing this. So many decades have gone by with nothing being done about the cruel practice of whipping racehorses by the industry DESPITE scientific evidence proving that it causes pain to the horse. To my knowledge, this is the first time a high profile racing identity has spoken out against the whip.
    7.30 Report had asked the following people to respond to the slaughter expose –
    Barry O’Farrell CEO of Racing Australia
    Peter V’landys CEO Racing NSW
    Our state premier, Gladys Berejiklian
    CEO of Racing Victoria
    our Federal Minister for Agriculture
    Minister for Racing
    and many more most of whom hold governing positions in relation to racing and the welfare of its horses, whose names I cannot remember
    It seems they’ve all gone to ground…….
    Not ONE of them had the guts to respond
    Utterly shameful

    Lloyd Williams and a small time breeder agreed to speak out.

  3. Whips hurt horses? Well, no shit, Sherlock! Why else do people use them? And the fact that they are admitting to the pain they cause should be more condemning when you see the vicious overhead swings these jockeys use, bringing the whips down as hard as they can to the point of causing welts and even open lashes.
    The racing industry can’t hide behind its soulless monologue any more, and they don’t know what to do now that they see a real threat to their revenue. It isn’t that they care about the future of Thoroughbred horses, it’s the cold fact that their days of exploitation and abuse for money are coming to an end.

  4. Thank you for sharing this article Patrick. One thing that I wanted to bring up is the statement the veterinarian made about the ethics of society and ethical standards towards the use of animals and how they are treated. I think part of the change in attitude of society towards the use of animals for entertainment and financial exploitation is due in part to more knowledge of what is actually being done to the animals being exploited. With the invention of the personal computer, the internet, the cell phone, social media, the ability to take instant photos and share them and the ability to share videos online including YouTube and other ways, the general public has much more access as to how widespread and ingrained the abuse of animals is and that more people cannot be kept ignorant of the horror of sadistic treatment that animals are forced to endure for profit and so-called entertainment. I don’t know if people’s standards have changed as much as their knowledge has increased.

    I like your idea of having scratch cards in place of using actual horses for people that want to gamble and spend $2.00 on something that may or may not get a return of investment.

  5. Thank you Patrick!!
    Yes Rebecca, their days of exploitation and abuse are ending for sure. They can’t get a way with this crap anymore. This is a new digital/social media age and all eyes are on these evil bastards.

    • I believe ALL equine racing vets in California will lose their jobs. The downside of that is that they’ll soon be competing with actual compassionate, competent, and honorable horse vets for the limited business of performing REAL equine medical care — and not just predominantly drugging, patching, and enabling for their patients’ continued abuse.

  6. I think whipping should be outlawed in horse racing! I’ve heard that it doesn’t hurt the horse, really? I just read about a horse called Domino, who was whipped by his jockey, the horse hated him for that, tried biting him so they put a blanket over his head whenever the jockey up on him.

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